Legendary jockey Lester Piggott has died at the age of 86 after battling heart problems – 48 hours after his daughter said he was recovering in hospital.
His volatile career in the saddle, which has inspired many films and documentaries about his turbulent life, spanned almost 50 years and saw him ride 4,493 winners.
Piggott’s son-in-law, Derby winning coach William Haggas, said: “Unfortunately, we can confirm that Leicester passed away peacefully in Switzerland this morning. daughter) will make a statement later.”
Hailed as Britain’s most famous rider and nicknamed “The Long Guy” at 5’8″, he was the third most victorious rider behind the late jockeys Sir Gordon Richards and Pat Addery.
According to his daughter Maureen, Piggott, who was hospitalized in Switzerland on May 22, is getting better.
She said in Haydock Park on Saturday (05/28/22): “I went to see him earlier in the week and he is getting better, which is good news. He is much better than at the beginning of the week and hopefully he will go home either Monday or Tuesday.”
Having become champion jockey 11 times, Piggott became synonymous with the Derby, which he won a record nine times.
He has also often found himself unwittingly at the center of attention and the focus of controversy.
Notorious for being imprisoned for tax evasion, Piggott began riding as a young boy and saddled his first winner as a jockey in 1948 at the age of 12 on a horse named “The Chase” in Haydock Park.
His first Epsom Derby winner was at Never Say Die in 1954, when he was only 18 years old.
He won eight more – at Crepello (1957), St. Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Roberto (1972), Emperi (1976), Minstrel (1977) and Tinoso (1983).
On May 15, 2007, Piggott was admitted to intensive care at a Swiss hospital due to a recurrence of a previous heart problem.
His wife has stated that the illness is not life-threatening and as a precaution, he is recovering in intensive care.
He was seen at Royal Ascot that same year and at the Epsom Derby in June 2008, where he named the New Approach winner during a BBC TV interview. Piggott was also featured on Gold Cup Day at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2009, where he was interviewed at the parade.
Piggott was convicted of tax fraud in 1987 and sentenced to three years in prison.
Television presenter Rishi Persad, 48, tweeted: “Lester Piggott. The best jockey and one of the most iconic sports stars who ever lived. TEAR.”
Former jockey-turned-host Bro Scott, 79, told Racing TV: “He cast the longest shadow anyone has ever cast on racing.
“For me, he was my first and greatest hero because I was five years old when he won. He was absolutely incredible, he danced to a different tune than any jockey before or since. You can argue about his relative merits, but there has never been and never will be anyone quite like Lester Piggott.”
The Great British Racing account tweeted: “Legendary racing driver Lester Piggott has passed away at the age of 86. We extend our deepest condolences to all his family and friends at this sad time.”
And the Racing Post added: “Racing has lost one of the biggest names in the history of the sport since the death of Lester Piggott at the age of 86.”
Among the many references to Piggott in pop culture, the British band James recorded the song “Sometimes (Lester Piggott)” on their Laid album, as well as Van Morrison’s “In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll”. mentions Piggott by name in the line: “When we let it then we bet / On Lester Piggott when we met [ten to one] / And we released the goldfish.”