Lester Piggott, the pre-eminent post-war jockey and a figure who transcended racing when the derby’s popularity was at its peak, has died at the age of 86.
“Unfortunately we can confirm that Leicester passed away peacefully in Switzerland this morning,” said William Haggas, brother-in-law of Pigot, derby-winning coach. “I really don’t want to add any more at this point.” [my wife] Maureen will make a statement later.”
Piggott was nicknamed “The Long Fellow” due to his relative height among jockeys at 5 feet 8 inches, but he became known as “The Housewife’s Favorite” when he won nine derbies and made the Epsom Classic the most famous race in the world. . It was Piggott’s influence on racing that devised a new “shorter” style of racing using raised stirrup skins that changed the art of boat racing.
His father, Keith, a former jump racing champion turned coach, gave his son his first public ride in 1948 when he was 12, winning The Chase at Haydock and laying the foundation for an illustrious career in the saddle.
Piggott won his first derby at the age of 18 in Never Say Die and was the 11-time Jockey Champion between 1960 and 1982. Despite his size, there was no longer a natural rider in the saddle during the sport’s golden age that included competitors Pat Edery and Willie Carson .
The controversy didn’t go away from Piggott during and after his turf career, and he was banned from the track “until further notice” because the hosts reported his “dangerous driving” at Never Say Die at Royal Ascot just weeks after his designated Epsom win. He returned six months later and in 1955 replaced retired Sir Gordon Richards, his only rival to the leading jockey of the 20th century, for first place in British racing as Noel Morellis.
Piggott’s association with Murless, and his subsequent associations with Vincent O’Brien and Henry Cecil, laid the foundation for his dominance at the sport’s upper echelons, culminating in 1970 with the completion of the Triple Crown 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger on Nijinsky, with a performance hitherto unparalleled.
Piggott first retired in 1985, but his burgeoning coaching career was interrupted when he was dramatically imprisoned for tax fraud. He was stripped of his OBE before being paroled a year later in 1988. He then stunned the sports world when he returned to the saddle in 1990, a comeback that spawned within days a fairy tale as he led a daring journey to the Royal Academy to win the Breeders Cup in America.
Piggott won his 30th and final classic riding Rodrigo de Triano at the 2000 Genius in 1992, but he didn’t cut his boots forever until 1995.