It has been 20 years since Godolphin Colt Swain became the first - and to date, the only - colt to win two King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).
To honour this remarkable achievement, Swain became the latest recipient of the QIPCO Diamonds & Pearls award on Tuesday 24th July. To mark QIPCO’s sponsorship of this historic race, the winner of a vintage renewal is commemorated every year.
A relative outsider for the first of his wins in 1997, Swain was sent off a 16/1 shot under his first- time jockey John Reid. Speaking in a video commissioned for the QIPCO Diamonds & Pearls Award, Reid said:
“It was exactly 20 years since I won my first King George when Swain came along, so I had a long wait for my second win. It was a very special race. At the time, I had a call from Michael Stoute to ride Singspiel which I thought was great, but it was a tentative offer.
“Then I had a phone call asking to ride Swain. I didn’t know which one Frankie [Dettori] was going to ride so I threw it back to Sheikh Mohammed and said I’d take whichever one he wanted me to ride. At the time I was slightly disappointed because I didn’t think I was on the better one!”
A deluge of rain before the race had officials worrying that the meeting would have to be abandoned, but whilst others around him panicked, Reid was pleased to see the heavens open.
“When it rained I was happy. I saw in his form that he’d won a Group 2 over 1m5f so I was delighted because I knew we’d stay and would go around the outside so it would be like a 1m6f race. The plan was to keep myself clear and have an option and then go when I felt ready, because I was confident the horse would stay," he added.
“When you look back at what he did, he won 10 of his 22 races over his career and all of those were at the very top level. He was an amazing horse.”
Finishing back in fourth that day was Frankie Dettori, who had been assigned the more fancied Singspiel as his mount for the afternoon. When the race came around 12 months later, there was no way Dettori was going to miss out for a second time.
He tells the same video: “Growing up as a child, the only three overseas races we watched were the Derby, the King George and the Arc, so it meant a lot to me to win the race.
“It was a much smaller field than the year before and on paper it looked like a two-horse race between me and High Rise, the Derby winner.
“I was not aware at all of where High Rise was in the race. We turned for home and he had proved the year before that he stayed very well so I committed first. When I came back in everybody told me that I was clever and tried to box Olivier [Peslier, High Rise’s jockey] in, but I didn’t know that! I think he got himself in a pocket without me realising, but he was such a good horse that anybody who would’ve come to him would have seen him pull out even more.”
“There aren’t many horses who can win two King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes in a row. It was an amazing feat.”
Tickets for the King George weekend are on sale now.