A half-brother to Melbourne Cup winner, Media Puzzle, Refuse To Bend made his debut in August 2002 in Gowran, Ireland at Gowran Park, winning a Maiden race by four lengths. He then moved up to compete against top-level colts in the National Stakes at the Curragh Racecourse. A win in that race and another in the following spring's 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown Racecourse made him a legitmate contender for the 2003 British Classic Races.
Ridden by regular jockey Pat Smullen, Refuse To Bend won the first Classic of the 2003 season, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket Racecourse. Still undefeated, he went into the Epsom Derby as the betting favourite but finished a shocking thirteenth behind winner Kris Kin. Refuse To Bend went on to win the Group III Desmond Stakes but was unplaced in two other races. Sold to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the colt finished the 2003 racing season with three wins in six starts.
At age four, under trainer Saeed bin Suroor and jockey Frankie Dettori, Refuse To Bend came back to earn impressive wins against strong fields in two Group I races. He defeated the redoubtable Warrsan in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park and in the Queen Anne Stakes he beat both the top mare Soviet Song and the 2003 Breeders' Cup Mile champion, Six Perfections