Born in Stirling, Scotland in 1942, it took a while for Willie Carson to take off in racing. He readily admits that in the early days he thought of quitting. However, he plugged on with the determination that was so evident in his energetic riding style. Willie was definitely the punter’s pal as he gave all horses a ride.
Willie Carson is probably most remembered for his link with Nashwan and Dayjur; two completely contrasting race horses. Willie’s riding performance to hustle Dayjur to the lead, from an outside draw in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint was impressive. He looked like he had kept something up his sleeve for that final drive to the line and although the horse did a “Red Rum”, it was a great ride.
Carson had a long period with trainer Major Dick Hern, for whom he rode his first three Derby winners. Five feet tall and riding at an easily maintained weight of 7 stone 10 pounds (49 kg), Carson was much in demand as a jockey; up to his retirement in 1996 at the age of 54.
In 1980, Willie Carson took over the Minster House Stud at Ampney Crucis, near Cirencester; and he and his wife Elaine have developed it into a state of the art stud complex. He is almost certainly the only jockey in the 20th century to have ridden a horse that he bred. He rode Minster Son to victory in one of the Classic races, the St. Leger Stakes 1988. He and his ex-wife Carol had three sons: Anthony, Neil, and Ross.
From 1982 to 1983 Willie joined Bill Beaumont, as one of the team captains for A Question of Sport. With Clare Balding, he further co-presented BBC horse racing on BBC1; until the BBC ended their racing coverage, at the end of the 2012 season. In 1983, Willie Carson was made an OBE for his services to horse racing.
Willie Carson was chairman of Swindon Town FC from 2001 until August 2007; when, following a takeover of the club by Best Holdings SGPS SA, he was replaced by Jim Little. In November 2010, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of Chester. In 2011, he came 5th in the eleventh series of ITV1’s reality TV show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
Today Willie Carson keeps himself busy; at the race course, he splits his time commentating for the BBC and is European racing manager for The Thoroughbred Corporation.
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Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
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