Noor's Four Over Citation
Updated: Monday, August 5, 2002 4:18 PM
Posted: Monday, August 5, 2002 2:17 PM
Published in the Aug. 3 issue of The Blood-Horse
After a slow start in Great Britain, Noor became a star in North America.
Noor beat Calumet Farm's mighty Citation four consecutive times. That alone should be enough to earn a horse entry in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
But Noor did plenty more. The English-bred horse set records in all four of those encounters and was so good that 1950 season that he was voted champion older male and was the year's leading money earner. He so impressed regular jockey Johnny Longden that the Hall of Fame rider placed him in his personal Top 10.
Noor's early racing career in England hardly hinted at such success. Trained by Frank Butters for breeder/owner the Aga Khan, Noor won a single stakes, the Diomed, over one rival. Butters also tried him in such traditional fixtures as the Epsom Derby, Eclipse Stakes, Two Thousand Guineas, and St. Leger, and the best Noor could do was run third in the first two races. His Eclipse loss, however, came by a neck.
Noor might never have even graced the American racing scene were it not for the earlier importation of the Aga Khan's Irish Derby winner Nathoo. Also a son of Nasrullah, Nathoo impressed California owner Charles S. Howard with his performance in the Gold Cup in New York in the fall of 1948. Howard tried to purchase Nathoo, but the Aga Khan insisted Noor be included in the deal. Howard, who earlier had raced the great Seabiscuit, agreed and got both for a reported $175,000.
Following his arrival in the U.S. in the fall of 1948, Noor developed osselets (inflammation of the fetlock joint that can lead to permanent arthritis without rest) and didn't run until the following October for new trainer Burley Parke. He made seven starts before facing Citation for the first time, in the San Antonio Handicap in February of 1950. For Citation, it was his third race following a year-long layoff in which he also had been treated for osselets. Citation beat Noor, but couldn't catch stablemate Ponder and finished second. After that, there was no stopping Noor against Citation.
The next Noor/Citation encounter came two weeks later in the Santa Anita Handicap. Ponder and another stablemate, Two Lea, also took up the chase, but they too were no match for Noor, who beat Citation by 1 1/4 lengths in track-record time of 2:00 for 1 1/4 miles. The weights were heavily in Noor's favor, 110 pounds to Citation's 132.
Their next battle came a week later in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap, and it was Noor getting up to win by a nose over Citation. His time, 2:52 4/5, was an American record for 1 3/4 miles. The win made Noor the first horse to beat Citation twice.
"Noor has to be a good horse to do the things he did in the San Juan Capistrano," wrote Robert Hebert in The Blood-Horse. "Both on his part, and on Citation's, it was a much better performance than either showed in the Santa Anita Handicap."
As great as the victories were, Citation still was voted Horse of the Meet.
Noor set world records in his next two starts against Citation. At Golden Gate Fields in June, he went 1:46 4/5 in the 1 1/8-mile Forty-Niners Handicap while in receipt of five pounds from Citation, and stopped the clock in 1:58 1/5 in the 1 1/4-mile Golden Gate Handicap while carrying 127 pounds to Citation's 126. Unfortunately for Howard, he never saw those wins. He died in early June, and Noor began racing for the Howard estate.
The Golden Gate Handicap was Citation's last race of the year. Noor carried on six more times and finished first or second in all six races. Better yet, he proved he could carry weight. He won under 132 pounds in the American Handicap at Hollywood a month after the Golden Gate Handicap. After that, Parke sent him to New York in an attempt to better his chances for Horse of the Year. Noor didn't help his chances by finishing second in three stakes.
Noor started twice in December and set two more track records. He won a 1 1/8-mile allowance in 1:48 and set a track record of 1:59 4/5 in the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup while carrying the same top weight of 130 pounds as subsequent Horse of the Year Hill Prince, who ran third.
Noor, who was produced from the Bahram mare Queen of Baghdad, was retired after the Gold Cup with a dozen wins from 31 starts and $383,969 in earnings. At stud, he sired 13 stakes winners and his daughters produced 34 stakes winners, including Dancer's Image, who was disqualified from first in the 1968 Kentucky Derby. Noor was euthanized Nov. 16, 1974, at age 29.
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