DEF­I­NITE AR­TI­CLE

We ask a celebrity a set of dev­il­ishly prob­ing ques­tions – and only ac­cept THE de­fin­i­tive an­swer. This week it’s former cham­pion jockey Wil­lie Car­son

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - NEWS - As told to Rob McGib­bon

‘Peo­ple think I’m hard – I’ve al­ways been com­pet­i­tive, but out of the sad­dle I’m as soft as but­ter’

The prized pos­ses­sion you value above all oth­ers…

My Nor­folk ter­rier Ch­ester. He’s full of char­ac­ter and he fol­lows me ev­ery­where at our stud farm.

The biggest re­gret you wish you could amend…

Not pay­ing as much at­ten­tion to my fam­ily as my ca­reer. I missed a lot of fun times with my boys – An­thony, 55, Neil, 54, and Ross, 50 – when they were younger, and their mother Ca­role and I got di­vorced. But I have a great re­la­tion­ship with the boys now and, if I’m hon­est, it was prob­a­bly a price worth pay­ing.

The book that holds an ev­er­last­ing res­o­nance…

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I first read it in my early teens, when I was think­ing of be­com­ing a jockey, and I was swept away by the ro­mance and emo­tion.

The pri­or­ity ac­tiv­ity if you were the In­vis­i­ble Man for a day…

I’d fol­low the Queen around in pri­vate to find out what she truly thinks. I’ve met her sev­eral times and she’s in­cred­i­ble – but even though she’s the most fa­mous woman in the world, no one re­ally knows her.

The pet hate that makes your hack­les rise…

The tar­mac lay­ers who often come to my farm and of­fer to lay some tar­mac they have left over for a low price. They al­ways botch it.

The temp­ta­tion you wish you could re­sist…

Buy­ing mod­er­ately good horses. We have more than 50 al­ready and my wife Elaine hates me go­ing to the sales as I usu­ally come back with one I shouldn’t have bought.

The fig­ure from his­tory for whom you’d most like to buy a pint…

Colonel David Stir­ling, who founded the SAS in 1941. I’d ask how he found the courage to lead a bunch of ruf­fi­ans be­hind en­emy lines.

The film you can watch time and time again…

Dirty Danc­ing. It’s a soppy story, but I used to be a bit of a mover so it caught my imag­i­na­tion.

The per­son who’s in­flu­enced you most…

Bernard van Cut­sem, the aris­to­cratic horse breeder and trainer who took me un­der his wing in my 20s. I was a work­ing-class kid and he taught me how to eat along­side lords and ladies. He died from can­cer aged 59 in 1975.

The song that means most to you…

I’m a pos­i­tive per­son, so it’s Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFer­rin.

The un­likely in­ter­est that en­gages your cu­rios­ity…

Rugby league – it’s played with great sports­man­ship.

The trea­sured item you lost and wish you could have again…

The strength in my right arm – it’s gone over the past two years so I’m too afraid to ride.

The un­end­ing quest that drives you on…

To keep busy. I’m 74 now, but I’m still a worka­holic.

The poem that touches your soul…

Henry Scott Hol­land’s Death Is Noth­ing At All is com­fort­ing at fu­ner­als.

The mis­ap­pre­hen­sion about your­self you wish you could erase…

That I’m hard. I’ve al­ways been com­pet­i­tive, but out of the sad­dle I’m as soft as but­ter.

The phi­los­o­phy that un­der­pins your life…

Be truth­ful. If you tell lies you’ll get found out.

The event that al­tered the course of your life and char­ac­ter…

Be­ing given a job by Ma­jor Dick Hern when I was 34. That’s how I started rid­ing class horses and reached the big time.

The crime you would com­mit know­ing you could get away with it…

I’d de­vise a bril­liant way to steal our gold re­serves from the Bank of Eng­land.

The piece of wis­dom you would pass on to a child…

Look af­ter the pen­nies and the pounds will look af­ter them­selves. I’m a Scot and I’ve been quite shrewd.

The un­ful­filled am­bi­tion that con­tin­ues to haunt you…

To win the Prix de l’Arc de Tri­om­phe in Paris – it’s the biggest race that eluded me.

The way you would spend your fan­tasy 24 hours, with no travel re­stric­tions…

I’d be­gin the day qui­etly on the bal­cony at the Ge­orge V ho­tel in Paris. I’d have a crois­sant with jam and read the Rac­ing Post. Elaine would join me for a walk around the city, then we’d have lunch at La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul de Vence in the south of France. I’d have plaice and Ch­ablis. We’d spend the af­ter­noon in Bar­ba­dos with my sons and their part­ners and my six grand­chil­dren, who are all in their 20s, and my four great-grand­chil­dren, all un­der six. I’d go wa­ter­ski­ing, which I used to be good at. As it’s a fan­tasy day I’d then ride Troy, the horse I won the first of my four Der­bies on in 1979, to vic­tory in the Arc de Tri­om­phe. Din­ner would be steak in Buenos Aires with Elaine, then we’d go danc­ing.

The hap­pi­est mo­ment you will cher­ish for­ever…

When an owner I was rid­ing for gave me a sil­ver Mercedes in the 1980s. I looked like a child driv­ing it!

The sad­dest time that shook your world…

I was dev­as­tated when our horse Chrisel­liam was put down in 2014, af­ter a foot in­fec­tion went up her leg. She’d won a Breed­ers’ Cup tro­phy and we could have trav­elled the world win­ning with her, but it was cut short.

The or­der of ser­vice at your funeral…

It’ll be at a church near our home, where I’ve bought a plot for Elaine and me next to my par­ents. I’ve re­quested a bag­piper to play Amaz­ing Grace.

The way you want to be re­mem­bered…

As a cham­pion jockey.

The Plug…

The In­vestec Derby Fes­ti­val runs from June 2-3 at Ep­som Downs.

Left: Pa­trick Swayze and Jen­nifer Grey in Dirty Danc­ing. Above left: crois­sants and jam. Right: Bar­ba­dos

Piers Mor­gan is away

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