190325 2001 captain  steve
Captain Steve, saddled by US trainer Bob Baffert kept his date with the 2001 Dubai World Cup. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Dubai: The 2001 Dubai World Cup saw American showman Bob Baffert return to Dubai with a horse that had already taken America by storm, not just because of his prowess on the track, but also because of the story behind his name.

I had read in the American media that the chestnut colt earned his name after an incident at the airport where a policeman named Captain Steve Thompson helped owner Mike Pegram get out of a sticky situation when a firearm was found in his baggage.

And guess what, the celebrated Thompson travelled to Dubai, along with the Baffert entourage to attend the race at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse.

A member of the Louisville Police Department in Kentucky, Thompson did not waste time making friends with the local media.

My colleague, K.R. Nayar, an authority on cricket, was soon to become an authority on the Louisville Police Department, thanks to his chats with the friendly Mr Thompson.


Baffert was happy to step out of the spotlight and let Captain Steve (the man) hog the limelight as local media swarmed all over the burly American.

It was a nice sideshow and I was happy to see my colleague grill Thompson, much like a bowler would grill a batsman who refused to surrender his wicket.

I would concentrate on ‘Mr Cool’ Bob Baffert, who sported the same hairstyle and Ray Ban sunglasses that he did when he brought Silver Charm over to Dubai in 1998.

By now, Bob knew us media guys a lot better and was more accessible, humorous and informative. He’s your original Daddy Cool – the way he answers answers while posturing in his cowboy boots, khaki jeans, checked shirt and sleeveless ‘Old Smile West Coast’ jacket, is nine below zero.

You get the feeling that he sleeps in a refrigerator at nights. He’s so cool, so laidback it’s hard to not envy and admire him.

And it goes without saying that Captain Steve won the 2001 Dubai World Cup and as a bonus, Baffert received a warm hug from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in the winner’s enclosure.