Swinburn's sweet revenge

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There was the valour of Michael Dickinson and Pilsudski, but as the crowds left Woodbine race-track to the Canada geese and other fowl of the lake-sculpted infield on Saturday evening the overriding flavour of Breeders' Cup XIII was melancholic.

As ever, there were the equine casualties. Mark Of Esteem, in the Mile, spiralled down the plughole the British seem to create every year for a horse that allegedly cannot be beaten. Cigar also was exposed as a horse and not the demi God he had been built into over the last two years.

There was poignancy too, however, about the winners. Dickinson's success with Da Hoss in the Mile thrust forward a trainer who left Britain almost 10 years ago with a once glorious repuation in pieces, while the majesty of a win in the $2m Turf will provide not even a scintilla of compensation for 1996 among some of Pilsudski's connections.

Lord Weinstock, who owns the bay colt, cannot remember this year with any great affection. It was the one that took away his son, Pilsudski's former co-owner, Simon, with cancer. From the moment his son's illness was diagnosed, Weinstock, the chairman of GEC, withdrew from the racecourse. He has not been racing this year and is yet to announce plans to return.

Walter Swinburn, Pilsudski's rider, could have easily left us too. In February, at Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong, Liffey River crashed him through the running rail and left the jockey with multiple skull fractures and in a coma.

Swinburn rode Pilsudski within a week of his return in August and won the Group Three Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh. His course skills, which followed discussions with Steve Cauthen, were exemplary on Saturday, as Pilsudski swept past another Michael Stoute runner, Singspiel, yet Swinburn insists he is still a husk of the rider he once was. "Full fitness won't come until next March and everything is geared to that," he said. "This is a bonus because I'm still not 100 per cent.

"My wind is fine but the muscle isn't there. I was seven stones when I came out of hospital so there was muscle loss and I need to get that back. This horse has got such a constitution and he's so easy to ride. I was just a passenger really."

Swinburn crumpled in the saddle just before the line, much as he did when Lammtarra won the Derby, and his mind immediately went to those who had helped him through the storms of his recuperation. "My thoughts were with my family because there have been many dark days through it all," he said.

Swinburn was later to think of another figure, Jerry Bailey, who criticised our man's style at the Breeders' Cup of 1993 at Santa Anita. As Bailey swerved to the front on Arcangues that day, he observed that Swinburn "was kinda flopping around", and the Choirboy has been waiting with his riposte ever since. Saturday, when Bailey came destructively wide on Cigar in the final race, seemed the right time. "I watched him in the Classic and, my God, what was that? That's my answer," Swinburn said. "I would like to have seen Frankie Dettori on Cigar then he might have won two [lengths] going away."

Michael Stoute may by now have demonstrated he is not the least talented man to swing binoculars over his shoulder in Europe, but in Breeders' Cup terms he was just an also-ran until Saturday. Pilsudski's trainer had brought 14 horses to the series before Toronto, and they were not just ballast in the aircraft. Sonic Lady and Zilzal, in particular, were meant to win. All had lost. This record had grown to disturb the Newmarket man. "It had been getting to me," he said. "It was a great day, especially as we had had to wait so long for it.

"It's hard to evaluate what a single victory means, but this certainly ranks with anything the stable has achieved up until now. The mere fact that we have had so many frustrations at the Breeders' Cup makes it that more special."

Michael Dickinson had 26 October, 1996, in a similar place in his affections following Da Hoss's victory. "This is my best achievement, the happiest day of my life," he said.

Few people have had such a remarkable zenith and nadir to their careers as the Yorkshireman. By the mid-1980s he had turned National Hunt racing into his private showcase. He saddled the first five home in the 1983 Gold Cup, and the previous year sent out 12 winners from 21 runners in a single day, a world record that stands to this day. But then came a move to the Flat and the giant that is Robert Sangster's Manton complex, and the wizardry seem to drain away.

Dickinson, 46, retains the almost eccentric attention to detail that characterised his work at Harewood, and, for example, thinks nothing of getting up at 2.30 each summer morning to turn his horses out for two hours.

