Mayor leads tributes to Newmarket legend Lester Piggott
- Credit: PA
The Mayor of Newmarket has led tributes to legendary jockey Lester Piggott, who has died in hospital in Switzerland aged 86.
Philippa Winter said she had known the nine times Derby winner, who owned stables in the town, for 65 years and the horse The Chase, which he rode to his first win at Haydock in 1948, was owned by her mother.
She added: “He was very kind and generous and very amusing company. He was a very important person around Newmarket and everybody respected him because of his tremendous ability.
“He was not a very talkative character, he was quite shy, but you knew that he was greatly respected by all his peers.”
The death of Mr Piggott, who rode 4,493 winners on the flat, was announced on Sunday by his son-in-law, Derby-winning trainer William Haggas.
Trainer Sir Michael Stoute described Mr Piggott as a "genius on a racehorse".
He said: “"It is sad news. He rode my first winner on the Rowley Mile on a horse called Sandal, who was owned by my father, in 1972.
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"He won the Irish Derby on Shergar (1981) and he won the 2000 Guineas on Shadeed (1985), as Walter (Swinburn) was suspended for both of those. He was super-sub and he was not a bad sub.
"Lester was a genius on a racehorse. I don't think there has been anyone better."
Fellow jockey Willie Carson, who was a rival to Mr Piggott during the 1970s and 80s, said he was the most ‘iconic’ racing figure of the 20th century.
He said: "I feel as though I have lost part of my life in a way, as Lester has been part of my life ever since I came into racing.
"I came to his in-laws as an apprentice and he was part of my life right from the word go, until the end. He was an iconic figure in the horse racing world. He is a legend.
"We had the luck of some ding-dongs on the track and he was a person who made us all better - because we had to be better to beat him. We had to up our game to compete with him, because he was so magical on top of a horse."
Key numbers and dates in Lester Piggott’s career:
1948- Rode his first winner The Chase at Haydock
1954 - won the Derby for the first time aboard Never Say Die
11- the number of times he has been crowned champion jockey
1966 - had his best season with 191 winners
1982 - rode his 4,000th winner with Sparkling Sin at Nottingham
4,493 - the number of winners on the flat
5 - the number of 2000 Guineas winners
11 - Ascot Gold Cup winners
116 - the number of Royal Ascot winners
54 - the age at which he rode his last winner
1995 - the year of his retirement