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Lester Piggott RIP

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  • #1599658
    Cork All Star
    • Total Posts 3624

    Now the news that Lester has died has broken, I thought there should be a new thread for anyone to post their memories and tributes.

    I always remember his comeback in 1990, which was the first Flat season I had followed seriously. It was (appropriately enough) at Leicester and he was only beaten a short head by an odds on favourite.

    Just a week or two later he won the Breeders Cup Mile on Royal Academy. Has there ever been a more extraordinary comeback?

    It is difficult to pick out a highlight of his career but his ride on Crepello in the 1957 Derby must be one of them. Even though he was the best horse, he had legs like glass. Epsom is about the last place a horse like him would want to run but Lester won easily on him.

    St Gatien
    • Total Posts 55

    Very sad, as a schoolboy he was
    my racing hero.

    I could tell you at any point in
    the season how many winners he had ridden. Listening to the radio sports report, glued to the racing results.

    In the days when libraries carried telephone directories
    for all over the UK. I once looked up his address in Newmarket but wasn’t brave enough to write and ask for a autograph.

    • Total Posts 4711

    First Derby I remember watching – 1976 Empery ridden by Lester Piggott.

    Epsom looked a crazy racecourse to me back then but he made it look easy.

    I properly got interested in 1977 and it was Piggott again on The Minstrel – so strong.

    I developed a historical respect for the sport and retrospectively appreciated his teenage win on Never Say Die, his NH success, and his sheer brilliance on Sir Ivor and Nijinsky and brutal will to win on Roberto.

    The third Sagaro Gold Cup win in 1977 was the converse – Piggott at his most sublimely arrogant.

    In the flesh, I witnessed his tactical brilliance on Teenoso in the 1983 King George and saw him on Moorestyle too at Doncaster as a 2yo.

    I was on The Guardian racing desk and the duty fell to me to inform the Sports Editor that it had just come through on the PA news wires that Piggott had got three years for tax evasion.

    I had the happier experience at the Racing Post of hearing of his comeback, walking upstairs, Design Editor Chris Smith saying: “Baz (my RP nickname – short for “b*****d”), what’s the headline?”

    “Lester’s back!” I immediately replied.

    Smith showed me his screen – he’d already written exactly that.

    And THAT ride not long afterwards on Royal Academy.

    What a legend.

    Last saw him at Ascot on Champions’ Day last autumn.


    Sir Cherryade of Hampshire
    ("Chezza" to the proletariat)

    • Total Posts 2409

    Desperately sad news, but at least the great man had a good innings.

    I never actually met Lester but I still made him smile one day. He was taking a horse called Alleging to post quietly at Epsom in 1984, hacking along the stands’ side rail. As he came past us, I shouted out “Good luck, Lester! I’ve had a pound on you!”

    The greatest jockey of them all and my childhood hero (I was only twelve at the time) just looked at me and smiled. I’ll never forget it.

    • Total Posts 795

    What a life he had!!

    Some cracking anecdotes already. I wish I had one but all I can say is I never tire of watching Royal Academy, Nijinsky and Roberto on YouTube.

    Lester achieved more than most of us can dream of.


    He Didnt Like Ground
    • Total Posts 2576

    Unique , to have such gentle hands when required but also the strength and power to carry horses over the line when required , just like no one else could have won on Wichita lineman like McCoy did no one else in my eyes could have carried Roberto over the line like Lester did that day , I’ve just just rewatched it and it still always looks like he’s going to finish second , the ultimate flawed genius

    • Total Posts 5638

    Rather than trying to single out a specific horse or race from the myriad choices I think the warmest tribute I can make is the sense of expectation felt whenever, wherever, whatever he rode – ‘what’s Lester gonna do here then’

    The precarious perch waiting, followed by the curled crouch attacking: an always intriguing and sometimes mesmerising sight

    Farewell one-off and thanks for the memories

    • Total Posts 4711

    Few tell it better than John Randall – cop a load of THAT:

    Lester Piggott’s greatness transcended statistics, but he accumulated some of the most important records for a British jockey, notably the most wins in a career, the most British Classics (30) and the most Derbys (nine).

    Most wins in a career

    Piggott won a career total of about 5,300 races throughout the world between 1948 and 1995, which is a record for a British jockey.

    It is impossible to give a precise figure because he rode winners in more than 30 countries and no-one, least of all the man himself, bothered to keep count.

    Piggott gained 4,493 of those victories on the Flat in Britain, and another 20 over hurdles. That puts him third to Sir Gordon Richards (4,870), who rarely rode abroad, and Irishman Pat Eddery (4,633) on the all-time list of jockeys who have won the most races in Britain.

    Most Classic wins

    Piggott won 30 British Classics between 1954 (Never Say Die’s Derby) and 1992 (Rodrigo De Triano’s 2,000 Guineas). It is his greatest record, and one that may stand for all time.

    Those 30 victories comprised nine in the Derby, eight in the St Leger, six in the Oaks, five in the 2,000 Guineas, and two in the 1,000 Guineas. His most productive Classic partnerships were with trainers Vincent O’Brien (nine wins) and Noel Murless (seven).

