HORSE RACING: Willie Carson seeks redemption at Breeders' Cup
TWO racing giants who leave a few miles apart outside Cirencester are taking on the world’s best at the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita, California tomorrow night (Friday).
Twelve months ago, former Royal jockey Willie Carson who lives at the Minster Stud, Barnsley and music mogul Chris Wright, based at Stratford Place Stud, Coln Rogers, joined forces to buy a yearling filly for 40,000 guineas at Tattersalls Sales in Newmarket.
It was subsequently called Chriselliam, a combination of their names, along with third partner Emily Asprey.
And after winning the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket recently, albeit as a 28-1 outsider, the pair hatched the plan to head for this million-dollar race in the States.
The 71-year-old Carson won five jockeys’ titles and the Epsom Derby four times in a glittering riding career, while becoming even more famous in retirement as a star of ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’.
But, as far as the Breeders’ Cup is concerned, Carson is seeking redemption.
Twenty-three years ago he endured one of the rare troughs in his career when denied what would have been his only win at the world’s greatest race meeting aboard Dayjur.
On October 27, 1990, Dayjur arrived for the Breeders’ Cup at Belmont Park as Europe’s best sprinter. Even the hard-nosed New York racefans made Carson’s mount the hot favourite.
But, inexplicably, 40 yards from the line, Dayjur jumped a shadow and was beaten in a photo by the filly Safely Kept.
“It was very disappointing at the time,” Carson told America’s racing bible, the Daily Racing Form this week. “It was devastating.
“The fastest horse – one of the fastest sprinters that’s ever been – got collared because of a shadow. He didn’t get beat by another horse. He got beat by a shadow.”
Dayjur was retired following the race and enjoyed a long and fruitful career at stud in Kentucky until put down only last month at the age of 26.
Wright, co-founder of Chrysalis Records, was the man who took British rock to the States in the late Sixties with his bands Tens Years After and Jethro Tull as well as being in the forefront of the New Wave through the likes of his signings Blondie, Ultravox and Spandau Ballet. He also at one time owned QPR and London Wasps.
But, as he revealed in his freshly-minted autobiography, ‘One Way Or Another’, he did turn down David Bowie, Dire Straits and The Spice Girls.
Wright has ploughed some of his music industry millions into his passion for racing and believes Chriselliam could be the best horse he has owned. Better even than Culture Vulture who won him the French 1,000 Guineas.
Chriselliam suddenly came good in the Fillies’ Mile after only showing modest ability previously.
“She finally did on the track what she did at home,” said Carson, of his 2014 1,000 Guineas contender.
“Richard Hughes gave her a lot to do and rode her very confidently. She was like Concorde in the last furlong.
“But will she be able to handle the turns, the American style of racing?”
She is set to face 13 rivals in California, where Lambourn trainer Charlie Hills insists she has settled in well.
"I'm very pleased with her and the way she came over on the trip,” said Hills.
"She seems to be in top form. She lost eight kilos, but has put that back on – plus another four."
Hughes is similarly upbeat. "She's probably as good a filly as I've ever ridden," he said. "On her Newmarket run, there was nothing flukey about it and she beat probably the highest-rated filly in Europe this year."
Chriselliam is due to race at 10.50pm on Friday.