The Best I Ever Saw

By H.A. "Jimmy " Jones

I saw a lot of these horses on your Top 100 list. The best horse I ever saw was Citation and I'll tell you why. He could do everything on any kind of track. Secretariat couldn't run a bit in the mud.

Man o' War: I only saw one of his races. He beat up an old cripple at Kenilworth Park when he ran a match race against Sir Barton. Sir Barton was old and broke down like Citation was in California. I shouldn't been runnin' Citation, but Mr. Wright owned the horse and he wanted to try and make a million dollars.

The greatest race I ever saw was the race between Citation and Noor (San Juan Capistrano Handicap, 1 3/4 miles, March 4, 1950). Noor was a young horse, his whole life in front of him, sound, had 117 on him. Citation had 130. I swear...the valets were sitting down there at the winner's circle...right on the finish line. These were old time jocks that had seen a lot of races. And they all said, "Well, you won." I said, 'I don't know; it was awful close.' Well they gave it to Noor, by the closest of noses. But you know I never did see the photo finish picture. I turned around and saw Citation coming back to me, takin' short steps. The ol' ankle had given away again. I assume it gave away in that drive. They were, it seemed to me, a sixteenth of a mile in front of the field. It's the only time I left the track feelin' bad. My horse broke down, but I got him patched up and ran him in San Francisco and he broke the world's record, but it was a patch job. (Citation ran 11 times after the San Juan Capistrano Handicap.)

I think Citation should be in front of Secretariat...I don't know about Man o' War. That's a pretty good list there.

Kelso was an amazin' horse. At Aqueduct you couldn't beat him. He was amazin'. I ran a pretty good ol' horse at him, Yorky, one day. He could beat most horses but Kelso made a shambles of him. At Aqueduct he was unbeatable.

Count Fleet, I never saw him run. (Jockey Johnny) Longden always thought he was the greatest horse he ever rode. I think they were foolish with what they tried to do. They tried to establish a record like Secretariat where he won way off (the Belmont by 31 lengths). I never did that with Citation. I thought it was smart to conserve him for the next race.

Dr. Fager was a very, very fast horse. He had a lot of ability ... and while he didn't rate, he was an awful fast horse. Native Dancer, I never saw him run. He was out there in California when we were out there, but I never got to see him run.

Forego, I saw him run. Big, tough horse, you couldn't detract from him at all. He was a tough baby.

Seattle Slew, I loved him. I thought he was not only one of the best lookin' horses I ever saw, but he was one of the best horses I ever saw. I got to see him during his 2-year-old campaign, and I thought he was a real horse.

Spectacular Bid was OK; I didn't think that much of him, but a lot of people did. Buckpasser, I'd put him up higher, maybe right after Tom Fool. Cigar is awfully high up. He tied Citation's record (for 16 straight wins) but I don't think he faced that tough of company.

Whirlaway was trained by my father. I didn't get to see him run. It was during the War (World War II) and my father had him in New Orleans and I had to stay at Hialeah. He raced in New Orleans and Hot Springs and then the (Kentucky) Derby. In April, the government informed me I was going to be in the Navy. I was in Jacksonville (the Naval base in Florida).

Armed, he was a useful horse. He wasn't no Citation, but he came along at a time we needed to win some money. He kept the barn together until Citation. If it wasn't for Armed, we might have gone out of business.

Coaltown was my father's horse. He had Coaltown in Louisville while I had Citation in Hialeah. When I come up to Louisville with Citation, some of them boys from Louisville started kiddin' me, sayin', "What you doin' here?" I told them, "I come over to win the Derby." They said, "You won't see anything but a big brown hiney (of Coaltown); that's all you'll see." I said, "If he beats this horse, you just call me imbecile for the rest of my life."

Reprinted from "The Final Turn" of Feb. 27, 1999, when H.A. "JIMMY" JONES was asked for his thoughts on The Blood-Horse's Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century by correspondent Frank Carlson.