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