Lester Piggott

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Lester Piggott
Ovrevold. Peter Townsend - L0060 922Fo30141701170209.jpg
Lester Piggott in 1955
Occupation Jockey
Born (1935-11-05) 5 November 1935 (age 85)
Wantage, Berkshire, England
SpouseSusan Armstrong (married 1960, separated)
Height1.73 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) [1]
Racing awards
British flat racing Champion Jockey 11 times (1960, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1981, 1982)
OBE (withdrawn)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
1000 Guineas (2)
Owner Lady Jean Ashcombe.svg Owner Wertheimer and Frere.svg Owner Mr W L Reynolds.svg
Humble DutyGleamBlack Satin
Owner Mr H J Joel.svg Owner Mrs M Marinopoulos.svg Owner Mr W E Norton.svg
Fairy FootstepsTolmiGo Leasing
2000 Guineas (5)
Owner Sir Victor Sassoon.svg Owner Mr T H Farr.svg Owner Stavros Niarchos.svg
CrepelloQuorumPipe of Peace
Owner R Guest.svg Owner Capt M Lemos.svg Owner Mrs S Bates.svg
Sir IvorPetingoJimmy Reppin
Owner Mrs Charles W Engelhard.svg Owner Mr D Robinson.svg Owner Mrs Douglas Riley-Smith.svg
NijinskyYellow GodRoi Soleil
Owner Maktoum Al Maktoum.svg Owner Sheikh Mohammed.svg Owner Capt M Lemos.svg
ShadeedBairnSupreme Leader
Owner Mr B V Sangster.svg Owner R S T Syndicate.svg Owner Gillian, Lady Howard de Walden.svg
Rodrigo De TrianoLucky LindyPursuit Of Love
Derby (9)
Owner R S Clark.svg Owner Mr J E Ferguson.svg Owner Sir P Loraine.svg
Never Say DieArabian NightDarius
Owner Sir Victor Sassoon.svg Owner Mr J McShain.svg Owner Niarchos Family.svg
CrepelloBallymossPipe of Peace
Owner Sir Victor Sassoon.svg Owner Sir R Brooke.svg Owner Mr E R More O'Ferrall.svg
St PaddyAlcaeusKythnos
Owner R Guest.svg Owner Mr H J Joel.svg Owner Mr A Struther.svg
Sir IvorConnaughtMount Athos
Owner Mrs Charles W Engelhard.svg Owner Mr W F C Guest.svg Owner Ga Oldham.svg
Owner J W Galbreath.svg Owner Mr H R K Zeisel.svg Owner Mr V W Hardy.svg
RobertoRheingoldPentland Firth
Owner Nelson B Hunt.svg Owner The Dowager Lady Beaverbrook.svg Owner Mr A D G Oldrey.svg
Owner Mr B V Sangster.svg Owner Lord Leverhulme.svg Owner H H Aga Khan.svg
The MinstrelHot GroveBlushing Groom
Owner Mollers Racing.svg Owner Mr T F Roe.svg Owner Mr B V Sangster.svg
TeenosoCarlingford CastleShearwalk
Oaks (6)
Owner The Queen white cap.svg Owner J McGrath.svg Owner H H Aga Khan hoops.svg
CarrozzaSilken GliderRose Royale
Owner H H Aga Khan hoops.svg Owner Mr William Hill.svg Owner Mr J R Hindley.svg
Petite EtoileCanteloRose of Medina
Owner Sir Charles Clore.svg Owner Kingsclere Racing Club.svg Owner Mr M W Wickham-Boynton.svg
ValorisBerkeley SpringsVarinia
Owner Mr J I Morrison.svg Owner Sir Charles Clore.svg Owner Mr H J Joel.svg
Juliette MarnyVal's GirlMoonlight Night
Owner Mrs B Firestone.svg Owner Geoffrey Kaye.svg Owner Kingsclere Racing Club.svg
Blue WindMadam GayLeap Lively
Owner Sir Robin McAlpine.svg Owner Roldvale Limited.svg Owner R A N Bonnycastle.svg
Circus PlumeMedia LunaPoquito Queen
St Leger (8)
Owner Sir Victor Sassoon.svg Owner Mr J McShain.svg Owner Sir Winston Churchill.svg
St. PaddyDie HardVienna
Owner Mrs V Hue-Williams.svg Owner Mrs H Leggat.svg Owner Mme L Volterra.svg
AureliusBounteousDicta Drake
Owner Mrs Charles W Engelhard.svg Owner The Queen.svg Owner Marchese Incisa della Rochetta.svg
RiboccoHopeful VentureRuysdael
Owner Mrs Charles W Engelhard.svg Owner John M Olin.svg Owner Mr C Hetherton.svg
RiberoCanterburyCold Storage
Owner Mrs Charles W Engelhard.svg Owner Mr D Robinson.svg Owner Mrs O Phipps.svg
Owner Mrs J Rogerson.svg Owner Ballymacoll Stud.svg Owner Gillian, Lady Howard de Walden.svg
Athens WoodHomericFalkland
Owner Ogden Mills Phipps.svg Owner Mrs Angie Silver.svg Owner Lucayan Stud.svg
BoucherOur MirageGinevra
Owner Mr Ivan Allan.svg Owner H H Aga Khan.svg Owner Mr K Abdulla.svg
Commanche RunBaynounAlphabatim

