Mike Pegram, who said multiple grade I winner Captain Steve "took us to a lot of places, from Altoona, Iowa, to Dubai," said he agreed to sell the 4-year-old son of Fly So Free to the Japan Racing Association for $5 million only after efforts to drum up interest among American breeders failed.
Captain Steve was officially retired on Friday, when the deal with the JRA was finalized. He entered quarantine at a Lexington farm and will leave for Japan at the end of the month. Captain Steve will be turned over to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association and stand at their Shizunai Stallion Station on the northern island of Hokkaido beginning in 2002. California agent Rollin Baugh brokered the deal between Pegram and the JRA.
A U.S. grade I winner every year he raced, Captain Steve scored his biggest win overseas in this year's Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). Following the Cup, he went winless in four starts, with his best effort coming in a runner-up effort in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. In his last start, he ran fourth in the Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I) in mid-August.
Trained by Bob Baffert for owner Mike Pegram, Captain Steve won the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) at two, the Swaps Stakes (gr. I) over subsequent Horse of the Year Tiznow at three, and the Donn Handicap (gr. I) in February of this year. Also during his 3-year-old campaign, Captain Steve won the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. He captured a total of eight stakes and placed in 10 others, including the 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). Captain Steve, who was produced from the Vice Regent mare Sparkling Delite, retires with nine wins from 25 starts. He earned $6,828,356 after being purchased for $70,000 at the 1998 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale.
Captain Steve was bred in Kentucky by Roger Laubach.
"We had considered keeping him in training another year," Pegram said. "I would have rather kept him in the U.S. for personal reasons, but he'll get the good mares over there and will have a better chance of being a world class stallion there than he would have here.
"I was really surprised at the lack of interest in him from the Americans," Pegram added. "Not that many horses have been grade I winners at two, three, and four. They all say the Dubai Cup was a weak field, but the horse he trampled (Aptitude)is going to be the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). It was done with mixed emotions."
Captain Steve was the third top-class horse Pegram has raced since Real Quiet came a nose shy of winning the Triple Crown in 1998. He subsequently raced the champion filly Silverbulletday and then Captain Steve.
"That was a pretty good triple," Pegram said. "We're going have to go out now and try to find another one."