|Born||5 November 1935|
Wantage, Berkshire, England
|Spouse||Susan Armstrong (married 1960, separated)|
|Height||1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|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)
|British flat racing Champion Jockey 11 times (1960, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1981, 1982)|
|Never Say Die, Crepello, Petite Etoile, St. Paddy, Sir Ivor, Nijinsky, Roberto, Empery, The Minstrel, Alleged, Teenoso, Shadeed, Royal Academy, Rodrigo de Triano|
|1000 Guineas (2)|
|Humble Duty||Gleam||Black Satin|
|Fairy Footsteps||Tolmi||Go Leasing|
|2000 Guineas (5)|
|Crepello||Quorum||Pipe of Peace|
|Sir Ivor||Petingo||Jimmy Reppin|
|Nijinsky||Yellow God||Roi Soleil|
|Rodrigo De Triano||Lucky Lindy||Pursuit Of Love|
|Never Say Die||Arabian Night||Darius|
|Crepello||Ballymoss||Pipe of Peace|
|Sir Ivor||Connaught||Mount Athos|
|The Minstrel||Hot Grove||Blushing Groom|
|Carrozza||Silken Glider||Rose Royale|
|Petite Etoile||Cantelo||Rose of Medina|
|Juliette Marny||Val's Girl||Moonlight Night|
|Blue Wind||Madam Gay||Leap Lively|
|Circus Plume||Media Luna||Poquito Queen|
|St Leger (8)|
|St. Paddy||Die Hard||Vienna|
Lester Keith Piggott (born 5 November 1935) is a retired English professional jockey. With 4,493 career wins, including nine Epsom Derby victories, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest flat racing jockeys of all timeand the originator of a much imitated style. Popularly known as "The Long Fellow" he was known for his competitive personality, keeping himself thirty pounds under his natural weight, and on occasion not sparing the whip on horses such as Roberto in the 1972 Derby. Piggott regarded Sir Ivor as the easiest to ride of the great winners.
Lester Piggott was born in Wantage to a family that could trace its roots as jockeys and trainers back to the 18th century.The Piggotts were a Cheshire farming family who from the 1870s ran the Crown Inn in Nantwich for over 30 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. 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.His house is named after a famous racehorse from history – Florizel.
Partial deafness and a minor speech impediment have contributed to the reputation of a taciturn nature. However his dry wit and witticisms are legion. For example, when asked by a reporter, after Karabas had won the 1969 Washington International, when did he (Lester) think he would win?, Lester replied "about two weeks ago". Allegedly when asked by a brave stable employee for a £5 pound gratuity, Lester motioned the lad to talk to his 'good ear' at which the lad upped the request to £10. Lester responded with "try the other ear again". On being asked by a young girl serving him with ice-cream if he was Wilson Pickett (the black soul singer) he said "yes".
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.Piggott is known for his quiet demeanour. He describes his mother as wisely playing down his success, while his father rarely gave advice unless there had been a particular mistake. By his teens a sensation in the racing world, he rode his first winner of The 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' favourite", 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 Flat jockey (5 ft 8 in/1.73 m), hence his nickname of "The Long Fellow", Piggott struggled to keep his weight down and for most of his career rode at 8 stone 6 pounds (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. He also rode over hurdles early in his career.
In 1980 his relationship with the Sangster – O'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.
In late 1983 a dispute arose as to whether he had reneged on an agreement to ride Daniel Wildenstein's All Along in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe for Patrick Louis Biancone when Piggott stated he had agreed to ride the previous year's Arc third Awaasif and could only ride All Along if that horse did not run. All Along was ridden instead by Walter Swinburn, with Wildenstein refusing to allow Piggott 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.
In 1985 Piggott rode as a freelance, with big wins including the Prix de Diane for Andre Fabre aboard Lypharita, the 2000 Guineas for Michael Stoute on Shadeed and the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup and Irish Champion Stakes for Luca Cumani on Commanche Run.
Piggott retired as a jockey at the end of the 1985 flat season and became a trainer. His Eve Lodge stables in Newmarket, Suffolk, housed 97 horses and sent out 34 winners. His burgeoning new career as a trainer was ended when he was convicted of tax fraud and jailed. He was stripped of his OBE (which he had been awarded in 1975).He served 366 days in prison. According to Piggott, a commonly held belief that he was prosecuted after using an undeclared bank account to make a final settlement of his tax liabilities is a myth.
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 in Britain was in October 1994 and he officially retired in 1995; his last British ride was in the November Handicap on 5 November 1994, but he rode abroad through the winter of 1994/95, winning the Black Opal Stakes on Zadok in Canberra on 5 March 1995before deciding not to return for the 1995 British Flat turf season.
