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Celebration for the greatest everPosted on Thursday 5th November 2015 @ 12.56

Lester Piggott, surely the greatest flat jockey of all time, celebrated his 80th birthday today (November 5th).

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He was tall for a flat jockey at 5ft 8in but could ride at 8st 5lb and was famously able to transfer his weight into sheer strength in a finish.

He was also incredibly well balanced and his high seat allowed a horse to gallop freely in a race rather than have its movement inhibited in any way and then in the finish, when the whips were drawn, he was in perfect motion with his mount's stride, as he galvanised every ounce of effort in the shadow of the post.

He was his own man and not easy to deal with and controversy was never far away. His obsession with money may have fuelled his incredible will to win in the saddle but it also landed him in trouble in 1987 when he was jailed for tax evasion.

But we should remember his incredible achievements on the racecourse. The boy who made his riding debut in 1948 grew into a legend who won 11 champion jockey titles and 30 Classic victories - including an amazing nine wins in the Epsom Derby - during his 47-year career.

He rode 5,300 winners in more than 30 countries and as one of the most successful and highest paid sportsmen of his era, was a household name.

After he was released from prison he came out of retirement in 1990 to land a famous victory on Royal Academy in the Breeders' Cup Mile to again make the headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.

Piggott was the public choice in so many big races and was also the pick of shrewd punters who simply had to factor in the Piggott effect to their calculations. He could get more out of a horse than any other jockey before or since and many of his big-race rides are legendary.

None were better in my opinion than Epsom in June 1977 when he galvanised The Minstrel to come with a lethal challenge on the outside of Willie Carson and Hot Grove. The pair battled out a great finish but really there could only be one outcome as 'The Long Fellow' was not going to be denied in the premier Classic.

It is worth a watch again.

Brian George

Article Posted on Thursday 5th November 2015 @ 12.56

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