All Inductees

Carl Nafzger

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Born in Plainview, Texas, in 1941, Carl Nafzger was fascinated early in life by the bulls that his father raised on their family farm near Olton, Texas. It was this fascination that led him to the rodeo arena where he experienced great success as a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier (1963-65). In 1963, Nafzger finished the season ranked third overall in the PRCA bull riding standings – the best finish of his bull riding career.

Upon leaving the world of the rodeo, Nafzger embarked on a journey that would lead him to the winner’s circle at virtually every major venue that the sport of Thoroughbred racing has to offer. He married Wanda in 1968, the same year he received his first Thoroughbred Trainer’s license. “I had quite a bit of success on the tour during the late 60s,” he said. “It was quite a grind. I traveled about 80,000 miles a year and worked about 10 months a year, day and night. I loved the rodeo, but it just gets to a point where you can’t do it anymore. Just like a jockey can only ride so long before he must stop. I grew up around livestock, so it was a natural instinct to be around horses. When I left rodeo riding, I wanted my next career to continue to be an asset as I grew older, not something I would have to stop doing because of age.

In 1966 while traveling on the rodeo circuit from Raleigh, N.C., to San Francisco, Nafzger said, ‘Someday I’ll race here,’ and at that time the comment was made to me, ‘They won’t even let you in the grandstand, Nafzger.’ In 1976, exactly 10 years later, we raced there, and I haven’t missed a meet since I started.”

Nafzger is best known for his handling of the champion Unbridled that won the 1990 Kentucky Derby. Street Sense also won Thoroughbred racing’s top crown in 2007, making Nafzger a two-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer. Street Sense was a heavy favorite for this year’s Breeders Cup, and won the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as well. As of October 10, Nafzger’s 2007 statistics reflect that he’s saddled winners of 25 percent of races started. 57 percent of his mounts have finished in the money for season earnings to date of $3,869,953. Between 1976 and October 10, 2007, from 7,905 starts, Nafzger is credited with 1,052 wins and earnings of $49,657,805. He was inducted into the Texas Racing Hall of Fame this year and won the 1990 Eclipse Award as the country’s leading trainer. He is the trainer of three Eclipse Award winners – 1990 champion 3-year-old colt Unbridled, 1998 champion 3-year-old filly Banshee Breeze, and 2006 champion 2-year-old colt Street Sense.

During his outstanding career in rodeo and horse racing Nafzger has received a number of awards and honors. In the world of horse racing he won the 1990 Eclipse Award as the country’s leading trainer. In the world of rodeo he was named to the Professional Bull Riders’ Ring of Honor, for his accomplishments in and out of the rodeo arena. Nafzger announced in late November of 2005 that he was turning over the day-to-day operation of his stable to assistant Ian Wilkes while he concentrates on the business aspects.