Carl Nafzger Trainer
Thursday March 15, 2007
A native of Plainview, Texas, Carl Nafzger was a bull rider on the rodeo circuit before turning his talents to training horses. As a bull rider, Nafzger went to the national rodeo finals three straight years, from 1963-65 and was ranked third in the world in 1963. The trainer also met his wife Wanda while on the rodeo circuit and they married in 1968, the same year he took out his trainer’s license.
Nafzger, 65, is best known for his training champion Unbridled to win the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. In a Blood-Horse interview in which he recalled the classic winner, Nafzger said, "It was as if he could talk. He always told me what he wanted to do in his training. I called him the 'gentle giant.'
Nafzger, who recently cut back on the number of horses in his stable, is back on the Derby Trail with 2006 juvenile champion Street Sense, whom he conditions for longtime patron James Tafel. Following his impressive victory in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Nafzger mapped out a 3-year-old campaign that calls for the son of Street Cry to have only two preps before the Derby.
In addition to Unbridled and Street Sense, Nafzger has been represented by one other Eclipse Award winner, Banshee Breeze, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1998.
The Eclipse Award winning trainer of 1990, Nafzger has trained additional stakes winners Fairway Phantom, Coolawin, Home At Last, Unshaded, Westerly Breeze, My Boston Gal, Vicar, Solvig, Til Forbid, Jeano, Star Choice, Binalong, Lead Story, Eurosilver, Mayo on the Side, Last Song, Two Punch Gal, Belterra and Alannan
In addition to his successful rodeo and training careers, Nafzger is the author of “Traits of a Winner: The Formula for Developing Thoroughbred Horses.
Hi Carl, I still think when you hugged Mrs. Genter and told her she was going to win the Kentucky Derby was one of the most touching moments in this sport. Of the two victories of Unbridled -- the Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic -- which one give you the most satisfaction?
They are equal. The historical significance of winning the Derby will never be replaced, and the accomplishment of taking a 3-year-old and beating older horses and horses from all over the world in the Breeders’ Cup will never go away.
Does Street Sense have to win both prep races to go to the Derby or is it Derby or bust? Thanks for taking your time to talk to us.
As long as he runs correct races, he doesn’t have to win either of these two races to go the Derby. Three things we’re looking for in the first two races, but really in the first race. We need him to get what I call “deep fitness” that you get out of a race and you can’t get out of training him. Second, you have got to get him focused on his game. Then you want him to get his timing, so he's there (at the finish). And I will be watching for what I watch for in any race, to see if the jockey makes a mistake, to see if the horse makes a mistake, or to see if I have made a mistake. Winning is not that important. These are prep races. This is not the Kentucky Derby.
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