'Complete one-off ride' one to remember for John Reid and Swain

Sat 29 Jul 2017

While many race victories at the top level are built around a bond between jockey and horse that has developed over time, there is the odd occasion where this is not the case.

For any rider to get aboard a horse for the first time in their life and strike in a Group One on that initial coming-together, is a tale that few in the weighing room can happily tell.

One member of that exclusive club is Derby-winning rider John Reid, who 20 years ago partnered Swain to the first of his back-to-back victories in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Although the now-retired rider can look back with great fondness at the win, it was very nearly a case of 'what if' had it not been down to the decision made by owner Sheikh Mohammed.

"At the time I was riding for Sir Michael Stoute and Godolphin and I was offered both Singspiel and Swain to ride in the race," said Reid.

"I was in a bit of a quandary what to do as they were both owned by Sheikh Mohammed.

"In the end I said to my agent at the time, Peter Shoemark, this has put me in a bit of a situation as I ride for both trainers, but don't want to upset either.

"I decided to bat it back to Sheikh Mohammed and let him choose and make the choice and he put me on Swain.

"Initially I thought 'I'm on the wrong one', but the decision was made and I was happy I rode him.

"The only time I sat on him was the day of the race. I never rode him before or after, it was a complete one-off ride."

After being denied a winning start for trainer Saeed bin Suroor following his move from Andre Fabre when failing by a head in the Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket, the five-year-old was sent off a 16-1 chance to go one better in the mile-and-a-half feature.

Despite Swain's odds suggesting he was up against it in a field featuring Arc hero Helissio, Eclipse winner Pilsudski and Coronation Cup victor Singspiel, Reid was optimistic about his chances.

"On the day it rained quite a lot and a few of us walked the track as it was a little flooded past the post. I thought the rain was a plus as my horse stayed as he had won over one-mile-six, so that was a plus," said Reid.

"It looked like they were going to race around the outside and that put a little bit more stamina into the race. I was getting my hopes up more as the day went on."

After getting a dream run throughout the early stages, the pair battled past Helissio early in the home straight before repelling late challenges from Singspiel and Pilsudski to cross the line a length clear of the latter and give Reid a second King George after Ile De Bourbon in 1978.

"It was dead easy in the end. I knew he would get the trip and the plan was to be handy and see how we go," said Reid.

"As we went under the trees down the back of the course I was travelling pretty well and was happy enough.

"Heading into the straight I was going pretty good, I decided to go early enough as I knew he would stay and we got our heads over the line.

"I hoped his stamina would come into play. He proved the best horse on the day and the following year as well.

"He was a good ride as he tried his best and stuck his head out. I think he did flash his tail a couple of times, but that was probably because I hit him too much and he was trying to say 'I am doing my best what more do you want!'.

"The build-up said it was one of the greatest King Georges and it probably was a very strong race as it had a lot of top horses in it."

He added: "It was great to win it, especially as it was the race that put me in the big time back in 1978 when I won it on Ile De Bourbon, and he proved it was no fluke as he won it again and was third in the Breeders' Cup.

"It took a while to win that second King George and it is up there with my wins in the Derby and the Arc, and the Eclipse on Halling.

"There were people doing better than me at the time and there were people that have done better since, but I was charmed and lucky to have a great career."

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