Lester Piggott

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Lester Piggott
Occupation Jockey
Born (1935-11-05) 5 November 1935 (age 79)
Wantage, Berkshire, England
Major racing wins
British Classic Race wins as jockey:
2000 Guineas (5)
1000 Guineas (2)
Epsom Derby (9)
Epsom Oaks (6)
St Leger Stakes (8)[1]
Racing awards
British flat racing Champion Jockey 11 times (1960, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1981, 1982)
Honours
O.B.E. (withdrawn)
Significant horses
Never Say Die, Crepello, Petite Etoile, St. Paddy, Sir Ivor, Nijinsky, Roberto, Empery, The Minstrel, Alleged, Teenoso, Shadeed, Royal Academy, Rodrigo de Triano

Lester Keith Piggott (born 5 November 1935) is a retired English professional jockey, popularly known as "The Long Fellow".[2][3] With 4,493 career wins, including nine Epsom Derby victories, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest flat racing jockeys of all time.

Family background and personal life[edit]

Lester Piggott was born in Wantage to a family that could trace its roots as jockeys and trainers back to the 18th century.[4] The Piggotts were a Cheshire farming family who in the 1870s ran the Crown Inn in Nantwich for at least 40 years. Lester's grandfather Ernest (Ernie) Piggott (1878–1967) owned a racehorse stable at The Old Manor in Letcombe Regis and his father (Ernest) Keith Piggott (1904–1993) another at South Bank in Lambourn, where Lester lived until 1954.[4] Ernie Piggott rode three Grand National winners, in 1912, 1918 and 1919 and was married to a sister of the jockeys Mornington Cannon and Kempton Cannon, who both rode winners of the Derby, in 1899 and 1904 respectively. He was also three-times British jump racing Champion Jockey (in 1910, 1913 and 1915). Keith Piggott was a successful National Hunt jockey and trainer, winning the Champion Hurdle as a jockey in 1939 and the Grand National as a trainer in 1963 with Ayala, becoming the British jump racing Champion Trainer of the 1962–63 season. Lester Piggott is the cousin, through his mother Lilian Iris Rickaby, of two other jockeys, Bill and Fred Rickaby. Fred Rickaby was British flat racing Champion Apprentice in 1931 and 1932.

Piggott is married to Susan Armstrong. They married at St. Mark's church, North Audley Street, London in 1960. Her father, Sam Armstrong, and her brother, Robert Armstrong, were both racehorse trainers. They have two daughters, Maureen, an ex-eventer (married to Derby-winning trainer William Haggas) and Tracy (a sports presenter on Irish television station RTÉ). He also has a son, Jamie, from a relationship with Anna Ludlow.[5] His house is named after a famous racehorse from history—Florizel.

Career as a jockey[edit]

Piggott began racing horses from his father's stable when he was 10 years old and won his first race in 1948, aged 12 years, on a horse called The Chase at Haydock Park. A teenage sensation, he rode his first winner of the Epsom Derby on Never Say Die in 1954 aged 18 years and went on to win eight more, on Crepello (1957), St. Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Roberto (1972), Empery (1976), The Minstrel (1977) and Teenoso (1983). He was stable jockey to Noel Murless and later to Vincent O'Brien and had a glittering career of unparalleled success. Known as the "housewives' favorite", Piggott had legions of followers and did much to expand the popularity of horse racing beyond its narrow, class-based origins.

Famously tall for a jockey (5 ft 8 in/1.73 m), hence his nickname of "The Long Fellow", Lester Piggott struggled to keep his weight down and for most of his career rode at little more than 8 stone (112 lb/51 kg). He pioneered a new style of race-riding that was subsequently widely adopted by colleagues at home and abroad and enabled him to become Champion Jockey eleven times.

In 1980 his relationship with the SangsterO'Brien combination came to an end and he was appointed as stable jockey to Noel Murless's son-in-law Henry Cecil, the British flat racing Champion Trainer, at Murless's old stables, Warren Place. He was again champion jockey in 1981 and 1982. However, as the result of a dispute in late 1983 as to whether he had reneged on an agreement to ride Daniel Wildenstein's All Along, Piggott's ride in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe went instead to Walter Swinburn, with Wildenstein refusing to allow him to ride any more of his horses. It was costly for Piggott, as All Along won the Arc and a string of other international races in an autumn campaign that ended with her being named US Horse of the Year. Further, as Wildenstein was one of Cecil's principal owners, this placed a strain on the relationship, and in 1984 Cecil and Piggott split, with Steve Cauthen taking over at Warren Place.

Lester lives near Newmarket in Suffolk, as do many other jockeys and trainers.

