REMEMBERING COALTOWN

Running second in the Kentucky Derby is rarely a precursor to lasting notoriety. Yet for Coaltown in 1948, a Hall of Fame career lay ahead.

Unraced as a 2-year-old, Coaltown carried 130 pounds in eight of his 39 career starts and 132 pounds in two other races. Coaltown’s world-record-shattering performances qualify him as one of the best racehorses of all time.

Being a sibling of a famous person of high achievement can make one feel proud; yet living one’s life in the shadow of a close relative can lead to a deep-seated notion of inadequacy. While racehorses don’t have such emotions to contend with, even Hall of Fame runners can end up being obscured historically by better-known brothers or sisters, in this case Triple Crown winner Citation.

Coaltown and his Calumet Farm stablemate Citation, both sired by Bull Lea, are in the Hall of Fame but Citation is much more known. On this 71st anniversary of Coaltown running second to Citation in the Kentucky Derby, read the remarkable Hall of Fame narrative about one the fastest horses to ever set foot on a racetrack:

“Known for his extraordinary speed, Calumet Farm’s Coaltown equaled three world records and broke four track records during his four-year career.

Trained by Ben Jones, Coaltown was nicknamed ‘The Goose’ by stable employees for his habit of outstretching his long, thin neck when he raced. Overshadowed by stablemate Citation as a 3-year-old in 1948, Coaltown finished second to the Triple Crown winner in the Kentucky Derby, but he beat older horses that year in the Phoenix Handicap and set a track record in the Blue Grass Stakes. Coaltown was recognized as Champion Sprint Horse that year and finished with a record of 8-3-2 from 13 starts and earnings of $104,650.

As a 4-year-old, Coaltown came into his own as Citation missed the year with an osselet problem. Coaltown won 12 of his first 13 starts, including the McLennan, Widener, Gallant Fox, Roger Williams, Stars and Stripes, Arlington and Washington Park handicaps. He set a world record for one mile at Washington Park, equaled a world record for 1 1/8 miles at Hialeah Park, matched a world record for 1 ¼ miles at Gulfstream Park. He also set a track record at Arlington Park that year loand equaled one at Hollywood Park. Overall, Coaltown posted a record of 12-3-0 from 15 starts and earnings of $276,125 in 1949 to be recognized by Turf and Sport Digest as Horse of the Year.

Coaltown had limited success the next two years, winning only three of 11 starts before being retired with a career record of 23-6-3 from 39 starts and earnings of $415,675. He was considered a disappointment as a sire and was sold to breeding interests in France, where he died at the age of 20 in 1965.”

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If Hall of Fame enshrinement is the criterion, Calumet Farm’s Citation and Coaltown had the most accomplished careers of any pair of 3 year olds campaigned by the same stable in the same year.

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