Over 5000 victories, plus nine statues on English racetracks: Lester Piggott is an absolute legend. He is the most successful jockey of the post-war period. Always humble, never pushy. But there is also a black spot in his vita.
He always remained modest, Lester Piggott never wanted to focus on himself. "Fame is a fleeting companion, it fades over time," he said in 2015 in one of the few interviews he gave after retiring in 1995: "The older ones may still know me, but the younger ones will hardly know who I am. Times change." The most successful jockey of the post-war period has now died in a Geneva hospital at the age of 86.
Even stating that Lester Piggott was a legend in his sport probably falls short. Despite his unusual height of 1.73 meters for a jockey, "the tall guy" won more than 5000 races in his career, including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe three times in Paris. His first win came in 1948 as a 12-year-old riding The Chase at Haydock, his last with Palacegate Jack just before his 59th birthday in 1994 on the same track.
Piggott also won the German Derby three times on the racecourse in Hamburg-Horn, including his unforgettable triumph in 1957 on the Erlenhofer Orsini. Piggott repeated this success in 1963 on Fanfar and four years later on Luciano. He was also successful in Germany in the 1967 Diana Prize on the Grafenberg in Düsseldorf and in the 1983 Europa Prize in Cologne-Weidenpesch.
There are statues of Piggott on nine English tracks and just last week one was unveiled on Ireland's famous track, The Curragh. There is definitely a black spot in his CV. After his first resignation in 1985, the harshness of the law caught him: Piggott was convicted of tax evasion in 1987 and sent to prison for a year. After his release - not least because of certain financial difficulties - he got back in the saddle to do what he did best. And how he still could: In 1990 at the age of 54 he won the Breeders' Cup Mile at Royal Academy.
On Sunday, Piggott's son-in-law William Haggas confirmed what the scene had feared for days. "Lester passed away peacefully this morning. I do not wish to comment further at this time, although Maureen (Piggott's daughter, ed.) will make a statement later." Piggott was hospitalized last weekend, the exact reasons are not yet known. In 2007, his life was hanging by a thread, when he spent longer in the intensive care unit due to acute heart problems.