We have already gone over the Horse of the Decade debate thousands of times, some say Curlin, some say Ghostzapper, some say Invasor, or some say Zenyatta. But, one thing we haven’t discussed is who was the best horse to race in California last decade. I know many will say that Zenyatta is a slam dunk for that, but I say WHOA Nellie, not so fast. Was Zenyatta spectacular? Was she popular? Was she great? All questions answered with a resounding yes, but I still believe that there may have been another horse whose credentials may stand above even hers….Lava Man.
Before you all call me insane, stupid, or any other derogatory adjectives, let me explain myself. Was Lava Man unbeaten? No, he was not, but he was nothing short of one of the greatest horses to ever race in the state of California in the last 30 years. Some of the more well known facts that glitter upon his impressive resume are that he is the ONLY horse to ever win a grade one race over dirt, turf, and synthetic. He won three Hollywood Gold Cups -a feat only the great Native Diver has achieved before him- , two Santa Anita Handicaps, and the Pacific Classic. He also has the distinction of being the only horse to ever sweep the Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in the same calander year. Lava Man was also among the fastest horses of last decade, recording nine triple digit BSF, eight of them being over 100, two being on turf, and his highest being a scorching 120.
Now for the lesser known facts that help his case. I already note above that Lava Man is the only horse to have ever won a grade one over all three surface types, but with his wins in the 2006 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap and the Santa Anita Handicap, he became the first horse since 1985 to win a grade one on turf and dirt in the same year. After winning the Hollywood Gold Cup he became the first horse since 1979 to take the Big Cap and Gold Cup in the same year and the first since 1978 to take the Whittingham and Gold Cup in the same year.
When looking back upon his versatility, his brilliance, and his heart there can be no denying this horse's greatness. It is a crying shame that his inability to show up outside of California has underscored his greatness so much throughout the years that he is not even considered, by many, to be in the top 10 horses to race last decade. Lava Man was in a class by himself and his list of accomplishments speaks for itself. He was the best to race in Californina last decade, nobody else. Lava Man is the King of California.