Britain’s most famous jockey Lester Piggott has died at the age of 86. The legendary rider’s amazing career spanned almost 50 years and saw him ride 4,493 winners – the third highest tally in British racing history behind only Sir Gordon Richards and Pat Eddery.
His death was announced on Sunday morning by his son-in-law and racehorse trainer William Haggas. Piggott was crowned champion jockey 11 times and his name became synonymous with the Derby, which he won a record nine times, the tally part of a haul of 30 Classic successes.
Remarkably, he rode his first winner as a jockey in 1948, aged just 12 years old, on a horse called The Chase at Haydock Park. He became a teenage sensation and rode his first Derby winner at Epsom on Never Say Die in 1954, aged just 18.
He 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). Dubbed ‘The Long Fellow’ he was 5ft 8in tall and he had a knack of getting out of trouble on and off the course. But apart from his genius in the saddle, Piggott often, unwittingly, found himself in the limelight.
He courted controversy off the racetrack with a complex personal life and famously being jailed for tax evasion. One of his most famously when he returned from retirement and a spell in prison to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Royal Academy at the age of 54 in 1990.
Racing broadcaster and journalist Brough Scott led the tributes. Speaking on Racing TV he said: “He cast the longest shadow anyone has ever cast over racing. He was my first and greatest hero.
“He was quite incredible. He danced to a different tune than any jockey before or since. There has never been and never will be anyone like Lester Piggott.”