Nine life-size bronze statues have been created in commemoration of champion jockey Lester Piggott, 65 years since his first Derby win.
The statues have been sculpted by Willie Newton to celebrate Lester’s nine Derby wins, with the first four sculptures to be unveiled by Lester in May and June 2019 at Newmarket racecourse, Wantam Museum, and York and Epsom racecourses.
Willie Newton, who has previously created life-size bronze statues of John Oaksey and Jack Berry at the Injured Jockeys Rehabilitation Centre said: “I first met Lester when he was the subject and inspiration for the Vodafone Derby Trophy I made in 2002, so to be asked to create this very special life-size bronze of him is for me just about as important as it gets.”
The first statue will open at Newmarket racecourse on 2,000 Guineas day before being moved to its permanent home at the National Heritage Centre at Palace House.
Lester said: “I am really honoured and grateful to have this project around a race that meant so much to me and I am so looking forward to the unveilings next spring.”
Newmarket racecourse Amy Starkey said: “We are thrilled to be doing the first unveiling on 2,000 Guineas day. Lester is an institution as well as an inspiration to all of us here.”
The second statue will open at York racecourse and is being placed next to the new weighing room.
Chief executive of York racecourse William Derby said: “Lester says that the Knavesmire was always his favourite track and now all jockeys will pass his statue before going out to ride.”
The third statue will open at Wantage Museum, the town where Lester was born.
Curator of Wantage museum Suzie Tilbury said: “Horse racing is very much part of our heritage so having this bronze of racing legend and Wantage’s most famous modern-day son (King Alfred was born here back in 849 AD) is a great but also an appropriate honour for what we are doing here.”
The fourth statue can be seen at Epsom racecourse on 1 June on Derby day.
General manager of Epsom racecourse Simon Durrant said: “We already have the Piggott Gates with their great Peter O’Sullevan tribute to ‘the iconoclast who became an icon’, but to have a life-size statue of the man who dominated Epsom like no other will be a special bonus.”
This year's "Lesters" sees Piggot celebrating the achievements of top jockeys in a glittering night at the racing world's Oscars
The project began with an idea from journalist Neil Morrice, joined by Geoffrey Hughes, director of Osborne Studio Gallery and journalist Brough Scott.
Brough Scott said: “Everyone forgets, and quite soon everyone may even forget Lester Piggott. This project is to ensure that they don’t.”
The locations of the remaining five statutes are still to be confirmed.
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