This time one year ago Carl Nafzger was the hottest name in the sport. His tremendous 3-year-old Street Sense was just starting his campaign to the 2007 Kentucky Derby, beginning with his victory in the Tampa Bay Derby. Earlier this week I caught up a considerably less busy Nafzger to ask him to recall, among other things, his spectacular ride.
JS: I guess things are a lot less hectic for you compared to this time last year?
CN: A lot less hectic. I don't know why people stopped calling me. I can't figure out what I did to them. I'm certainly not as popular this year.
JS: Just a guess, but it may have something to do with Street Sense. Speaking of Street Sense, the ride he took you on last year was magical. What was your favorite part of the whole experience?
CN: It's hard to say. I enjoyed all of it. He was such a great horse and I enjoyed watching him take all the steps from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to the Kentucky Derby. Every time there were questions about, would he move forward or would he get enough out of each race, he answered it. Just watching him through the whole ride was fun. There was some anxiety, but I never had any doubts. If it was meant to be, it was going to happen.
JS: Was there any part of the whole experience, perhaps the intense media focus, that you did not enjoy?
CN: No. It's all part of it. The hardest part of success is dealing with the responsibility of success. You have to be responsible in life. It comes with the territory.
JS: You really did seem to enjoy the ride. Some trainers are not as approachable as you were during the road to the Derby.
CN: Well, it was my second time going through it. I knew what to expect (from Unbridled in 1990). I learned that you have to enjoy the moment. You can't get too worked up about winning. You're at the Derby, it's a once in a lifetime experience, so just relax. I knew I wouldn't be there without the horse, so just enjoy the moment.
JS: You don't have any horses on the Derby trail this year. From an outsiders perspective, who do you like?
CN: Well, you have to like War Pass and Pyro. Pyro looks like a terrific horse and will have the seasoning going into the Derby. But if I had to pick one right now it would be War Pass. Nick (Zito) has done a great job with him. As a trainer, you love consistency. Consistency is more important than winning and War Pass has always showed up. I like the path that Nick is taking with him too. He will have a very fresh horse on Derby day.
JS: How many horses do you have in training now?
CN: I only have about eight or nine. It's nice that Lady Joanne (Alabama winner and most recently, 4th in BC Distaff) is on her way back. She just started training again and will probably run sometime this summer.
JS: Any late-blooming 3-year-olds?
CN: I have one nice colt by Gone West, but he is a big horse that will take more time to develop. I'm at Ocala right now trying to find the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner (laughs).
JS: Being a finalist for the Hall of Fame must have been a nice way to start the year?
CN: Oh, it was. It was a great honor. It will be terrific if I get elected at Saratoga this summer.