"This win shows that he is a world class horse and people didn't give him the respect he deserved," trainer Bob Baffert said Saturday after the 4-year-old Captain Steve raced to a three-length victory in the $6 million Dubai World Cup.
Captain Steve, named after a Louisville, Ky., policeman, came from behind to beat To The Victory of Japan.
The favorite, ridden by Jerry Bailey, was caught in the pack until midway, then made his big move with about a quarter-mile remaining in the 1 1/4-mile race at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse.
"He seemed to struggle midway, but when I asked, he came through," Bailey said.
It was the third World Cup win for Bailey, ending the two-race winning streak of Dubai-based horses.
The victory was worth $3.6 million to owner Mike Pegram, who also owned 1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet.
To The Victory, the daughter of Sunday Silence, the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, burst to the early lead. She held on until Captain Steve charged to the front and drew clear of the bay mare.
"She did give me a run for the money," Bailey said of To The Victory.
Bailey won the inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996 with Cigar and repeated in 1997 with Singspiel.
"It's a dream come true," Pegram said. "I got weak in the knees when I saw Jerry turning for home."
Captain Steve is named after police officer Capt. Steve Thompson.
In 1997, Pegram was detained at the Louisville airport for unknowingly carrying a weapon in a parcel that was given to him as a gift. Claiming that he was framed, Thompson helped him out.
"I thank Mike for bringing me here (Dubai) and making me part of this team," Thompson said.
It was a welcome return for Baffert, who in 1999 lost the race he won with Silver Charm a year earlier to Almutawakel from Dubai's Godolphin team.
"You just feel so fortunate that everything went smoothly," Baffert said.
Dubai Crown Prince, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the driving force behind the Dubai World Cup, was the first to congratulate Baffert.
"Last time you beat me up but I came back again because I'm a good sportsman like you," Baffert said.
Dubai Millennium won last year's race.
"When I saw To The Victory leading, my hair was turning black and I thought `what is Jerry thinking,'" the silver-haired Baffert said.
Captain Steve won the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream last month.
His winning time was 2:00.47, just off the track record of 1:59.50 set last year by Dubai Millennium.
Best of the Bests, the local favorite and second choice overall, was a bust, finishing eighth.
Hightori of France finished third, followed by State Shinto of the United Arab Emirates, Sei Mi of Saudi Arabia, Aptitude of the United States and Eraar of the UAE. Regular Member of Japan was ninth, then came Broche of the UAE, Aristotle of Singapore and Early Warning of Saudi Arabia.
The race drew a glitzy gathering of fans from Europe and the Gulf.
On a cool afternoon, they mingled in exclusive boxes and private areas at the track. Others from Sudan, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates rubbed shoulders at the rail with English, Irish and French spectators.
There is no gambling in the Gulf state, but those in attendance could fill out a pick-seven card for a chance at a $2,700 prize. There also were raffles for a royal blue Bentley Arnage and a Jaguar.
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