In 1948, Citation began his three-year-old season in a six furlong(1320 yards) race, beating an older horse from his home stable, Armed, the previous Horse of the Year, by one length. The two were next entered in the Seminole Handicap, and Citation once again defeated the more experienced horse. People couldn't believe that a young would defeat older horses so early in the season.
Next, Citation won both the Everglades Stakes and the Flamingo Stakes. However, when his regular rider, Al Snider, was killed in a fishing accident and Eddie Arcaro took his place, Citation lost for the second time. The Chesapeake Trial Stake's track was slick and muddy, so Arcaro was afraid to push the young horse too hard. Consequently, Citation placed second to a horse known as Saggy. Later, in the Chesapeake Stakes, Citation came back for revenge, and Saggy placed eleventh.
Then came the Kentucky Derby. Almost everyone expected one of the horses from Citation's stable, Calumet, to win, but the question was, which one? Many believed that Coaltown would, and Citation would not come out victorious. They would soon see for themselves how wrong they really were.
Right out of the gates, Coaltown, Citation's rival, took the lead. It wasn't until the half mile point, when Coaltown was leading by six lengths, did Citation make his move, easily passing his rival for a win of three and half lengths.
In the Preakness Stakes, Citation's win was even more amazing than the last. He led from starting to finish, winning by five and a half lengths, with Vulcan's Forge second. Then Big Cy ran in the Jersey Stakes, easily winning by eleven lengths, which, to many people's surprise, did not scare off competition for the Belmont.
At that time, everyone knew that Citation had speed, but his stamina was questionable. No one expected a 1948 Triple Crown winner. After all, many horses win both the Derby and the Preakness but fail to grab the final jewel of the Crown: the Belmont Stakes, a grueling, mile and a half race that requires a special combination of both speed and stamina, something people thought Citation lacked. Even so, surprises do happen, and Big Cy was ready to surprise.
Everyone's expectations faded in nothingness as Citation made his move, winning by eight lengths and tying Count Fleet's record of 2:28 1/5. Citation had effortlessly snatched the Triple Crown!
Citation later injured his hip in the Chicago Stars and Stripes Handicap, but he returned to the racetracks just two weeks later in top form, winning both the American Derby and the Sysonby Mile. Even though some still believed that he lacked stamina, their doubts were clashed a few weeks later when Citation won the two mile long Jockey Club Gold Cup by seventh lengths. He made 1947 Preakness winner Phalanx and champion mare Conniver look like amateurs! He then won the mile and five sixteenths Empire Gold Cup.
No one dared to race Citation in the Pimlico Special, so Citation automatically took the prize money. Then he headed west, winning two races, including the Tanforan Handicap in track record time.
By the end of the season, Citation had won 27 races out of 29 lifetime starts, and had earned $865,150, as well as the 1948 Horse of the Year award. What a horse!
Unfortunately, he developed osselet, and type of osteo-arthritis that effects the fetlock. Because of that, he had to sit out one season, giving Coaltown the 1949 Horse of the Year award.