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  Saturday, 2 June, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Carson: The key to success
Willie Carson brings Nashwan to the winner's enclosure in 1989
Carson is engulfed by fans after Nashwan's 1989 win
Willie Carson, who rode four Derby winners, gives BBC Sport Online's Frank Keogh a jockey's view of the Epsom Classic.

There is warmth and understanding in Willie Carson's voice as he recalls every step of the one-and-a-half mile Derby trip.

After Lester Piggott, he is the only man on the planet to have won the big Flat race more than three times.

But Carson also boasts the exuberant ability to colourfully articulate his inside knowledge of the Classic, which will be run on 9 June this year.

"Winning the Derby is the best feeling you get out of racing," admits the popular Scottish-born jockey, who is a former team captain on the BBC quiz show A Question of Sport.

  Carson's Epsom Derby wins
1994: Erhaab (Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum) John Dunlop 7-2 f. Bt Kings Theatre 1 l. 25 ran.
1989: Nashwan (Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum) Dick Hern 5-4 f. Bt Terimon 5l. 12 ran.
1980: Henbit (Mrs A. Plesch) Dick Hern 7-1. Bt Master Willie l. 24 ran.
1979: Troy (Sir Michael Sobell) Dick Hern 6-1. Bt Dickens Hill 7l. 23 ran.

His fourth and last Derby win came at the age of 51 in 1994 on Erhaab. Piggott won nine Derbys, and between them the pair dominated the race for decades.

Their outstanding record is perhaps one reason why Carson believes a relatively unknown jockey would be unlikely to claim this year's renewal.

"If you look at Derby-winning jockeys, they are nearly always the top jockeys," he believes.

"They get the best rides because of their consistency. You find it normally goes to the best jockeys and trainers.

"You don't normally get a wild winner of the Derby. You are talking about cool customers."

Carson was the last man to do the Guineas-Derby double, aboard Nashwan in 1989.

And he rode the Queen's last Classic winner, when bringing home Dunfermline in the Oaks at the height of Her Majesty's silver jubilee celebrations in 1977.

Willie Carson after winning the 1980 Derby on Henbit
Carson after winning the 1980 Derby on Henbit

When Carson gets going on a theme, just like he did in the saddle before his retirement in the late 1990s, he builds up an enchanting rhythm.

And if he says you must have a cool head to win the Derby, you don't doubt it.

"This is the Derby, the race everyone wants to win. You mustn't make a mistake. If you do make a mistake, it's in front of 60 million people around the world, you know," he says.

"It's not the day to drop your stick or drop your rein, but it does happen."

Come 9 June, more than one jockey will be hoping Carson's words are not haunting them.

  • Willie Carson will be providing expert analysis on the big races at Epsom on 8-9 June, live on BBC TV and Sport Online.

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