Later career and conviction for tax evasion[edit]

Piggott retired as a jockey at the end of the 1985 flat season and became a trainer. At its peak, his Eve Lodge stables housed 97 horses and sent out 34 winners. In 1987 he was convicted of tax fraud and jailed for three years, of which he served 366 days. The following year he was stripped of his OBE (which he had been awarded in 1975) because of his conviction. Once released from jail, he resumed his career as a jockey in 1990 and won the Breeders' Cup Mile on Royal Academy within ten days of his return. He rode another Classic winner, Rodrigo de Triano, in the 1992 2000 Guineas. His last win was in October 1994 and he officially retired, this time for good, in 1995. In 2004 he published the book Lester's Derbys.[6]

Illness[edit]

On Tuesday 15 May 2007 he was admitted to intensive care in a Swiss hospital following a recurrence of a previous heart problem. His wife stated that this illness is not life-threatening and that he was recovering in intensive care as a precaution. He attended Royal Ascot in June 2007[7] and the Epsom Derby in June 2008 where he tipped the winner, New Approach, during a BBC television interview. He was also present for Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2009, where he was interviewed in the parade ring.

Recognition[edit]

The annual jockey awards The Lesters, inaugurated in 1990, are named in his honour.

Major wins[edit]

United Kingdom Great Britain

  • 1,000 Guineas - (2) - Humble Duty (1970), Fairy Footsteps (1981)
  • 2,000 Guineas - (5) - Crepello (1957), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Shadeed (1985), Rodrigo de Triano (1992)
  • Ascot Gold Cup - (11) - Zarathustra (1957), Gladness (1958), Pandofell (1961), Twilight Alley (1963), Fighting Charlie (1965), Sagaro (1975, 1976 & 1977), Le Moss (1979), Ardross (1981 & 1982)
  • Champion Stakes - (5) - Petite Etoile (1959), Pieces of Eight (1966), Sir Ivor (1968), Giacometti (1974), Rodrigo de Triano (1992)
  • Cheveley Park Stakes - (4) - Fleet (1966), Lalibela (1967), Durtal (1976), Marwell (1980)
  • Cork and Orrery Stakes (Golden Jubilee Stakes) - (9) - Right Boy (1958 & 1959), Tin Whistle (1960), El Gallo (1963), Mountain Call (1968), Welsh Saint (1970), Saritamer (1974), Thatching (1979), College Chapel (1993)
  • Coronation Cup - (9) - Zucchero (1953), Nagami (1959), Petite Etoile (1960 & 1961), Park Top (1969), Roberto (1973), Quiet Fling (1976), Sea Chimes (1980), Be My Native (1983)
  • Coronation Stakes - (5) - Aiming High (1961), Calve (1972), Lisadell (1974), Roussalka (1975), Chalon (1982)
  • Derby - (9) - Never Say Die (1954), Crepello (1957), St Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Roberto (1972), Empery (1976), The Minstrel (1977), Teenoso (1983)
  • Dewhurst Stakes - (10) - Crepello (1956), Follow Suit (1962), Ribofilio (1968), Nijinsky (1969), Crowned Prince (1971), Cellini (1973), The Minstrel (1976), Try My Best (1977), Monteverdi (1979), Diesis (1982)
  • Eclipse Stakes - (7) - Mystery IX (1951), Darius (1955), Arctic Explorer (1957), St Paddy (1961), Pieces of Eight (1966), Wolver Hollow (1969), Artaius (1977)
  • Falmouth Stakes - (7) - Sylphide (1957), Green Opal (1960), Chrona (1966), Vital Match (1969), Chalon (1982), Niche (1993), Lemon Souffle (1994)
  • Fillies' Mile - (4) - Escorial (1973), Miss Pinkie (1976), Cherry Hinton (1977), Oh So Sharp (1984)
  • Haydock Sprint Cup - (3) - Green God (1971), Abergwaun (1972), Moorestyle (1980)
  • International Stakes - (5) - Dahlia (1974 & 1975), Hawaiian Sound (1978), Commanche Run (1985), Rodrigo de Triano (1992)
  • July Cup - (10) - Vigo (1957), Right Boy (1958 & 1959), Tin Whistle (1960), Thatch (1973), Saritamer (1974), Solinus (1978), Thatching (1979), Moorestyle (1980), Mr Brooks (1992)
  • King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes - (7) - Meadow Court (1965), Aunt Edith (1966), Park Top (1969), Nijinsky (1970), Dahlia (1974), The Minstrel (1977), Teenoso (1984)
  • King's Stand Stakes - (7) - Right Boy (1957), Majority Rule (1963), Swing Easy (1971), Abergwaun (1973), Godswalk (1977), Solinus (1978), Never So Bold (1985)
  • Lockinge Stakes - (6) - Sovereign Path (1960), The Creditor (1964), Sparkler (1973), Belmont Bay (1981), Polar Falcon (1991), Swing Low (1993)
  • Middle Park Stakes - (6) - Petingo (1967), Steel Heart (1974), Junius (1978), Mattaboy (1980), Cajun (1981), Diesis (1982)
  • Nassau Stakes - (5) - Aunt Edith (1965), Haymaking (1966), Cheveley Princess (1973), Roussalka (1975 & 1976)
  • Nunthorpe Stakes - (7) - Right Boy (1958 & 1959), Matatina (1963), Caterina (1966), Tower Walk (1969), Swing Easy (1971), Solinus (1978)
  • Oaks - (6) - Carrozza (1957), Petite Etoile (1959), Valoris (1966), Juliette Marny (1975), Blue Wind (1981), Circus Plume (1984)
  • Prince of Wales's Stakes - (3) - Gift Card (1973), Anne's Pretender (1976), Crimson Beau (1979)
  • Queen Anne Stakes - (5) - Sparkler (1972), Baptism (1979), Belmont Bay (1981), Mr Fluorocarbon (1982), Trojan Fen (1984)
  • Queen Elizabeth II Stakes - (4) - The Creditor (1963), Linacre (1964), Hill Rise (1966), To-Agori-Mou (1981)
  • Racing Post Trophy - (5) - Ribocco (1966), Noble Decree (1972), Apalachee (1973), Dunbeath (1982), Lanfranco (1984)
  • St. James's Palace Stakes - (5) - Roan Rocket (1964), Petingo (1968), Thatch (1973), Jaazeiro (1978), Bairn (1985)
  • St. Leger - (8) - St Paddy (1960), Aurelius (1961), Ribocco (1967), Ribero (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Athens Wood (1971), Boucher (1972), Commanche Run (1984)
  • Sun Chariot Stakes - (6) - Popkins (1970), Cheveley Princess (1973), Swiss Maid (1978), Topsy (1979), Snow (1980), Home on the Range (1981)
  • Sussex Stakes - (6) - Petite Etoile (1959), Roan Rocket (1964), Petingo (1968), Thatch (1973), Artaius (1977), Jaazeiro (1978)
  • Yorkshire Oaks - (4) - Petite Etoile (1959), Parthian Glance (1966), Shoot A Line (1980), Awaasif (1982)

