Legendary jockey Lester Piggott, the last rider to win racing’s Triple Crown of the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger in 1970 on Nijinsky, recalls the day and considers Camelot’s chances of collecting the Crown in the Ladbrokes St Leger on Saturday 15th September.
Lester partnered Nijinsky to glory during the summer of 1970 when the pair picked up top honours in the three Classics which make up racing’s Triple Crown – the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger. Even though Camelot is bidding for the same honours the jockey believes there are significant differences between the two horses.
He said, “Nijinsky was bred for much more speed than Camelot and we were never sure whether he would get a mile and a half, never mind the St Leger trip [of 1mile and 6 furlongs]. There was always that doubt because he was by Northern Dancer and that was all speed. Camelot is bred differently – he’s bred to stay a St Leger trip.”
And things didn’t exactly go to plan before the race. Lester said, “What I remember about the St Leger is that I had a ride in the first race that day and coming out of the stalls the horse suddenly swerved to the right and I came off…The Police had a message to say I’d been shot at on this horse when I came off so there was big security in place when Nijinsky came out of the stables to be saddled. So we were being watched all of the time – I didn’t know anything about it but that’s what they told me afterwards.”
The race itself, however, was considerably simpler: “I tried to save him as much as possible because he was going to run in the Arc de Triomphe afterwards so I didn’t want to win by 10 lengths – so I only let him do enough… It was just a nice race really. They didn’t go too fast and it was a nice even pace all the way – and he came there very easily so it was only a matter of just riding for a couple of hundred yards.”
And Lester believes Camelot is pretty much a certainty to emulate Nijinsky’s achievement: “It should be quite straightforward really, there aren’t many runners in the race and he has the finishing speed – he should kill them over the last furlong and a half…I’d love to see Camelot win just to show how good he is.”
Lester Piggott spoke exclusively to Sky Sports News Radio which has allowed the full interview to be featured on www.Lovetheraces.com. This year’s Ladbrokes St Leger, which is part of the Qipco British Champions Series, takes place at 3.45pm on Saturday 15th September at Doncaster racecourse and will be televised live on Channel 4.