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Legendary jockey makes 83-year-old’s birthday with surprise message

An 83-year-old racing fan had an exciting start to the new year when he received a personal video message from his “hero” Lester Piggott, thanking him for his support over the years.

The surprise message was organised by Foxholes Care Home, Hertfordshire, for resident Alfred Lewis as part of its Wish Upon A Star campaign, which tries to connect residents with their idols.

Alf’s boyhood dream was to become a jockey and he followed Lester’s career avidly, often watching him from the stands throughout the 60s and 70s.

During that time, Alf attended the Epsom Derby on 10 occasions, always backing nine-time victor Lester.

“My uncle had a farm in Essex where I used to ride the horses, probably from the age of 10 or even younger. I fell in love with the sport and always wanted to become a jockey like Lester — I was the perfect size! I would have liked to have gone to Newmarket and trained as one,” said Alf, a former British Army chef.

Lester, 85, rode 4,493 winners in his 42-year career and was champion Flat jockey on 11 occasions. He won his first race in 1948 at the age of 12 and is broadly regarded as one of the greatest Flat jockeys of all time.

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“Alf was delighted to receive a personalised message from his racing idol Lester, and we’re all delighted to see how much it meant to him – he’s followed Lester’s career very closely and has had the fortune of being able to see him race in the flesh. Receiving the surprise message made Alf’s day, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Adele Querele, activities coordinator at Foxholes.

“It’s important to make sure our residents are stimulated mentally, physically and socially – especially this year with the restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. We always try and go that extra mile to create special moments for our residents and the Wish Upon a Star project has been a great way to continue putting those all-important smiles on our residents’ faces.”

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