Canada Canada


France France


Germany Germany


Republic of Ireland Ireland


Italy Italy


Singapore Singapore


Slovakia Slovakia

  • Derby - (1) - Zimzalabim (1993)

 United States

In popular culture[edit]

The British music band James recorded a song named "Sometimes (Lester Piggott)" on their album Laid. It has a beat which is like a horse galloping. The outro on the original 12" of Sit Down also featured a falsetto voice singing the jockey's name.

The Hope and Anchor pub in Margate, Kent has been restyled with a horse racing theme and renamed Lester's after the famous jockey.

The Van Morrison song "In the Days Before Rock 'n Roll" also mentions Piggott by name: "When we let, then we bet / On Lester Piggott when we met [ten to one] / And we let the goldfish go"

In 1992, the Queen agreed, under pressure, to pay taxes. The satirical magazine Private Eye showed a picture of her talking on a telephone, asking for Lester Piggott.[8]

One episode of the ITV series Cracker has DCI Wise advising Jimmy Beck (in trouble for beating a suspect) that "You're going on more courses than Lester bloody Piggott!"

One episode of the BBC Radio 4 comedy series "Ed Reardon's Week", Season 04, Episode 01, Title: "January The 31st", Ed tries to claim tax deductions for Armgnac in his coffee as a professional writer's expense. The local Aylesbury tax official removes the alcohol deduction and mentions being taught two cases in training, the latter case being Lester Piggott.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1990). Horse Racing: Records, Facts, Champions (Third Edition). Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-902-1. 
  2. ^ About the Home of Racing
  3. ^ Lester Piggott to open New Wiltshire Stand at Salisbury
  4. ^ a b p45, David Boyd, A Bibliographical Dictionary of Racehorse Trainers in Berkshire 1850–1939 (1998)
  5. ^ Observer interview 2001
  6. ^ http://www.amazon.ca/Lesters-Derbys-Lester-Piggott/dp/0413774112/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336257698&sr=1-1
  7. ^ Lee, Alan (23 June 2007). "Piggott shows star quality in photofinish". The Times (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Private Eye cover, 5 July 1991

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Racingbase.com - Racing People: Lester Piggott

Further reading[edit]

David, Roy. Lester Piggott: Downfall of a Legend (1989) Heinemann, London. ISBN 0-434-98178-8