Gold backs Carson

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Suggestions that Willie Carson will vacate his position as first jockey to Hamdan Al Maktoum on his return from injury were yesterday dismissed as "pure speculation" by Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager, Angus Gold.

Carson remains in the intensive care unit at North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke after being kicked 15 feet across the paddock at Newbury on Friday. According to surgeons it will be three months before the 53- year-old is fit enough to ride again and he may require surgery on his lacerated liver.

In the interim, Richard Hills, second jockey to Sheikh Hamdan, who last year landed the 1,000 Guineas on Harayir, will deputise in the first colours.

However, Gold refuted suggestions that Carson's time as the Sheikh's retained rider is at an end. "Nobody can say what is going to happen - let's just wait and see if Willie will continue riding, then it is up to Sheikh Hamdan,'' Gold said. ``Nothing has been discussed yet. If Willie is back on his feet and riding, and Sheikh Hamdan wants Willie Carson to ride for him, then that is fine."

Carson will remain in intensive care for the next 24 hours at least, a spokeswoman for the North Hampshire Hospital reported yesterday morning.