The following is a Q & A with trainer Carl Nafzger from 1993 originally published in DRF.
Q: How did you get Unbridled to beat Housebuster in the Deputy Minister at seven furlongs?
Nafzger: Had the best horse. That’s true. I had the best horse at seven furlongs. There was no way anybody knew the power of Unbridled. There were two horses that year: Unbridled and Summer Squall. That was the best crop* of 3-year-olds and, for the most part, the best crop of older horses we’ve had in I don’t know how long. When those two ran, they beat the field handily.
[The 3yos of 1990 included Housebuster (champion sprinter), Go and Go (Belmont Stakes), Wood Memorial winner Thirty Six Red, Super Derby winner Home at Last (by three and a half lengths over Unbridled), and Santa Anita Derby winner Mister Frisky, who won 16 races in a row. Another 3yo of that crop was third, a neck behind Unbridled, in the Super Derby. His name was Cee’s Tizzy, the sire of Horse of the Year Tiznow. The older horses included Farma Way, Jolie’s Halo, Twilight Agenda, Best Pal, and 1991 Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair.]
Q: Trained specifically for sprinting races, could Unbridled have been a champion sprinter instead of a Derby winner?
Nafzger: We came very close to sprinting him in the Breeders’ Cup that year. We started to enter both ways because the mile and a quarter was shaping up such a rascal race. And we thought very strongly about the Sprint, but we didn’t know whether we could get through all the traffic. We saw it was going to be a big field, so we just let it go. This horse was just devastating whenever he did his stuff. He was the kind of colt who had all the traits of a great horse. He overcame all sorts of adversity, and he had speed, but he didn’t have what I call tactical speed like Summer Squall did. Summer Squall could always be positioned to crack quicker. I always had to find my way through traffic. And sprinting, when we got that little field down at Gulfstream [in the Deputy Minister], he just ran his race. Once he started his move, he just exploded. I went crazy. He was a hell of a racehorse.
Q:What makes a horse like Unbridled compete so hard and keep on trying when he’s tired?
Nafzger: See, it’s only that much difference between a horse reaching down and giving you a hundred or a hundred and ten, and on an off track, he (Unbridled) would give you a hundred. But he wouldn’t give you that humphf. When they give you that hundred and ten, they’re extending themselves beyond safety, in a way. They’re running on with everything perfect. They feel their feet right under them. They’re giving everything they’ve got.
Then you can see what it takes to really win these races. He would give you a hundred percent on a bad track. That’s why he would light the board. But he wouldn’t give a hundred and ten, and it takes a hundred and ten to be a champion.
When a horse breaks down, everybody says, “that horse must’ve been sore.” Now, I’ve had horses break their legs, but I’ve never had an unsound horse break a leg. They won’t run hard enough. The horses that break legs are these horses who are giving you a hundred and ten and reach down for a hundred and twenty. And they make a misstep, and whop!
In other words, if a horse like Go for Wand is running, and here comes this horse up to her. And she reached down to give that extra push — you watch that tape, you watch it in slow motion — and she reached to give it again, and maybe her hind end slipped just that much, and she reached like that and pow! And then they say, “Oh, she was sore.” Bah! If that racehorse is sore, he wouldn’t even run. And there’s no medication short of morphine that can make an animal run when it’s hurting. This is where we have to educate the public. They don’t understand that these horses, yes, can hurt themselves badly, but you will never break a leg off an unsound horse.
It’s the sound horses who are giving you 110 percent. It’s the champions who give you everything they got that will break down.