The next day, Carl and Wanda took a rare afternoon off to go deep-sea fishing in the Florida Keys. On the way to the dock, Nafzger talked about how he gets the most out of a thoroughbred.
"I listen to the horse," he said. "I let him tell me what he wants to do and what he doesn't want to do, and then I adjust. Horses never make mistakes, only the people handling them do. And it's the same for just about any horse as it is with Unbridled. The development of the horse, that's the thing. A claimer can be a nice horse to watch if he's honest."
The Nafzgers arrived at Bud N' Mary's Fishing Marina, carried a big tub of fried chicken on board the Caribsea and ordered Captain Dave Day to cast off. Half an hour later, the boat was being tossed around by eight-foot waves, causing Nafzger to grin and yell "Whoopee!" every now and then, just as if he were riding a bull. This went on for 2½ hours until finally, when one of his guests became ill, Carl reckoned it was time to get back to shore. "Motion doesn't bother me," he said. "When you're a rodeo cowboy, you learn pretty quick you're going to die."
Back on shore he signed an autograph for Captain Dave's mate and climbed into the Buick to head back home. On the way, he picked out a little tavern and pulled over to go inside and have a beer.
As he relaxed, Nafzger talked about Unbridled's past performance chart for 1990, which made the colt look sort of like a bucking bronc. Up and down. Only four wins in 11 starts. Between the Derby and the Classic, Unbridled's only victory came in a mile allowance race at Arlington Park near Chicago.
"I can't really say I blame the jockeys for any of his losses, because of my style of training," Nafzger said. "I don't lead a horse over there at the razor's edge every time. Horses can't take it, they're not machines. I had Unbridled fit and ready when he needed to be. What did the horse ever do that was bad? But a lot of the writers got mad at the horse because he wasn't unbeatable."
Still, in a year when most of the best horses were sidelined by injuries, Unbridled stayed around for the entire campaign, running his first race in January and his last in October. In his 11 starts, he never ran a really bad race. Besides his four victories, he had three seconds, two thirds, a fourth and a fifth place, for total earnings of $3.7 million. Part of Nafzger's philosophy is, "It's not how many you win, but the ones you win." By that standard, Unbridled was perfect in the two races that every horseman wants most to win—the Kentucky Derby and the Classic.
"Winning the Kentucky Derby is like being Miss America," he says, "because you become a spokesman for the game for a year." Still, Carl and Wanda are keeping it all in perspective. Nafzger remembers well when, as a young man, he had proudly showed an old cowboy a newspaper clipping that complimented his bull riding. "Carl," the old guy said, "them bulls can't read."
"When you win the Kentucky Derby, your life changes," said Nafzger, back on the road again, a tape of cowboy songs playing on the car stereo. "It makes you stop and contemplate what's really going on in your life. One day after the Derby, I looked at a picture of myself in the winner's circle and I said, 'Wanda, that's not me.... They're trying to make me into a horse trainer!' "
And what is he, if not that?