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Still a Cowboy at Heart
William F. Reed
February 11, 1991
Though he has won horse racing's biggest prizes with Unbridled (right), Carl Nafzger remains a rodeo man deep down
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February 11, 1991

Still A Cowboy At Heart

Though he has won horse racing's biggest prizes with Unbridled (right), Carl Nafzger remains a rodeo man deep down

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After the Classic, Nafzger was annoyed when the press asked him if he felt he had finally "arrived" as a trainer. Carl thought the question implied that he and Wanda had been running some kind of mom-and-pop operation that happened to get lucky. "I've been around for a while, but it's only now that anybody has started noticing," Nafzger says. "Unbridled will go someday and so will Home At Last, but we'll still be around."

He can get riled up, too. In the giddy aftermath of the Derby, while he was waiting for Mrs. Genter and her family to arrive in the Churchill Downs winner's circle, Nafzger, wearing a raincoat with an ABC sticker attached, paced restlessly, blocking some photographers' views of Unbridled and jockey Craig Perret.

"Hey, ABC," yelled one perturbed cameraman. "Get outta the way, ABC. Get down, ABC."

Eyes flashing, Nafzger spun around and shouted, "I train the son of a bitch, and we're waiting for the people who belong in here."

End of discussion.

Then there was the incident before the Belmont Stakes, when Nafzger and Unbridled arrived at the Belmont Park stable area, only to find that the Kentucky Derby winner didn't have a stall.

"We finally got it worked out," he says, "but I was still fuming when I looked over at Unbridled and saw he had stretched out in the stall and gone to sleep. I thought to myself, Well, now we know who's got the real class in this outfit."

Nafzger became irritated again when, after Unbridled had finished a dull fourth in the Belmont, it was suggested that the colt had run poorly because he hadn't been given a dose of Lasix, the controversial antibleeding medication that is illegal in New York. Nafzger then swore that Unbridled would come back and prove himself on the same track in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

On that fall afternoon at Belmont, Unbridled made his trademark big kick under jockey Pat Day, split horses inside the eighth pole and drew off to a solid one-length victory. Said Nafzger, "I don't guess I'll be getting any more questions about Lasix."

Last Dec. 9, a windy, overcast day in South Florida, Nafzger took Unbridled to the track between the fourth and fifth races at Calder Race Course, near Fort Lauderdale, so the colt could gallop. It was Unbridled Day at Calder, and the first 10,000 customers at the track were given free photos of the horse who won the Derby and the Classic.

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