Tributes have been paid to dual King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Swain, who died in Kentucky at the age of 30 on Thursday.
Trained by Andre Fabre before joining Saeed bin Suroor, the son of Nashwan also won the Coronation Cup in 1996 and the Irish Champion Stakes two years later.
As a five-year-old he finished a short-head runner-up to Silver Charm in the 1998 Dubai World Cup and ended his 20-race career with a dramatic length defeat to Awesome Again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
His second Group One success is one that Northern Ireland’s John Reid will remember with fondness – even though he “felt like crying” when he was handed the ride.
For Swain was his second King George winner, coming almost two decades after his first aboard Ile De Bourbon in 1978 – and it was the only time he partnered him.
Of the colt, who died from the infirmities of old age at Old Friends Farm, a thoroughbred retirement home in Kentucky, Reid said: “He was a lovely horse. I won the King George on him in 1997, nearly 20 years after I won my first.
“I just had the one ride on him, which was amazing, really. There were a couple of rides going spare and I was asked to ride Singspiel for Sir Michael Stoute. I was riding a lot for Godolphin at the time, anyway.
“But I had not really had Swain on my reckoning. On the same day, I got offered both.
“My immediate reaction was I wanted to ride Singspiel because I thought he would be the one. I didn’t really want to upset Sheikh Mohammed, because he had given me a lot of good rides and good winners. They were both his horses, and I thought, ‘I’m not going to put myself in his bad books, and hopefully he will put me on the right one’.
“So, I said to my agent, ‘Let’s not make this into a fight, you ask Sheikh Mohammed which one he wants me to ride’. He came back and said ‘Swain’. I felt like crying!
“I thought I’d got the wrong one, but it turned out he was the right horse.”
Swain had already showed his class when he arrived with Bin Suroor as a five-year-old in May 1997, having won the Coronation Cup for Fabre and jockey Frankie Dettori the previous season, when defeating Singspiel by a neck.
The line-up for the 1997 King George was a deep one. Included among the field of eight that went to post on a rain-sodden Ascot afternoon were Arc winner Helissio, multiple Group One winner Singspiel, Eclipse and Breeders’ Cup winner Pilsudki and St Leger hero Shantou.
Yet it was unconsidered 16-1 shot Swain who took the spoils by a length from Pilsudski.
Reid said: “It was a dead-simple ride. Saeed just said to jump him out and ride him handy and do what you want after that. I just jumped him out and got a decent possie.
“It rained like hell that day and all of a sudden my ears were pricking up. I thought, ‘Hang about, this could just make the difference here’, as I felt this horse wanted a mile and six (furlongs).
“So, I went out with a bit of spring in my step and of course it did make a difference.
“It was a lucky ride to get – and he went on to win it twice.”
While Dettori partnered him in all but one of his final eight races – including landing back-to-back renewals of the mile-and-a-half Ascot showpiece – Swain will always hold a place in Derby-winning jockey Reid’s heart.
He added: “Swain is pretty high up on my rankings. I only had one ride on him. They say your first big race is great and the King George was my first big one, but winning it again was even more special.
“You enjoy it far more, because I was 23 when I first won it and was a bit more mature the second time around.
“You realise how hard it is to get one that is good enough to win a King George and I got lucky that he was good enough – and I didn’t actually believe that when I got the ride.
“Then he did prove himself to be a really good horse.
“He was unlucky not to win a Breeders’ Cup and he got better and stronger as he got older.
“He was a lovely horse to ride. He was very straightforward. I just let him bowl along, follow the pace and then kicked on. It is very sad that he is gone – he was a lovely horse.”