He, more than most, understands the fluctuations of this game and it was this that gave him comfort going into the Mile. "I knew Mark Of Esteem was a very good horse when I saw his Ascot win and the only thing that gave me a glimmer of hope was when I read in the Thoroughbred Times that he was one of the best milers of the century," he said. "Racing has a habit of bringing you down and I knew we had a chance then. You can never get too big in this game because the difference between success and failure can be wafer thin."

Dickinson is now building a new yard at Fair Hill in Maryland and is unlikely to return to work in his homeland. "I love England and I love the racing, but my future is here," he said. "They drive on the other side of the road, but apart from that it's pretty much the same place. You've got to work bloody hard, you get three meals a day and you get paid on a Friday."

They don't usually surrender Breeders' Cup events to the limeys either, which put Pilsudski's success, only the fourth for Britain, into perspective. That rarity was almost as hard to take in as the image of the conservative Dickinson's celebrations on Saturday evening. "I danced all night," he said "and ended up Brahms and Liszt."



6.55: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

1. STORM SONG (C Perret); 2. Love That Jazz; 3. Critical Factor. 12 ran. 41/2, 31/4. (Trained by N Zito, US). CSF: pounds 70.30. Tricast: pounds 1,899.20. Win 5.20; place 3.40, show 3.00. 2nd place 12.20, show 8.10. 3rd show 19.20.

7.25: Sprint

1. LIT DE JUSTICE (C Nakatani); 2. Paying Dues; 3. Honour And Glory. 13 ran. 11/4 , nk. (Jenine Sahadi, US). Win 10.00; place 5.90, show 4.30. 2nd place 23.90, show 8.90. 3rd show 3.80. CSF: pounds 325.40. Tricast: pounds 1,821.10. Unplaced British horse: Iktamal (6th).

8.00: Distaff

1. JEWEL PRINCESS (C Nakatani); 2. Serena's Song; 3. Different. 6 ran. 11/2, 13/4. (W Dollase, US). Win 6.80; place 3.50, show 2.70. 2nd place 3.40, show 2.30. 3rd show 2.10. CSF: pounds 19.00. NR: Mysteriously.

8.35: Mile

1. DA HOSS (G Stevens); 2. Spinning World; 3. Same Old Wish. 14 ran. 11/2, 21/2. (M Dickinson, US). Win 18.90; place 7.80, show 5.80. 2nd place 8.50, show 6.80. 3rd show 10.30. CSF: pounds 123.30. Tricast: pounds 3,769.70. Unplaced British horses: Charnwood Forest (9th), Mark Of Esteem (7th).

9.10: Juvenile

1. BOSTON HARBOUR (J D Bailey); 2. Acceptable; 3. Ordway. 10 ran. nk, 21/2. (D W Lukas, US). Win 6.80; place 4.10, show 3.00. 2nd place 10.00, show 5.40. 3rd show 2.60. CSF: pounds 90.60. Tricast: pounds 242.20. NR: Michelle'sallhands.

9.50: Turf

1. PILSUDSKI (W R Swinburn); 2. Singspiel; 3. Swain. 14 ran. 11/4, 11/4. (M Stoute, GB). Win 29.40; place 9.80, show 7.50. 2nd place 3.00, show 2.70. Second coupled with Swain, Shantou, Wall Street. CSF: pounds 61.10. Tricast: pounds 1,544.60. Unplaced British horses: Shantou (4th), Dushyantor (7th), Wall Street (8th).

10.35: Classic

1. ALPHABET SOUP (C McCarron); 2. Louis Quatorze; 3. Cigar. 13 ran. nose, hd. (D Hofmans, US). Win 41.70; place 15.30, show 6.80. 2nd place 13.00, show 6.00. 3rd show 2.40. CSF: pounds 624.20. Tricast: pounds 1,288.20. NR: Yanks Music. Unplaced British horse: Tamayaz (6th).

Tote Placepot: pounds 68.70.