Piggott lived near Newmarket in Suffolk for the entire duration of his career. He later emigrated to Bursinel, Switzerland where he continues to reside with his partner and family friend Lady Barbara FitzGerald, though legally he is still married to his wife.
In 2004 he published the book Lester's Derbys.
In 2014 the Eve Lodge Stables training yard and complex which includes four semi-detached, two-bedroom bungalows and can house up to 100 horses, was put on the market for £1.25 million.
On 15 May 2007 Piggott was admitted to intensive care in a Swiss hospital following a recurrence of a previous heart problem. His wife stated that this illness was not life-threatening and that he was recovering in intensive care as a precaution. He attended Royal Ascot in June 2007and 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.
The annual jockey awards The Lesters, inaugurated in 1990, are named in his honour.
In 1999, the Racing Post ranked Piggott as second in their list of the Top 50 jockeys of the 20th century, behind Gordon Richards.
In 2021, Piggott was selected for the British Champions Series Hall of Fame, Piggott and Frankel are the first two into the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was created to celebrate the modern history of flat racing in Britain going back to 1970 which was the year Piggott won the Triple Crown aboard Nijinksy.
The British music band James recorded a song named "Sometimes (Lester Piggott)" on their album Laid . The outro on the original 12" of Sit Down also featured a falsetto voice singing the jockey's name.
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"
Piggott was frequently caricatured on Spitting Image , in which he was portrayed as having mumbling diction which was always accompanied by subtitles.
In 1991, during a period in which Queen Elizabeth II faced public pressure to pay taxes, the satirical magazine Private Eye showed a cover picture of her talking on a telephone, asking for Lester Piggott.
Lester's public house in Margate is named after Piggott.
Nijinsky, usually known in the United States as Nijinsky II, was a Canadian-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. He was the outstanding two-year-old in Europe in 1969 when he was unbeaten in five races. In the following season, he became the first horse for thirty-five years to win the English Triple Crown, a feat that had not been repeated as of 2020. He is regarded by many experts to have been the greatest flat racehorse in Europe during the 20th century.
Teenoso was an American-bred British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse. After showing moderate form as a two-year-old he improved in the spring of 1983 to win the Group Three Lingfield Derby Trial and then won the Classic Epsom Derby, giving Lester Piggott a record ninth win in the race. Teenoso was beaten in his two remaining races that year but showed his best form as a four-year-old, winning the Ormonde Stakes, the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and, on his final appearance, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He proved to be a disappointment at stud.
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Vincent O'Brien was an Irish race horse trainer from Churchtown, County Cork, Ireland. In 2003 he was voted the greatest influence in horse racing history in a worldwide poll hosted by the Racing Post. In earlier Racing Post polls he was voted the best ever trainer of national hunt and of flat racehorses. He trained six horses to win the Epsom Derby, won three Grand Nationals in succession and trained the only British Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky, since the Second World War. He was twice British champion trainer in flat racing and also twice in national hunt racing; the only trainer in history to have been champion under both rules. Aidan O'Brien took over the Ballydoyle stables after his retirement.
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Sir Ivor was an American-bred Irish-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and sire, who competed from a base in Ireland. In a career which lasted from July 1967 to October 1968 he ran thirteen times and won eight races. He won major races in four countries: the National Stakes in Ireland, the Grand Criterium in France, the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and Champion Stakes in England and the Washington, D.C. International in the United States.
Roberto was an American-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred Champion racehorse. In a career that lasted from 1971 until July 1973 he ran fourteen times and won seven races. He was the best Irish two-year-old of 1971, when his victories included the National Stakes. As a three-year-old, he won the Derby before recording his most famous victory when beating Brigadier Gerard in the inaugural running of the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup. This is regarded by many experts to have been one of the greatest ever performances on a European racecourse. He won the Coronation Cup as a four-year-old before being retired to stud. Roberto required a left-handed track to perform to his best; he never won going right-handed. He was described by Lester Piggott as " a champion when things were in his favour". Roberto also proved to be a highly successful and influential stallion.
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Greville Michael Wilson Starkey was an English jockey who rode almost 2,000 winners during a 33-year career on the flat.
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Valoris was a French-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare. After showing promising form without winning a race as a juvenile in 1965 she developed into a top-class performer the following spring when she recorded emphatic victories in the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks. She was well beaten in two subsequent starts and was retired from racing at the end of the year. She later had considerable success as a broodmare.
Robert Walter Armstrong was a British horse trainer who trained horses competing in flat racing. In a career lasting from 1973 until 2000 he trained the winners of 737 races in Great Britain, including 13 at Group One level. He was the son of Sam Armstrong (1904–1982) and grandson of Bob Armstrong, who were both also racehorse trainers. Robert Armstong's sister, Susan, married the champion jockey Lester Piggott. The best horses he trained were Moorestyle and Never So Bold, both European champion sprinters.