The iconic jockey Lester Pigot is dead at the age of 86 after battling heart problems – 48 hours after his daughter said she was recovering in hospital.
His lively career in the saddle, which inspired many films and documentaries about his turbulent life, lasted almost 50 years and saw him ride 4493 winners.
Pigot’s son-in-law, the coach who won the Derby, William Hagas, said: “Unfortunately, we can confirm that Leicester died peacefully in Switzerland this morning. I really don’t want to add much more than that at this point, although Maureen (Pigot’s daughter) will make a statement later. “
Hailed as Britain’s most famous rider and dubbed the “Long Friend” for being 5 feet 8 inches tall, it was the third highest number of victories since the late jockeys Sir Gordon Richards and Pat Edry.
His daughter Maureen said Pigot, who was hospitalized in Switzerland on May 22, was improving.
She said at Haydock Park on Saturday (28.05.22): “I went to see him earlier in the week and he is improving, which is good news. He is much better than he was earlier in the week and we hope to return home on Monday or Tuesday.
Crowned jockey champion 11 times, Pigot became synonymous with the Derby, which won a record nine times.
He also often unknowingly finds himself in the spotlight and reflections of controversy.
Known in prison for tax evasion, Pigot began riding as a young boy and rode his first winner as a jockey in 1948 at the age of 12 on a horse called ‘The Chase’ in Haydock Park.
His first Epsom derby winner was Never Say Die in 1954, when he was just 18 years old.
He then won eight more – at Crepello (1957), St. Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Roberto (1972), Imperi (1976), The Minstrel (1977) and Tinozo (1983).
On May 15, 2007, Pigot was admitted to intensive care at a Swiss hospital after a recurrence of a previous heart problem.
It is said that the disease is not life-threatening and he is recovering in intensive care as a precaution.
Pigot, who broke up with his wife Susan Armstrong, was seen at Royal Ascot the same year and at Epsom Derby in June 2008, where he tipped the winner, New Approach, during a BBC television interview.
He was also presented for the Golden Cup Day at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2009, where he was interviewed in the parade ring.
Pigot was convicted of tax fraud in 1987 and sentenced to three years in prison.
Rishi Persad, a 48-year-old TV presenter, wrote on Twitter: “Lester Pigot. The best jockey and one of the most iconic sports stars who have ever lived. REST IN PEACE.”
The 79-year-old former jockey, Bruce Scott, told Racing TV: “He cast the longest shadow anyone has ever cast on a race.
“For me, he was my first and greatest hero, because I was five when he raised his first winner. He was quite amazing, dancing to a different tune than any jockey before or after. You can argue about its relative merits, but there has never been and never will be someone like Leicester Pigot. ”
The Great British Racing account wrote on Twitter: “Lester Pigot, the legendary rider, has died at the age of 86. We send our deepest condolences to his entire family and friends in this sad time. “
And the Racing Post added: “Racing has lost one of the biggest names in the history of the sport since the death of Leicester Pigot at the age of 86.
Among the many mentions of Piggott in pop culture, the British band “James” recorded a song called “Sometimes (Lester Piggott)” on their album “Laid”, as well as Van Morrison’s song “In the Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll” also mentions Pigot by name in the line: “When we allow, then we bet / On Leicester Pigot, when we met [ten to one] / And we released the goldfish. “