Dubai World Cup: When Swain fell to the Silver Charm

The race in 1998 witnessed an epic showdown between the two


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Silver Charm (right) and Swain during the 1998 Dubai World Cup meeting at Nad Al Sheba. — AFP file
Silver Charm (right) and Swain during the 1998 Dubai World Cup meeting at Nad Al Sheba. — AFP file

Published: Fri 17 Mar 2023, 11:32 PM

Three years after the launch of the Dubai World Cup in 1996, Godolphin handler Saeed bin Suroor was hoping to gift Dubai their first success in a race that had captured the world’s attention.

After four of his horses were beaten in the inaugural race won by the American superstar Cigar, Bin Suroor was banking on Kammtarra to deliver the goods the following year. However, he could only finish fifth behind Singspiel.

In the build to the third running in 1998, a lot of experts favoured Swain, a horse that was said to have the right credentials, to win.

He had been finely tuned by Bin Suroor, and with Irish great Mick Kinane in the saddle, confidence levels were high at the neighbouring Godolphin stables.

Meanwhile, celebrated American handler Bob Baffert was plotting his path to success with a horse called Silver Charm, who was looking to reprise the success of Cigar two years earlier.

Silver Charm boasted a huge reputation having won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, two races in the prestigious American Triple Crown series, but Bin Suroor believed that Swain had the home advantage.

If anybody thought that it would be hard to top the electrifying battle that Cigar and Soul of the Matter produced in 1996, they were wrong because what was to unfold at Nad Al Sheba racecourse was equally epic.

Gary Stevens and Mike Kinane were two of the best riders in the business and they demonstrated just why they were held in high regard when they delivered a dual masterclass.

Records will show that Stevens and Silver Charm won by the narrowest of margins but what they will not reveal is the disappointment that Bin Suroor was experiencing for the third successive year in his native UAE.

But little did he realise that his time would come, soon.

Silver Charm and Swain totally dominated the race while French raider Lou Sauvage, despite producing a career-best effort for champion rider Olivier Peslier, was a largely forgotten third.

In just three years, the Dubai World Cup had established itself as one of the great races on the global calendar to rival the Melbourne Cup, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and Eclipse Stakes.

And there were more epic battles to come in the following years.


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