    The previous Classic record was 27 by Frank Buckle between 1792 and 1827.

    Most Derby wins

    The master of Epsom won the Derby nine times between 1954 (Never Say Die) and 1983 (Teenoso). The previous record of six was held by Jem Robinson and Steve Donoghue.

    Most wins in other races

    Piggott won a record 116 races at Royal Ascot between 1952 and 1993. Among them were a record 11 Ascot Gold Cups, easily beating the record of six wins in the race by Jem Robinson and his own great-grandfather, Tom Cannon.

    He also won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes a record seven times.

    Greatest rides

    It was almost inevitable that when we conducted a poll of Racing Post readers in 2007 to determine the 100 Greatest Rides of all time, Piggott was the jockey represented by the most rides – eight.

    Second on the list was the 54-year-old’s Breeders’ Cup Mile win on Royal Academy in 1990, and his other entries in the top ten were The Minstrel (1977 Derby) and Roberto (1972 Derby).

    Sir Cherryade of Hampshire
    ("Chezza" to the proletariat)

    • Total Posts 5

    I remember as a twelve year old going to the local bookie to have my first bet. The cashier threw me out for not being old enough but whispered “go round to the back window”. The window was opened and I was asked which horse I wanted to back. I didn’t have a clue about racing but I knew the name Lester Piggott. I put my shilling pocket money on his first ride of the day. It won at 1/2 and I was over the moon at making a profit. From then on I was hooked.

    Never did make much money backing Lester over the years – so many of his rides were too short a price but I loved watching him ride, especially at Epsom.

    RIP the great man.

    Blackcountry Kid
    • Total Posts 392

    Condolences to family and friends,Lester was a true legend of the sport.
    The one thing I found quite remarkable about the man wasn’t just his prowess in the saddle but with his stature how he made it as a jockey at all.
    His successes were many and memorable but always thought he was very harshly treated by the authorities when he had that fateful brush over a very grey tax area.I recall around the same time Ken Dodd being caught by customs trying to walk out of the country with a large suitcase stuffed with cash.Dodd elected for a jury trial and to this day I believe he was counting on his popularity as an entertainer to get off,which much to the disgust of many he did.
    There will never be another like ‘the long fellow’.
    good luck to all

    • Total Posts 160

    For those of us who are genuine racing fans and from the maturing age group, he’d be the showcase name of the sport. In fact across the sporting spectrum, I’d only accept Muhaammad Ali as a bigger name – I really would. Very sad that the emerging generations won’t fully appreciate his influence, achievements or pure aura. In fact I’ve currently got GB News on and when the news is read out, they show you a pic of him on Desert Orchid (if they had to pick a grey surely Petite Etoile would have been more fitting), and one of him with Dettori – feeling the need to link him up with something more modern and ‘trendy’.

    • Total Posts 4711

    To, I think, echo Cancello’s words, when I was young I had a respect for history, a respect for that which I never saw, or was too young to remember.

    The fact it was before my time gave it a special aura, in fact – jockeys like Fred Archer, Gordon Richards, Fred Winter and horses like Abernant, Tudor Minstrel, Ribot, Sea Bird and Arkle.

    Nowadays there’s little or no real respect for history.

    There ought to be a pre-recorded tribute broadcast to Piggott on terrestrial TV on air this very day.

    But there won’t be.

    Sir Cherryade of Hampshire
    ("Chezza" to the proletariat)

    • Total Posts 1911

    My enduring memories of Lester are of his duels with Pat Eddery for the jockey championship in the 1970s. As a big Eddery fan, I never wanted Lester to win though!

    My uncle used to quote a couple of stories attributed to Lester. One that he was asked to ride out a new filly for one of the big trainers. When he got off, the trainer asked “what do you think Lester? Will she win a race”. “She might”, came the reply “when she’s inside a greyhound”! The other was that a trainer asked for advice on how to stop a horse hanging left-handed. Lester suggested putting a piece of lead in its right ear. Trainer asked how to do this and the reply was “with a 12-bore”! I have no idea whether either story is true but the fact that they were accepted as such in the Dublin pubs shows the regard he was held in as a man of dark humour, as well as a great jockey. Sadly his deafness meant that the public never really got to fully appreciate his sharp wit.

    • Total Posts 8423

    Even though I’ve always been more of a fan of NH racing one of my best racing memories is of being a a friends house in Birmingham watching Royal Academy winning at the Breeders Cup.

    • Total Posts 1261

    He was a bit before my time but the sheer admiration and respect in which he’s talked about on this forum – and the wider racing community – shows just how much of a true great he really was. I’ll be watching some of his finest rides on youtube later, RIP to a legend.

    • Total Posts 4711

    “I’ll be watching some of his finest rides on youtube later” – LOVE this.

    Sir Cherryade of Hampshire
    ("Chezza" to the proletariat)

    Cork All Star
    • Total Posts 3624
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