Former Bull Rider, Award Winning Race Horse Trainer (Kentucky Derby Winner)
Carl Nafzger took an unconventional route to racing’s Hall of Fame. He is only inductee who is also a member of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Professional Bull Riders’ Ring of Honor.
Since making the transition from rodeo athlete to thoroughbred trainer, Nafzger has enjoyed a remarkable career in racing. He has developed three champions (Unbridled, Banshee Breeze and Street Sense), won the Kentucky Derby twice (with Unbridled in 1990 and Street Sense in 2007) and was named the Eclispe Award winner for Outstanding Trainer in 1990. Nafzger also became the first trainer to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby with the same horse (Street Sense).
Nafzger was born in Plainview, Texas, on April 29, 1941. He grew up on a farm near Olton, Texas, and his interest in the bulls his father raised led him to the rodeo. In 1963, he was the third-ranked bull rider in the world. He went to the National Finals Rodeo three consecutive years, 1963-65. When the travel and physical demands of rodeo began to take a toll, Nafzger moved toward training.
Nafzger saddled his first winner, Pretty Li’l Bessie, at Santa Fe Downs. He also won his first stakes race at Santa Fe Downs with Speedy Karen in the Fiesta Derby Handicap. Through an association with legendary trainer John Nerud, Nafzger was able to train better horses. He gained a national reputation 1990 with Unbridled’s victories in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Nafzger-trained Banshee Breeze, winner of a total of five Grade 1 races in her career, was the 3-year-old filly champ of 1998.
Along with his two victories in the Kentucky Derby and two scores in the Breeders’ Cup (the Classic and the Juvenile), Nafzger has won the Travers and Alabama twice each and owns victories in the Florida Derby, Coaching Club American Oaks, Go for Wand, Apple Blossom, Super Derby, Arlington Classic and Jim Dandy, among others.
Through August 2013, Nafzger owned 1,111 career wins and purse earnings of $51,980,702
Carl Nafzger was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2008.