Lester Piggott: Record-breaking jockey dies aged 86

Piggott’s last win came at the age of 58

Legendary jockey Lester Piggott, who won the Derby a record nine times, has died aged 86.

The Englishman won 30 British Classic races in a career which yielded 4,493 winners.

He also had 116 Royal Ascot victories and was named champion jockey 11 times between 1960 and 1982.

“Sadly we can confirm that Lester died peacefully in Switzerland this morning,” said his son-in-law and Derby-winning trainer William Haggas.

Piggott was admitted to hospital in Switzerland, where he lived, last week.

His first winner came aged 12 at Haydock in 1948, and his last at the same track in 1994. He retired for a final time in 1995.

Piggott, who was partially deaf, won the Derby at Epsom for the first time in 1954 aboard Never Say Die. His ninth win came on Teenoso in 1983.

He was jailed for three years in 1987 after being found guilty of tax fraud of more than £3m. With time off for good behaviour, he served a year and a day in prison.

Nicknamed the Long Fellow, he was tall for a Flat jockey at nearly 5ft 8in and weighed as little as 8st 5lb.

Piggott’s other Derby winners included Crepello, Sir Ivor and The Minstrel. He also rode Nijinsky, the last horse to win the British Triple Crown – the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger – in 1970.

Only 12 days after coming out retirement for a second time in 1990, a 54-year-old Piggott guided Royal Academy to victory in one of the world’s richest races, the $1m Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Lester Piggott
Piggott pioneered a riding style where he perched high above the saddle

A ‘hero’ and ‘legend’ – Dettori and Carson pay tribute

Three-time champion Frankie Dettori paid tribute to his “hero”, saying the news had come as “a shock”.

“He has been part of our lives forever really,” Dettori said.

“Lester was a hero of mine and a good friend. The impact he has made in racing, on all of us, is second to none.

“I will always try to remember him for the good things and I offer my sincere condolences to his family and his many friends.

“He was a legend. We always tried to aspire to be like him and none of us can do it. He will never be forgotten.”

Four-time Derby winner Willie Carson, who along with Piggott dominated racing in the 1970s and 80s, said: “Lester has been part of my life ever since I came into racing. He was an iconic figure in the horse racing world. He is a legend.

“He was a person who made us all better – because we had to be better to beat him. We had to up our game to compete with him because he was so magical on top of a horse.”

Carson said Piggott “never seemed to be under any pressure”, adding that he had been hopeful Piggott would be well enough to leave hospital soon.

“That has made things worse – I was drafting a letter in my head for a card to say ‘welcome home’ for when he got out,” Carson said.

“It is so sad. Part of my life has gone.”

Great British Racing chief executive Rod Street said: “Lester was a true titan of sport, a one-off who transcended horse racing.

“To this very day, the top answer to ‘name a famous jockey’ remains Lester Piggott.”

The Queen and Lester Piggott
Piggott with the Queen at the unveiling of his statue at Epsom in 2019

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