Carson chalks up fourth Derby success in storming finish
ERHAAB, the 7-2 favourite, stormed through the final 200 metres yesterday to give 51-year-old jockey Willie Carson the fourth Epsom Derby success of his career.
The English Classic race attracted heavy betting interest from Hong Kong punters because it was telecast live as the final event on last night's Happy Valley card.
Erhaab, trained by John Dunlop, won by one-and-a-quarter lengths from King's Theatre (14-1), the mount of Michael Kinane with Colonel Collins (10-1), the mount of John Reid one-and-a-half lengths away in third place.
It was a fine triumph for Carson who is riding as well as ever. But, with 25 runners, it was a rough race, marred by one of Sheikh Mohammed's three runners, Foyer, clipping the heels of another horse and throwing jockey Willie Ryan against the rails.
Hong Kong punters weighed right in with a record-breaking $38.7 million wagered on the Classic. A delay to the start of the Epsom Classic meant that Hong Kong punters had roughly four extra minutes in which to bet and that pushed the turnover up to the excellent figure of $38.7 million which eclipsed last year's figure.
With 15 jockeys in the world-famous race all having ridden in Hong Kong there was no lack of local interest and punters here were bang on target having installed Erhaab as a 11-4 favourite, very much under the odds available in England.
While Erhaab was favourite, long-time Hong Kong idol Kinane on King's Theatre went off here at 7-1, exactly half his English odds.
And there was a sustained roar at the Valley when Kinane, winner last year on Commander In Chief, hit the front halfway up the rise in the final furlong of the 2,400-metre race.
But King's Theatre had no answer when Erhaab and Carson, one of three grandfathers in the race, swept to the lead in the last 50 metres to win going away.
Reid, another winter visitor to Hong Kong, rode third-placed Colonel Collins (at odds of 10-1 locally). He was one of several jockeys - including local favourite Walter Swinburn - who almost came to grief when Ryan fell. They had to take swift avoiding action.
Ryan was take to hospital but was said to be conscious, escaping with suspected broken ribs.
Ryan rode with great success in Hong Kong six seasons ago for Brian Kan Ping-chee.
The incident happened about five furlongs (about one kilometre) from home on the difficult descent to Tattenham Corner.
Carson said: ''It was carnage going down the hill. Walter Swinburn [on 50-1 outsider Just Happy] was nearly out of the saddle twice and Willie came down.
''Luckily I did not get interfered with.'' The Scot added: ''There were far too many runners in the race that should not have been in it.
''I ended up on the inside [coming down the hill]. I was screaming all the way 'give me room'. It was very rough.'' The 25-strong field was the biggest since 1978 and at least five of them could be considered complete no-hopers. Cheaper initial entry fees have made the classic more attractive to some less talented runners.
Erhaab's win was greeted with pleasure by Hong Kong's champion trainer-elect Ivan Allan, who will be officially crowned on Sunday at the final meeting of the season - just hours before Cicerao runs in the French Derby at Chantilly.
Allan owns Cicerao who beat Erhaab in the Fielden Stakes at Newmarket so his form going into the Prix du Jockey Club is faultless.
Allan has paid a whopping supplementary fee of $300,000 to put Cicerao in the Chantilly Classic but it could end up being money very well spent.