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This Saturday, June 6, will mark the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of racing’s elusive Triple Crown. It has been 37 years since the last winner, Affirmed, earned the title in 1978. This year, American Pharoah, having already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, will become the third horse in four years to attempt the feat.
In 1948, LIFE Magazine took a closer look at Citation, a winning 3-year-old colt from Calumet Farm. A Triple Crown hopeful, he was also the top money-maker for the Lexington, Ky., farm, which had previously produced a winner with Whirlaway in 1941.
“In 14 months of competition Citation has won 16 out of 18 starts, including the 1948 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness,” LIFE wrote. “If he also wins the Belmont Stakes on June 12 he will become the eighth horse to gallop off with racing’s ‘triple crown.’”
As history is already written, we know that Citation did in fact go on to win the Triple Crown – and decisively, at that. He would also become the first thoroughbred to achieve millionaire status.
Will American Pharoah break the decades-long losing streak? Odds are certainly against him (although the bookies might beg to differ), but the racing community is rooting for him, hoping to add his name to the list of the world’s greatest racehorses.