Trainer Carl Nafzger will be honored for his overall contributions to Thoroughbred racing when Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners (KTO) presents the two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby with the 2007 “Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award.”
Nafzger, a one-time rodeo cowboy who saddled Street Sense to win the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Frances Genter’s Unbridled to take the 1990 “Run for the Roses,” will receive the honor at the KTO’s annual awards dinner Nov. 10 at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
The KTO annually presents the award to a member of the racing industry who displays the spirit and passion for the sport that was exhibited by Jones, the legendary Kentucky breeder, owner and former chairman of the board of Churchill Downs. Retired Churchill Downs Inc. president and CEO Tom Meeker received the award in 2006. Previous winners of the “Warner L. Jones Horseman of the Year Award” have included owners and breeders William T. Young, William S. Farish, Allen E. Paulson, and Ken Ramsey; trainers D. Wayne Lukas, Shug McGaughey, Dale Romans, Elliott Walden, and Ken McPeek; journalist Jennie Rees of the Louisville Courier-Journal; and Churchill Downs vice president of racing communications John Asher.
Nafzger, 66, scaled back his training activities in early 2006 but has enjoyed two of his greatest years since the decision – thanks in large part to the exploits of 3-year-old stars Street Sense and Lady Joanne. Street Sense capped a sensational year in 2006 with a record-smashing 10-length victory in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs that earned the colt the coveted Eclipse Award, honoring him as the nation’s champion 2-year-old. Lady Joanne ended the year with a victory in the $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
Street Sense ensured that 2007 would be one of the most memorable years in Nafzger’s career when he rallied from 19th to win the Kentucky Derby. The colt became the first horse to sweep the Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He would also win Saratoga’s historic Travers Stakes (gr. I) in a 3-year-old campaign that also included wins in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III).
Lady Joanne contributed to the remarkable year with a victory in Saratoga’s prestigious Alabama (gr. I) and runner-up finishes in the Mother Goose (gr. I) at Belmont Park and the Spinster (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Nafzger, who was ranked as the number three bull rider in the world on the professional rodeo circuit in 1963, took out his license as a Thoroughbred trainer in 1968. That launched a career that has since seen the native Texan win the Eclipse Award that honored America’s top trainer in 1990 and take the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Unbridled in 1990, who earned honors as champion 3-year-old in that year.
Other stars trained by Nafzger include Banshee Breeze, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1998; Mayo on The Side, who defeated reigning “Horse of the Year” Azeri in the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs; Travers winner Unshaded; Florida Derby winner Vicar; and major stakes winners My Boston Gal, Solvig, Til Forbid, Home at Last, Eurosilver, Lead Story, Star Choice, Binalong, Jeano, Last Song, Belterra, and Alannan.
Nafzger, one of Thoroughbred racing’s great ambassadors, was inducted into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame earlier this year. He also authored the book “Traits of a Winner: The Formula for Developing Thoroughbred Racehorses.”
Tickets to the dinner are $125. Seating for the dinner is limited and reservations are required by Nov. 5. Tickets may be purchased by contacting Marlene Meyer at (502) 458-5820.