Sebastian Coe and leading racing figures including Willie Carson, Nicky Henderson and Sir Michael Stoute pay their respects at riding great Lester Piggott’s memorial service
- Lester Pigott, a nine-time Derby winner widely considered to be one of the greatest jockeys in 20th century
- The horse racing legend, who had a 46-year career and notched up 4,493 wins, died in May earlier this year
- Leading figures from the sport attended memorial service to pay their respects at St Luke’s Church in Chelsea
- Former rival Willie Carson described him as ‘one of the greatest jockeys we will ever see, if not the greatest’
Sebastian Coe and racing icons including Willie Carson, Nicky Henderson and Sir Michael Stoute have paid their final tributes to Lester Piggott at a memorial service.
The horse racing legend, a nine-time Derby winner widely considered to be one of the greatest jockeys in the 20th century, died aged 86 in May earlier this year.
Piggott, who had a 46-year career and notched up a total of 4,493 wins, passed away a week after he had been admitted to hospital in Switzerland, his family announced said at the time.
Tributes flooded in for the racing idol following his death and leading figures from the sport attended a memorial service to pay their respects at St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, west London, earlier today.
Speaking to Sky Sports News outside the service, former rival Mr Carson said: ‘He was one of the greatest sportsman – he was at the top of all sports. What a legend he was. I had to beat him, so he made all the jockeys better because we all had to try and beat him.
A portrait of horse racing legend Lester Piggott from the service to celebrate his life at St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, west London
Lord Sebastian Coe and William Haggas (right) pictured arriving for the service to celebrate the life of Mr Piggott. Legends from across racing attended the ceremony today
Those in attendance today included Willie Carson, Nicky Henderson, Sir Michael Stoute and Olympic champion track runner Seb Coe
Nicky Henderson (left) and his wife Diana pictured as they arrived for the service for Mr Piggott, who passed away in May earlier this year
John Gosden and his wife Rachel Hood arriving at St Luke’s Church in west London today ahead of the service to celebrate Mr Piggott’s life
Teddy Grimthorpe, 5th Baron Grimthorpe and 9th Baronet of Leeds, pictured arriving at the church ahead of the ceremony today
Horse racing trainer Nicky Henderson (left) and David Minton (right), director of Ludlow racecourse, pictured in attendance today
Shadwell Estate racing manager Angus Gold pictured outside St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, west London, to attend the service today
Bloodstock agent David Minton (right) arrives at the ceremony to celebrate the life of horse racing icon Mr Piggott earlier today
Hundreds filled St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, west London, to pay their final respects to the hugely popular nine-time Derby winner
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Imad Al Sagar, pictured arriving at the church to celebrate the life of Mr Pigott earlier today
Lester Piggott, who had a 46-year career and notched up a total of 4,493 wins, died aged 86 in May earlier this year, his family said
Sir Michael Stoute, the only trainer in the 20th century to win a Classic in five successive seasons, arriving for the service today
Trainer Michael Bell pictured arriving at St Luke’s Church wearing a blue suit, pink shirt and black patterned tie with black shoes for the service
Tributes flooded in for the racing idol following his death and leading figures from the sport attended a memorial service to pay their respects at St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, west London, earlier today
Mark Johnston, one of Britain’s leading racehorse trainers after becoming, is pictured arriving at the service to celebrate the life of Mr Piggott
‘He was a one off – he didn’t do the normal things – he did it the Lester Piggott way. That way was usually to get on the right horse to win the biggest races. He was a marvellous person at doing that and, of course, when he got on top of a horse he was naturally brilliant.
‘He always seemed to be on the right horse and was a very, very good jockey with his tactics. He understood the tactics of racing and he understood horses. He would ride a horse, work, then get on a racecourse and knew exactly what to do in the race.’
Mr Carson continued: ‘There is a lot of people who are coming here to celebrate his life. He gave me headaches, but he gave people a lot of pleasure. He was one of the greatest jockeys we will ever see, if not the greatest.
Piggott rode his first winner, The Chase, at Haydock in 1948 when he was just 12 years of age.
His last win came with Palacegate Jack at the same Merseyside track in 1994, a few weeks short of his 59th birthday. He retired for a final time in 1995.
Crowned champion jockey 11 times, Piggott first won the Derby in 1954 aboard Never Say Die. Eight more wins followed – including Nijinsky in 1970 – with his last Epsom hero being Teenoso in 1983.
Also successful in the 2000 Guineas, Nijinsky and Piggott went on to land the Triple Crown with his triumph in the St Leger.
Lord Sebastian Coe pictured on the phone outside the church ahead of the service for Mr Piggott in Chelsea, west London, today
British race horse trainer John Gosden pictured with his arm around the shoulder of his wife Rachel Hood as they arrived earlier today
British Thoroughbred racehorse trainer William Haggis (right) pictured speaking to the priest outside the church in west London today
Mark Johnston is seen looking at what appears to be an old photograph outside St Luke’s Church ahead of the service for Mr Piggott
British Thoroughbred racehorse trainer William Haggis, pictured in a blue jacket with a white shirt and light blue tie, outside the church today
John Warren, who oversaw all of the late Queen’s racing and breeding interests, acting as an adviser, pictured outside the church today
The horse racing legend, a nine-time Derby winner widely considered to be one of the greatest jockeys in the 20th century, died aged 86 in May earlier this year
Nicky Henderson (pictured outside the church) today described Mr Piggott as ‘a legend of a character’ as he attended a service in his memory
A brief training career saw Piggott saddle Cutting Blade to win the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1986, a meeting at which he rode a record 116 winners – with 10 of those coming in the Gold Cup.
Piggott was admitted to intensive care back in 2007 due to a recurrence of a heart problem, but made a swift recovery.
In 1961, Piggott married Susan Armstrong, the daughter of trainer Sam Armstrong, and the couple moved to Newmarket.
They later separated but remained married, with Piggott moving to Switzerland. Eldest daughter Maureen is married to Derby-winning trainer William Haggas and youngest daughter Tracy is a sports broadcaster with RTE in Ireland.
Piggott also left a son, Jamie, from a relationship with Anna Ludlow, his personal assistant at the time.
Speaking after his death, Rod Street, chief executive of Great British Racing said, ‘Lester was a true titan of sport, a one off who transcended horse racing.
‘To this very day, the top answer to “name a famous jockey”, remains Lester Piggott.
‘Enigmatic and reserved, it was on the track that he did his talking, with nine Derby wins amongst his 30 British Classics together with 11 Champion Jockey titles.’
Sir Michael Stoute was also quick to pay tribute to Piggott and says he will forever be grateful to Piggott for helping get his training career off the ground.
Piggott rode both an English and Irish Classic winner for the Newmarket trainer, who saddles the likely favourite Desert Crown in Saturday’s Cazoo Derby at Epsom.
‘It is sad news,’ said Stoute. ‘He rode my first winner on the Rowley Mile on a horse called Sandal, who was owned by my father, in 1972.
‘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.’
Stoute added: ‘Lester could be very entertaining when he was in the mood – he had a great sense of humour. But he was tough to talk to at times.
‘In 1980, actually, he had the pick of plenty of mine, with the hope of carrying that on, but he had fallen out with a few people by that stage.
‘He is an icon, a brilliant jockey. Many have tried to be like him and no one has come close.’
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