Horse racing world pays tribute to 'legend' Lester Piggott following jockey's death

Sky News

Legendary jockey Lester Piggott has died aged 86, his son-in-law has said.

Piggott, who won the Derby nine times, had been in hospital in Switzerland.

During a career lasting almost 50 years, he rode 4,493 winners, the first coming at the age of 12 at Haydock Park in 1948.

Lester Piggott photographed in 2019
Piggott photographed in 2019

His final victory was on the same Merseyside course in 1994, a few weeks before his 59th birthday. He retired the following year.

Piggott was crowned champion jockey 11 times between 1960 and 1982 and was inducted into the British Champions Series Hall of Fame last year.

In a low point, he served 366 days of a three-year prison sentence handed down in 1987 for tax evasion and was stripped of his OBE.

Lester Piggott receiving the Ritz Club trophy from the Queen Mother in 1981
Piggott receiving the Ritz Club trophy from the Queen Mother in 1981

Piggot’s son-in-law, Derby-winning trainer William Haggas, said: “Sadly we can confirm that Lester died peacefully in Switzerland this morning.

“I really don’t wish to add much more than that at this stage, although Maureen (Maureen Haggas, Piggott’s daughter) will be making a statement later.”

Fellow jockey Willie Carson, who rode against Piggott in the 1970s and 80s, said: “I feel as though I have lost part of my life in a way, as Lester has been part of my life ever since I came into racing.

“I came to his in-laws as an apprentice and he was part of my life right from the word go until the end. He was an iconic figure in the horse racing world. He is a legend.”

Lester Piggott in 1966
Piggott in 1966

Frankie Dettori said it was a “shock” to hear the news of Piggott’s death, adding: “Lester was a hero of mine and a good friend. The impact he has made in racing, on all of us, is second to none.

“I am not old enough to remember him riding when he was in his peak but, as a professional jockey, we all grew up wanting to be like him.”

Born in November 1935 in Wantage, Berkshire, Piggott is regarded as one of the greatest flat racing jockeys.

Tall for a jockey at 5ft 8in, he was known as “The Long Fellow” and kept himself 30lbs (14kg) under his natural weight to remain competitive.

Lester Piggott, with the Queen, on her Oaks winner, Carrozza, in 1957
Piggott with the Queen, on her Oaks winner, Carrozza, in 1957

From a racing family, he began racing horses from his father’s stable when he was 10 and went on to become a teenage sensation.

His father, Keith, trained a Grand National winner while his grandfather, Ernest, won the famous steeplechase three times.

Piggott married Susan Armstrong, the daughter of trainer Sam Armstrong, in 1961 and the couple moved to Newmarket.

They later separated but remained married. In addition to elder daughter Maureen there was another daughter, Tracy.

Piggott also leaves son Jamie from a relationship with personal assistant Anna Ludlow.

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