"The first Derby I saw was 1917, which Omar Khayyam won. I sat on the top of a paddock shed. At one time or other I've sat just about everywhere at the Derby.
"Around that time, there was only about two places still racing in America, Kentucky and Maryland. Old Hughes was on the Supreme Court, and they had just about thrown racing out. It was so bad my father had to breed some of his thoroughbreds to make work horses out of them.
"We ran mostly out of the country: Mexico, Cuba, Canada in the summer. We were running some horses at Juarez when Pancho Villa took the town. They shipped me north across the river when they heard he was coming, but I came right back. I can still remember all the dead Mexicans laying in the streets. Pancho Villa's men came out to the racetrack and they were taking all the black horses. I guess they figured to make a black-horse escadrille. The best horse my father had was named Lemon Joe, and he was black. So Dad wrapped an old sack filled with mud around one of his legs and then bandaged it over, so that Lemon Joe appeared to have a bad limp. So they left him and took his saddle.
"The Derby was very important, even then. It was especially big in the Midwest. A lot of the crowd was down from Chicago. Of course, by the same token, I can remember my father planning all summer to go into the Sioux City Derby. We considered that a very important race.
"My father was raised up there in the cow country of Missouri, but all he ever wanted was horses. I was galloping horses when I was nine years old. It became a way of life, horses, you might say. My father was a natural at it, but he was a peculiar fellow. I never in all my life ever saw him cleaning out a stall or working on a bad leg, things like that. As I say, he was just a natural at it.
"I never imagined we would ever get to a Derby, much less win one. The thing is, you must set up stepping-stones to it. And I like to run a horse before a big crowd. It's a psychological thing. Many horses are not ready for the big Derby crowd. And, of course, many horses are overready. The trainers don't leave a race in them. I'm trying to remember now, but I can't think of one horse we ever ran in the Derby that didn't run at least as well as we expected. And the ones you don't expect to win are probably the most satisfying—Lawrin, Ponder, Iron Liege.
"But I would have to say that Citation was the most exciting, because we ran one-two, which hadn't been done since Colonel Bradley, and not since, either. There was a personal satisfaction too, because I had Citation myself out East while my father had Coaltown. Coaltown was kind of a sickly horse as a 2-year-old. I thought he was dying one time in Chicago, but he got good in the winter in Florida, and then he started breaking records and was undefeated coming into the Derby while Citation had two losses.
"But you could explain both those losses. As a 2-year-old, our filly Bewitched beat him. I believe at that moment she was ground up a little finer, and I told the jockeys I didn't want the horses beat up. Then a few weeks before the Derby, Saggy beat him in the mud up at Havre de Grace. Now I don't want to take anything away from Saggy—he comes from a good mud family—but that was a phony race. It was the first time Arcaro rode Citation, and I told him, 'Eddie, don't thump him and bump him all around. I want to keep the flesh on him.' This was one of those stepping-stones I mentioned to you. And he got caught on the outside of some horse—I can't remember his name but it had five letters—and by the time he got clear it was too late to go after Saggy without whipping him all up.
"But these losses are why a lot of the Kentucky people couldn't understand why we were even bringing Citation in. They said, 'Jimmy, all's you gonna see is that little brown horse's behind.' I said, 'Well, you can call me an imbecile if that happens.'
"But I'll tell you, that talk scared Arcaro. He had chosen the wrong horse in an entry for the Derby once before, the time he took Devil Diver and runs out and Shut Out wins it. Arcaro had just recently got on Citation, too. Albert Snider had been riding him, and Citation ran just like greased lightning for him, but, unfortunately, after he wins the Flamingo, Snider goes fishing in the Keys and a storm blows up and drowns him.