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 time [2] and 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. [3] [4]


Family background and personal life

Lester Piggott was born in Wantage to a family that could trace its roots as jockeys and trainers back to the 18th century. [5] 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. [5] 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. [6] [7] 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". [6] [8]

Career as a jockey

Haydock Park Racecourse, Merseyside; statue to Lester Piggott Haydock Park Racecourse, Statue to Lester Piggott - geograph.org.uk - 606640.jpg
Haydock Park Racecourse, Merseyside; statue to Lester Piggott

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. [9] 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.

Lester Piggott aboard Apalachee in 1973/4 Apalachee (Lester Piggott).jpg
Lester Piggott aboard Apalachee in 1973/4

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.

Later life

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). [10] 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 1995 [11] before 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. [12]

In 2004 he published the book Lester's Derbys. [13]

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 2007 [14] 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.


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. [15]

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. [16]

Major wins

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Great Britain

Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Canada

Flag of France.svg France

Flag of Germany.svg Germany

Flag of Ireland.svg Ireland

Flag of Italy.svg Italy

Flag of Singapore.svg Singapore

Flag of Slovakia.svg Slovakia

Flag of the United States.svg United States

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. [17]

Lester's public house in Margate is named after Piggott. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. Morris, Tony; Randall, John (1990). Horse Racing: Records, Facts, Champions (Third ed.). Guinness Publishing. ISBN   0-85112-902-1.
  2. "70th Anniversary of Lester Piggott's First Ever Victory". The Jockey Club. 6 August 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  3. About the Home of Racing Archived 9 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine Jockey Club
  4. Lester Piggott to open New Wiltshire Stand at Salisbury Salisbury Racecourse Archived 24 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. 1 2 p45, David Boyd, A Bibliographical Dictionary of Racehorse Trainers in Berkshire 1850–1939 (1998)
  6. 1 2 Rock, Graham (6 May 2001). "Chief Whip". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  7. "Lester Piggott: 'A lot of people know I'm going to turn 80 – but I wish they didn't' | Lester Piggott". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  8. Harris, Kenneth (7 June 1970). "A living legend". The Observer Magazine. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  9. "Schoolboy rides the first winner", Daily Worker , 19 August 1948
  10. "Honours stripped: Who else has lost out?". BBC. 31 January 2012.
  11. "Lester down under", Daily Express page 51, 6 March 1995
  12. "The jockey and the younger filly: Lester Piggott leaves wife for mistress 22 years his junior". 30 May 2012.
  13. Lester's Derbys: Lester Piggott, Sean Magee: 9780413774118: Books - Amazon.ca. ASIN   0413774112.
  14. Lee, Alan (23 June 2007). "Piggott shows star quality in photofinish". The Timzes. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  15. "A century of racing - 50 greatest flat jockeys". Racing Post. 17 May 1999. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  16. Lester Piggott and Frankel the first racing greats inducted into Hall of Fame
  17. "covers library, issue 771". Private Eye. 5 July 1991. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  18. "Lesters, Margate". whatpub.com. 12 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.

Further reading