Racing / 215th Derby: Patient Carson rides a Classic storm: Erhaab's impressive finish gives veteran Scot his fourth victory as unseated jockey suffers broken ribs

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The Independent Online
WILLIE CARSON survived one of the most turbulent Derbys of recent years to become the race's third-oldest winning jockey ever on Erhaab at Epsom yesterday.

A race which contained many features of Britain's other great race, the Grand National - bumping, boring and even an unseated rider - represented the 51-year-old Scot's fourth victory in the event. Willie Ryan, the jockey grounded after Foyer stumbled, suffered broken ribs and an ankle injury.

When Carson returned he was using the language of the battlefield as he related his erratic course through the field. 'I had all the fancied horses drawn next to me and I wanted to be on their heels, but most of them weren't even quick enough to get a position,' he said. 'From the start it was very rough. At the seven (furlong post) it just started happening all over again and there were murders going on. I thought it was going to be carnage coming down there.'

As stormy passages go, this was the land version of the trip around Cape Horn, and such was the maelstrom around Erhaab that his trainer, John Dunlop, was moved to point his binoculars elsewhere. 'Twice I thought we were out of the race and I started looking for where my other horse (Khamaseen, Lester Piggott's mount) was,' the Arundel man said. 'I'd really written off Erhaab at that stage because he was so far behind.'

Carson himself could see no way out of the straitjacket and was forced down the most perilous corridor on the racecourse. 'I just had to go on the inside and, as you can tell from my voice, I was screaming all the way down at them to stay off the fence,' he said. 'I just had to pray I would get a run.'

An answer came, and Carson began to find holes like a dentist. By the entrance to the straight, he was at least clear of the barbed wire. The shapes in front, though, looked frustratingly distant. 'When I saw the green and yellow colours (of Mister Baileys) what seemed to be a furlong in front of me I just thought to myself 'bloody hell',' the jockey said.

The folk behind Mister Baileys had developed a system to preserve the colt's stamina: to tuck him in behind the leaders. Unfortunately, the horse himself had not been consulted. The 2,000 Guineas winner was in front from the start, his jockey, Jason Weaver, unwilling to tinker with his mount's freewheeling approach. Three furlongs out he was six lengths clear, but shortly afterwards the needle on the stamina gauge was flicking into the red.

This was the moment that two men thought the Derby was theirs. Michael Kinane, on King's Theatre, and John Reid, aboard Colonel Collins, both swept past Mister Baileys with the belief that the Classic was beckoning. Both were forced to reassess.

From a position on the rails, the oil-black figure of Erhaab was switched to the outside and appeared to find extra propulsion, shooting through like a dart from a blowpipe. 'He got that wonderful run up the inside but even then I thought we'd finish only fourth,' Dunlop said. 'But then he quickened again, which was so impressive. Only good horses do that.'

At the line, as Carson relaxed for the first time for almost 12 furlongs and just over two eventful minutes, Erhaab had one and a quarter lengths to spare over King's Theatre, with Colonel Collins another one and a half lengths back in third. An exhausted Mister Baileys was fourth.

At pounds 800,000 this was the richest ever Derby, but it still represented a modest return on investment for the winning owner, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. Sheikh Hamdan and his Dubaian brothers have bankrolled the sport like no other men before them in an effort to win races like yesterday's, and his joy was palpable. 'I'm very lucky,' he said. He also appeared a little embarrassed, as his second Derby success, following Nashwan five years ago, was gained at the expense of younger brother Sheikh Mohammed. His quest for a Derby continues after King's Theatre, Foyer and Linney Head, who was 10th, were added to the list of 11 previous losers.

Most of all, though, this was a day for Willie Carson, a day which put a nonsense to the idea that his time for the pastures is near. 'Packing up is just around the corner, but I don't know how far the corner is away,' he said.

Certainly, it is still over the horizon if his negotiation of yesterday's minefield is used as evidence. But then, given his partner, the Scot may have had some notion that his pulse would be doing a drumroll at Epsom yesterday. Erhaab, in Arabic, means frightening.

----------------------------------------------------------------- WHERE THEY FINISHED IN YESTERDAY'S CLASSIC ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 . . .Erhaab 7-2 fav 2 2 . . .King's Theatre 14-1 3 . . .Colonel Collins 10-1 4 . . .Mister Baileys 14-1 5 . . .Khamaseen 33-1 6 . . .Pencader 6-1 7 . . .Golden Ball 50-1 8 . . .Just Happy 50-1 9 . . .Star Selection 100-1 10 . . .Linney Head 8-1 11 . . .Ionio 50-1 12 . . .Chocolat de Meg 40-1 13 . . .Weigh Anchor 10-1 14 . . .Wishing 100-1 15 . . .Party Season 50-1 16 . . .Jabaroot 200-1 17 . . .Waiting 16-1 18 . . .Chickawicka 200-1 19 . . .Sunshack 12-1 20 . . .The Flying Phan 250-1 21 . . .Broadway Flyer 6-1 22 . . .Darkwood Bay 100-1 23 . . .Colonel Colt 500-1 24 . . .Plato's Republic 500-1 -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

Ken Jones, page 37