Ban mars Carson's Classic riposte

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The Independent Online
From the ridiculous to the sublime, and back again. Willie Carson, castigated for a dreadful display at Lingfield last week, answered his critics by giving Matiya a perfect ride to take the Irish 1,000 Guineas at The Curragh yesterday. The filly strode home three lengths clear of Dance Design to give her Newmarket-based trainer Ben Hanbury his first Irish Classic. Two other British raiders, My Branch and the favourite Distant Oasis, took third and fourth places.

But Carson's joy at bouncing back was short-lived. After the race the 53-year-old jockey was handed a five-day ban by the local stewards for wearing an unapproved crash helmet. He was reported by the medical officer Dr Walter Halley, who has spearheaded a recent crackdown on defective skull caps in Ireland, and the ban, from 3 to 7 June, rules him out of the Oaks, a possible target for Matiya.

Carson, angered by the bizarre turn of events, intends to appeal. He said: "I wore the helmet packed for me by my valet, and didn't consider for a moment there might be something wrong. It's nonsense, and of course I'll appeal."

Matiya, owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, had finished an excellent second to Bosra Sham in the Newmarket Guineas on her seasonal debut three weeks ago, and looked in tremendous trim yesterday. As her pacemaker Abir took the field along, Carson had her poised just behind the leaders on the rail, going the shortest way.

He slipped Matiya into the lead on the turn into the straight and kicked clear fully three furlongs out. The big daughter of Alzao lengthened her stride with a will and stayed on in determined fashion, and though Dance Design and My Branch tried hard to get on terms, their battle, which went half a length in the Dermot Weld-trained filly's favour, was only ever for second place.

A delighted Hanbury said: "She had thrived since Newmarket, fitter, harder and mentally happier. I doubt if she would have beaten Bosra Sham even if she had had a run before the Guineas, and I particularly did not want her to run in one of the trials. I have seen too many fillies ruined by having a hard race too early in the season. She is a fantastic filly, and everything went to plan."

Hanbury ruled out a rematch with Bosra Sham in the mile Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, as Matiya, a bargain yearling buy at 32,000gns, will now step up in distance. She has been introduced as 5-1 second favourite for the Oaks in 12 days' time, and Hanbury said: "I hope she goes to Epsom, but it will be up to Sheikh Hamdan. Willie said she was getting a bit tired at the end, but they had gone a decent pace and she had been in the lead a long time. She has a lot of class, and you would have to wonder whether any of the other fancied fillies would have the speed to win a Guineas."

Hanbury knows what it takes to win an Oaks, having scored 10 years ago with Midway Lady, who took the 1,000 before her Epsom triumph.

Matiya was Carson's second Irish 1,000 Guineas winner, after Mehthaaf in the same colours two years ago, but if the hints he has been dropping for the past week are anything to go by, it will be his last. The Scot has been threatening retirement since he picked up a seven-day ban for being caught napping on Kamari at Lingfield eight days ago, less than a week after taking another Classic, the French 1,000 Guineas, on Ta Rib, in what has been an up-and-down season.

But until the helmet incident he was in bubbly mood again, and was full of praise for Matiya.

"She had the race won two furlongs out, quickened well and then assured me she would get the trip, no problem," he said, "She was green in her homework before she ran at Newmarket, but that race taught her a lot; in fact, it made a woman of her."

Dance Design also has a choice of Oaks, but My Branch will drop back to seven furlongs, with the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot a possible target. The disappointment of the race was the Guineas third Bint Shadayid, representing the Godolphin team. She was in the front rank on the home turn, but faded badly to finish last. She was afterwards found to be "clinically abnormal" by the vet.

Racing results, page 29