Grantland Rice: How Does Noor Rank Among World’s Great? (June 1950)

Noor (GB) wins the Santa Anita Handicap, 02/25/1950. Citation 2nd, Two Lea 3rd, Ponder 4th. Photo: The New York Times, 02/26/1950

“NEW YORK, June 28 – Some time back, differing partisans were arguing at considerable length about the comparative greatness of Man o’ War and Citation. Which was the greater – or the greatest?

And then along came Noor. Noor is a bay Irish thoroughbred which the late Charlie Howard bought from the Aga Khan for something like $200,000. This was another Aga Khan horse which hadn’t amounted to much. But while Noor wasn’t winning, he was always showing promise.

At Santa Anita last January it was taken for granted that if Citation returned to anything like his old form, the Calumet headliner was sure to win the $100,000 handicap. Not quite everyone felt that way. Howard didn’t, when I talked to him at the Santa Anita track at the time.

“I can say this,” he said. “Unless Citation is just as good as he ever was, Noor will beat him and win the Handicap. If Citation is just as good as he ever was, Noor still might beat him. Noor ran third in the English Derby. He was then just coming into his own as a great horse. But the change to California has taken longer than I thought it would bring him around. Now he is ready and I believe he is about as fine a horse as I have ever seen.”

He should know – As Howard owned Seabiscuit, Kayak II and another great South American horse which once set a world’s record, the late turfman should know what he was talking about. At that time Charlie Howard was a very sick man with a bad heart. He might have died sooner except that he clung to life with great tenacity to see Noor run against Citation.

It can be said for Howard that no sportsman ever finished his career with two greater thrills. He saw Noor beat Citation twice in two of the greatest races ever run – a battle to the wire less than a neck apart.

Noor’s time last Saturday for the mile and a quarter set a new mark and was his second world-record performance on successive Saturdays. It is admitted that the Golden Gate track is composed largely of greased lightning – it’s the fastest track in the world. But for all that, any horse that keeps breaking two minutes for the mile and a quarter can move a bit. I don’t think Citation is the horse he was as a 3-year-old. But no one can take credit from Noor. It is only to be hoped that he comes East or to the Midwest before he gets stale or overworked. It would be doubly interesting to see him work on another track, outside of California.”
(Grantland Rice / The Atlanta Constitution, 06/29/1950)

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