California Chrome and the 10 Greatest Race Horses of All Time

By Willis Patenaude

California Chrome and 10 Greatest Race Horses of All Time

California Chrome
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While California Chrome is on the precipice of history, tempting immortality as the 12th Triple Crown winner in the sport's storied history, his place among the all-time greats awaits. The sport has seen other legends conquer the Triple Crown or accomplish other remarkable feats of dominance. Here are the 10 greatest race horses of all time, a list on which Chrome could soon be included. As with any list, personal choices are present.

10. Invasor

This selection is pure emotion. Not many horse racing fans know Invasor and that’s just wrong. The 2006 Horse of the Year won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup and the Uruguay racing Triple Crown. Also, I’ve never wanted a horse to win a race more than Invasor in the 2006 Classic so he could silence the Bernardini “superhorse” nonsense. With a career record of 11 wins from 12 starts, he is underrated and underappreciated.

9. Sunday Silence

Sunday Silence benefits from a rivalry with Easy Goer, who he bested in three out of four races. Unfortunately, Easy Goer won the Belmont Stakes robbing Sunday of a Triple Crown in 1989. An injury prevented him from racing as a 4-year-old, but he won 9 of 14 starts and never finished worse than second in his career. He became a leading sire in Japan until his untimely death in 2002. He had a short, but impressive career.

8. Cigar

If there was a horse race between 1995 and 1996 that Cigar ran in, chances are he won. He won a remarkable 16 consecutive races, going 10 for 10 in 1995 including the Classic, Donn Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup. He didn’t just beat scrubs; he beat talent like Best Pal, Holy Bull and Concern and lays claim to the title of Horse of the Decade for the 1990s. He won more races in one year than most horses today will race in their career!

7. Smarty Jones

Smarty was robbed of Horse of the Year in 2004 to the overrated Ghostzapper, but they will never be able to take away his undefeated run through the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before losing a heart wrenching Belmont. An injury forced his retirement following the loss, but the plucky colt was a fan favorite, an every man’s horse, and even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

6. Zenyatta

The only girl on the list and the “Queen of Racing,” she was undefeated in her first 19 races before losing a heartbreaker in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, a loss jockey Mike Smith still accepts blame for. Her come from behind style made her a fan favorite and her wins were “heart attack” compelling. The fact that she was a neck away from retiring undefeated is a phenomenal achievement.

5. Affirmed

The 1978 Triple Crown winner and two-time Horse of the Year is as legendary as his racing battles against Alydar have become. Affirmed owes a debt to the rivalry for his standing among the greats, as they faced each other 10 times, with Affirmed winning seven. In his career, Affirmed won 22 of 29 races, and 7-of-9 as a 4-year-old. He would demolish modern horses that are coddled playthings.

4. Curlin

The two-time Horse of the Year and the highest North American money earner won 11 of his 16 starts, including the Preakness, Breeders Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup. In the modern era, where breeding reigns supreme, he was an anomaly, continuing to race as a 4-year-old. Doing so only enhanced the fanfare and his status as an all-time great. Getting to watch his victory in the 2008 Woodward is a memory I will always cherish

3. Secretariat

He was included on ESPN's list of greatest athletes and the 1973 Triple Crown winner deserved it. He didn’t just beat the competition in the 1973 Belmont, he absolutely destroyed them. He set records in all three Triple Crown races that still stand today and was a two-time Horse of the Year. He won 16 of 21 starts and 40 years later, he is still a sports icon. Even casual fans know the name Secretariat.

2. Barbaro

Everyone who follows horse racing knows the tragic story of Barbaro and the emotional impact he had on the sport. He was undefeated going into his perfect victory in the Kentucky Derby and now presents fans with a bunch of “what ifs.” I, for one, am convinced that given his running style and pedigree, the Triple Crown drought would have ended in 2006 had he not gotten injured in the Preakness.

1. Tiznow

He reigns as the only horse to ever win the Breeders Cup Classic twice and did so over superb competition. In the 2001 Classic, after 9-11, he was an afterthought, but would provide one of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the sport. While he never won the Kentucky Derby -- there is more to horse racing -- Tiznow, when he wanted to run, could beat any horse the sport has ever seen.

Willis Patenaude is a New England Patriots writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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