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Nafzger Picks His Spots at Saratoga

Saratoga 2013 logo.
To say Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger picks his spots at Saratoga Race Course would be something of an understatement.

 

With limited appearances, Nafzger boasts an enviable record in graded stakes races at Saratoga, having won the Travers twice (in 2000 with Unshaded and in 2007 with Street Sense, both owned by Jim Tafel) and the Alabama twice (in 1998 with Banshee Breeze and in 2007 with Lady Joanne), as well as picking up victories in the 1999 Go for Wand with Banshee Breeze and the 2007 Jim Dandy with Street Sense.

 

Saturday, the semi-retired Nafzger will saddle his first graded stakes starter at the Spa since Street Sense's thrilling victory over Grasshopper in the 2007 Mid-Summer Derby when he sends out Tafel's Looking Cool in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy.

 

"I quit while I was ahead," joked Nafzger, whose Unshaded finished third in the 2000 Jim Dandy. "I came back for punishment."

 

Looking Cool, a dark bay son of Candy Ride, has taken a while to get going in the right direction, said Nafzger. Winless in his first four starts, he broke his maiden on January 5 at Gulfstream Park, then finished a non-threatening sixth behind eventual Kentucky Derby winner Orb in an optional claimer. Following an allowance win and a second-place finish in an overnight stakes in April at Oaklawn, Nafzger's high hopes were dashed when Looking Cool finished eighth in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs.

 

"He was making too many mistakes," said Nafzger. "When we ran against Orb, he got all frustrated. Good horses overcome adversity. A good horse is patient and waits on his rider. They're setting there waiting on the rider to give him the cues. They try to do too much, like a Golden Glove boxer jumping into the ring with a good boxer and trying to beat him in the first round instead of just playing them out and then whipping them."

 

As the Matt Winn took little out of the colt, Nafzger next decided to ship Looking Cool to Prairie Meadows for the Grade 3 Iowa Derby, where he finally put everything together and scored a half-length victory at 17-1.

 

"In his last race he did everything right; he settled and made a good run," said Nafzger. "So, we thought we'd give the horse a chance to be a good horse. It fit right into our schedule, and [trainer] Ian [Wilkes] could bring him here with him. He worked good on Tuesday, so let's see if he can step up."

 


 

 

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