Racing: Reid breaks up a three-cornered fight

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The Independent Online
Standing shoulder to shoulder on a stepped terrace at Ascot a variety of horse players, some educated, the majority just plain curious, all with mud-spattered shoes, paid little attention when a bay horse bearing the number seven was led into the parade ring.

The first runner in the great race to put in an appearance, Swain looked a picture. Excellent credentials too, sired by the Derby winner, Nashwan; last year's Coronation Cup winner and second by just a length to Helissio at Saint-Cloud; one of four runners owned by Sheikh Mohammed.

"Which one is that?" an over-dressed fortysomething asked of her companion.

"Forget it," he replied wearily. "It's only in there to cause trouble for the favourite."

This turned out to be loose thinking, but before the race few were inclined to dispute the theory. Memory recaptured many days when things didn't go to plan but it seemed unlikely that this would turn out to be another.

Most eyes were on the favourite, Helissio, whose chances were thought to be in no way impaired by a two-hour downpour that turned the going from good to soft in next to no time. Eight times a winner in 10 starts, the four-year-old colt appeared unmatched for consistency.

The record showed that Helissio could force the pace or come from behind, good enough reasons to suppose that Cash Asmussen was about to climb up on the winner.

Unrelenting in her pursuit of happiness, the woman tried again. "But Swain looks so handsome," she said.

"Will you please listen to what I'm telling you," came the exasperated reply. "No chance. None at all."

On the basis that stamina would prove crucial to the outcome and encouraged by Michael Kinane's presence in the saddle I went off to seek a price about Pilsudski, who had put in a gutsy performance when recently winning the Eclipse Stakes.

There were wide differences of opinion but when the runners cantered around to be installed against a background of trees most eyes were on Helissio.

What few in the large crowd knew was that Swain performed so well in a final gallop that the Godolphin team's idea of using him to harrass Helissio had been abandoned. Had Swain been able to read the odds, 16- 1 against his name, he would have felt insulted. Only Strategic Choice, at 66-1, was less fancied.

A widespread error of judgement was soon apparent. Sheikh Mohammed's instructions to John Reid were uncomplicated. Settle into a comfortable rhythm and see how the race develops.

When they hit the straight things began to work out in Swain's favour. Helissio battled back in the final half-furlong but a roar for the favourite was stifled by the urgent progression of Swain and Pilsudski.

As Mike Dillon, of Ladbrokes, said it was like watching two exhausted heavyweights coming up for the final round.

When Swain found enough to get home by a length from Pilsudski a domestic dispute could be imagined. "No chance indeed. That's as much as you know about it."

With respect to Swain and his jockey what a deflating summer of sport this is proving to be. Wimbledon went flat, the Benson & Hedges Cup final proved instantly forgettable, the Open golf championship fell short of expectations, England have failed to fulfill early promise in the Tests against Australia and the "Race of the Century" didn't live up to its billing.

Today's other cards, page 22