If someone knows very little about racing, they still know about Lester Piggott, who turns 80 today (5 November 2015).
With 4,493 British winners to his name — including nine Derbys, eight St Legers, six Oaks, five 2,000 Guineas, two 1,000 Guineas and 116 Royal Ascot victories — the former Flat jockey became a household name at the height of his career, and he remains synonymous with the sport today.
Unusually tall for a Flat jockey at nearly 5ft8in, Lester was known as the “Long Fellow“, but still managed to keep his weight down to 8st 5lb.
He won his first race on the Flat at just 12-years-old, at Haydock Park in August 1948 and conincidentally his 4,493rd and last win was also at Haydock, in October 1994.
No one will forget his comeback to the saddle in 1990, aged 54, when he took the Breeders’ Cup Mile with Royal Academy. By then, Lester had been out of the saddle for five years, including a stint in prison following his conviction for tax evasion.
Whether it is that comeback that stands out, or any one of his nine Derby wins, Lester has achieved more than most can hope to by the age of 80.
We celebrate Lester Piggott’s 80th birthday in pictures
Lester, aged 12, sits on a fence at his father Keith’s stables in Lambourn in 1948.
Lester on Meadow Court at Ascot, on whom he won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1965. He went on to win the race seven times in total with Aunt Edith (1966), Park Top (1969), Nijinsky (1970), Dahlia (1974), The Minstrel (1977) and Teenoso (1984).
Lester rides the Vincent O’Brien-trained Nijinsky, who he won the 1970 Derby on. He first rode in the race at 15 and his other eight Derby wins were with Never Say Die in 1954, when Lester was just 18-years-old, with Crepello (1957), St. Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Roberto (1972), Empery (1976), The Minstrel (1977) and his last win was in 1983 with Teenoso, when Lester was 47.
Lester having won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with the Vincent O’Brien-trained Alleged in 1977. The pair went on to reclaim the title the following year, with Lester having already won it in 1973 with the Barry Hill-trained Rheingold.