The records will show that Swain, partnered by John Reid, passed the post a length in front of the Eclipse and Breeders' Cup winner Pilsudski, who had a length and a quarter in hand of last year's Arc victor Helissio. Singspiel, winner of the Canadian International, Japan, Dubai and Coronation Cups, was two and a half lengths fourth. It can be disappointing when a showdown does not go entirely with the script, but there was no fluke about Swain's victory under the conditions and if he was not the champion most were prepared to acknowledge, he is now the one whose colours must be lowered.
Two hours of heavy rain had softened the ground and meant that a premium would be put on stamina, and as the field turned into the straight Reid's decision to commit early was a brave one. But Swain was travelling sweetly, and had no knowledge that he carried the second colours of the Godolphin team and started at what in retrospect was an insulting 16-1 for a horse who has been placed in two Arcs. All he knew was that his job, once his jockey launched him past a fading Helissio was to go for home as long as he was asked and his legs could carry him over the stamina-sapping ground.
Pilsudski attacked courageously, and Helissio's class took him back past Singspiel in the final gruelling half-furlong after an odd stop-start ride from Cash Asmussen, but Swain put his handsome white-starred head down and found reserves enough.
Reid, who sat on Swain for the first time in the parade ring, was winning his second King George, having scored on Ile De Bourbon 19 years previously. The 41-year-old Ulsterman was full of praise for the handsome dark bay horse, saying: "There had been a good pace early, but I was still rolling as I followed Helissio into the straight, and when he cracked I had to go. But it was a long, long way to the winning post. I knew the others were too good to be far behind me, but Swain is a real fighter. He is a year older than most of the others, and battle-hardened, and his toughness came into play."
Helissio, who started 11-10 favourite, had come to Ascot with the reputation as France's best for many a decade, but any pre-race tactics to use Swain as a harrying domestique for the Sheikh Mohammed squad - Predappio in the Godolphin blue, and Singspiel and fifth-placed Shantou in the maroon and white were the others - were abandoned after the son of Nashwan sparkled in his final gallop.
"We had thought of sacrificing one of ours for the others, and he would have been the one," said the Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford. "But when Sheikh Mohammed saw him work the other day he scotched that idea. It was an outstanding gallop and really buzzed up Sheikh Mohammed."
Swain had looked outstanding in the preliminaries, composed and collected, but Helissio - who has now been beaten twice away from his home country - seemed restive, and, according to Asmussen, failed to settle. A headstrong type, the colt took four lengths out of the field from the stalls but seemed to lose heart as the Texan sat against him and let Kingfisher Mill go past. He led again into the straight and though he could not quicken, and met some slight traffic problems in the straight, he was staying on again at the end. His trainer Elie Lellouche was philosophical. "The horse couldn't relax at all. He didn't like it. English races are too different from France. The pace is much more regular here and therefore they are harder races. It was hard for the horse, the way he was ridden, but I look forward to taking on the winner again."
The re-match will be in Paris in October, in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and, significantly, the bookmakers were unanimous in making the French colt, the winner last year, favourite for the double on his home turf. Pilsudski will be rested and then primed for the Longchamp contest. The Japan Cup could be an end-of-season target.
"It was a race for men," said his trainer Michael Stoute. "They were both very brave and they have run their hearts out. Pilsudski will now have a break and be prepared for the Arc. As for Singspiel, we'll have to discuss his programme now. Hopefully he'll finish up in the Breeders' Cup."
Plans to run Swain, who was trained in France until joining the Sheikh's Dubai-based team last autumn, in North America have now been abandoned. Crisford said: "We were going to use this race as a springboard to the States, but now he has won against the best horses in the world - and I thought John gave him a superlative ride, though the final two furlongs seemed to last forever - he will have an Arc campaign. He loves soft ground and is very genuine. He had been under-rated by all of us, but he has now proved he is one of the greats."
How they finished
1. SWAIN J Reid 16-1
2. Pilsudski M J Kinane 6-1
3. Helissio C Asmussen 11-10 fav.
Also ran: 4-1 Singspiel (4th), 8-1 Kingfisher Mill, 12-1 Predappio, 16- 1 Shantou (5th), 66-1 Strategic Choice (6th).
8 ran. 1, 11/4, 21/2, 4, 5. (Winner trained by Saeed bin Suroor at Newmarket). Tote: pounds 12.00; pounds 3.90, pounds 2.70, pounds 1.00. DF: pounds 46.10. CSF: pounds 97.45.Reuse content