La Gaceta De Mexico - Five great Lester Piggott rides

Five great Lester Piggott rides
Five great Lester Piggott rides / Photo: © PA/AFP

Five great Lester Piggott rides

AFP Sport picks out five great rides by legendary jockey Lester Piggott who died on Sunday aged 86:

Text size:

Sir Ivor - 1968 Epsom Derby

Toss up probably between Sir Ivor and Nijinsky as to which was the better Derby winner. Both were trained by the remarkable Irishman Vincent O'Brien and ridden by Piggott. O'Brien had placed a £500 bet on Sir Ivor to win at odds of 100/1 the year before but he looked far from a winner approaching the final furlong. The race had been seemingly stolen by 19-year-old Sandy Barclay on Connaught. However, an ice cool Piggott then played his whip hand and from being three lengths in arrears he turned it into a 1 1/2 length margin of victory. "Of all my nine Derbies Sir Ivor's was undoubtedly the most exciting," Piggott reflected years later.

Roberto - 1972 Epsom Derby

Perhaps the least popular of Piggott's nine Derby wins because he was seen to have jocked off the popular Australian Bill Williamson but in the end he got the result that O'Brien desired. Beautifully positioned throughout on the rails he looked to have been caught out by Rheingold who took the lead entering the final furlong. Piggott went for the whip -- Rheingold's jockey Ernie Johnson curiously using just hands and heels -- and conjured up a rousing finishing burst to take the honours. Piggott returned to a mixed reception from the crowd but his mastery of the tricky undulating track contrasted to that of French jockey Freddie Head who went so wide on the final bend on Lyphard he never shook off the nickname of 'Tattenham Corner Freddie'.

Alleged - 1977 Arc de Triomphe

A sublime ride which epitomised the innate ability of the 'Long Fellow' to lead from the front and not allow anything to get past him almost like he had an in-built clock in setting the pace. He and the O'Brien-trained runner came to the Arc with something to prove having suffered his only defeat in the English St Leger behind Queen Elizabeth II's filly Dunfermline. However, Piggott didn't allow the British monarch's runner nor the other 24 rivals to land a blow as he upped the pace on turning for home and opened a four length lead. He ultimately guided the Robert Sangster-owned colt home to a 1 1/2 length win over New Zealand-bred Balmerino. They were to return the next year and win it again but this time coming from off the pace.

The Minstrel - 1977 Epsom Derby

Another O'Brien-Sangster-Piggott combination and an eye-catching individual with his four white socks who had cost the Vernons Pools heir $200,000 in Kentucky as a yearling which in those days was a small fortune. He arrived at Epsom on the back of two defeats in the Mile classics English and Irish 2000 Guineas but the famously picky Piggott had told Sangster if he ran in the Derby he would ride him. O'Brien's meticulous attention to detail saw The Minstrel go off with cotton wool stuffed in his ears to cut out the crowd noise. Piggott kept him off the pace until they came down Tattenham Corner and turned to meet the judge. However, Willie Carson on Hot Grove had stolen a march on them and were several lengths clear. Piggott did not spare the whip driving his mount down the straight and fought out a thrilling duel with Carson. Piggott and The Minstrel prevailed by a neck.

Royal Academy - 1990 Breeder's Cup Mile

The ride that brought the house down and provoked many tears, though, not from the great man 'Old Stoneface' himself. He did allow himself a smile as he returned to a thunderous reception and no wonder as aged 54 and only recently returned to the saddle from a five year hiatus -- one of those spent in prison for tax avoidance -- he conjured up one of his trademark driving finishes bringing the O'Brien trained horse from six lengths off the lead on the turn to edge it in the dying strides. "This man is unbelievable" opined the commentator. Piggott simply said "I needed a large dose of luck even to be here."