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Racing on 09.08.2022
He was a legend in his own lifetime - on the death of Lester Piggott

A good week has passed since the death of a legend: Lester Piggott, who already made history during his lifetime, passed away at the age of 86. The racing world mourns the loss of one of the greatest personalities ever.

Piggott, who passed away peacefully in Switzerland after a hospital stay, was known worldwide for his hugely successful riding career that lasted almost 50 years and remained Britain`s most famous jockey long after he retired from the saddle.

This was partly due to his long career, which enabled him to ride a phenomenal 4,493 winners in England, the third highest number in British racing history behind Sir Gordon Richards and Pat Eddery, and an astonishing haul of major races. He won the Derby a record nine times, including with 1970 Triple Crown winner Nijinsky.

"He was as well made for the job as the horses he piloted".

This was due in part to the way a man nicknamed "The Long Fellow" and standing at 6-foot-3, 30 pounds under his natural body weight struggled to ride, and his uncanny ability to bounce back from adversity on and off the track. He became most famous when he returned from retirement and a stint in prison to win the 1990 Breeders` Cup Mile at the age of 54 on Royal Academy.

Piggott was as well made for the job as the horses he piloted. His grandfather Ernie rode three Grand National winners and his father Keith won the Champion Hurdle as a jockey and the Grand National as a trainer.

He rode his first win aged just 12 on The Chase at Haydock in 1948, and the three-time Champion apprentice won his first Derby at 18 on Never Say Die in 1954.

Between 1960 and 1982, Piggott was champion jockey 11 times and won a record 30 British classics. After initially retiring in 1985, his training career was cut short by a tax fraud conviction that earned him a year in prison, and he rode for four more seasons after his shock return to the saddle.

"He was magical when he was on a horse"

Piggott`s former Libra colleague Willie Carson paid tribute to the legendary rider, describing him as "magical on a horse". Carson said, "Lester was an icon of racing and changed the way things were done from his early days to his retirement. Most jockeys have benefited from his efforts, because of him we all had to improve our e riding.

"He was magical when he was on a horse. He had that confidence and didn`t care what people would think about him. He just got on and did what he thought was right for the horse - and it usually was. He had a feel for the animal and knew what a horse was thinking. He knew what a horse wanted, whether it was hard or soft, whether it wanted to hold on or use its stride, and he always seemed to get it right.

He said, "Lester walked around with an aura, and he was always in charge. Everyone looked up to him and watched him. He was also a very caring man. If a jockey got injured and ended up in hospital, he was one of the few people to visit him.

"We had many battles over the years and I look back with very fond memories.

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