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Willie Carson: King of the Derby

Willie Carson

© SCRAN

Five-time champion jockey Willie Carson won 17 British Classics and 11 Irish Classics in a glittering 34-year riding career.

William Fisher Hunter Carson, born in Stirling on 16 November 1942, was apprenticed to Captain Gerald Armstrong at the Tupgill stables in North Yorkshire in 1957 and rode his first of 3,828 winners in Britain on Pinker's Pond in a seven-furlong apprentice handicap at Catterick on 19 July 1962.

Carson rode his first Classic winner on High Top in the 1972 2000 Guineas, the year he was crowned champion jockey for the first time and was also champion in 1973, 1978, 1980 and 1983.

He enjoyed his finest hour in winning the Oaks at Epsom on The Queen's filly Dunfermline in the Silver Jubilee year, 1977 and Carson, in Her Majesty's famous silks of purple, gold braid, scarlet sleeves and black velvet cap with gold fringe, also won the 1977 St Leger on Dunfermline at Doncaster at odds of 10/1, beating the 4/7 fav Alleged in a great finish.

"Winning the Oaks in Her Majesty's Silver Jubilee year was very special. There was great pressure and winning the St Leger for her made 1977 a fabulous year," said Carson.

Carson won the Derby for the first time on the brilliant colt Troy in the 200th running of the famous Epsom showpiece in 1979 and also won the turf's Blue Riband on Henbit (1980), Nashwan (1989) and Erhaab (1994) and rates Nashwan as the best horse he rode in his illustrious career.

Carson rode Erhaab with tremendous confidence and the Sheikh Hamdan-owned colt swept past the front-running King's Theatre with devastating acceleration for a brilliant victory.

He enjoyed his best season in 1990, riding 187 winners and retired from riding in 1996 at the age of 54. Carson was awarded an OBE in 1983 for services to racing.

"Racing has been very good to me and I enjoyed a great association with Major Dick Hern, who was a fantastic trainer. I was able to ride at 7st 10lb and never had weight problems," said the diminutive Scotsman.

"When I retired I started working for the BBC and I really enjoy being involved. I hope I can bring an insight to racing to benefit viewers and particularly at the great meetings such as Royal Ascot," added Carson, who was formerly a team captain on the BBC's A Question Of Sport.

Carson is a very successful breeder and owns the 60-acre Minster Stud at Cirencester in Gloucestershire and was the first jockey to breed a British Classic winner, Minster Son, who he also rode, to win the 1988 St Leger in Lady Beaverbrook's silks.

Willie Carson

© SCRAN

Carson is fourth in the all-time list of champion flat jockeys in Britain behind Sir Gordon Richards, Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery.

"I never expected to be a champion jockey when I started my apprenticeship in 1957 and it was very tough in the early years. Lester (Piggott) was a great man to ride against and it was always satisfying to beat him," said Carson.

Willie Carson richly deserves the accolade of one of the turf's all-time greats and his place in Scottish Sport's Hall of Fame is assured.

Written by: Bill Harvey



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