Piggott 2,000 Guineas: To mark the 60th anniversary since he claimed his first victory in the 2,000 Guineas aboard Crepello, Lester Piggott has spoken about that momentous year, 1957, during which he claimed no fewer than eight races which now make up the QIPCO British Champions Series.
These include the King’s Stand and Gold Cup at Royal Ascot; the Eclipse and the July Cup and Falmouth Stakes.
He and Crepello also went on to win the Derby that year and Lester also gave Her Majesty the Queen a first Classic victory when landing the Oaks with Carrozza.
Recalling Crepello on a recent trip to the National Heritage Centre in Newmarket, and ahead of this year’s renewal of the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas on Saturday 6th May, Lester said, “He was a great horse really but nobody ever saw the best of him. He was bred to stay two miles and he ran the first time over five furlongs at Ascot and he just got beat. After that he didn’t run again until the Middle Park and then he won the Dewhurst. He only had the two races as a three year old and he won both of them, but not by very far. He was a much better horse than he ever really showed.”
The video of the interview with Sean Magee is courtesy of QIPCO British Champions Series:
After that initial 2,000 Guineas win on Crepello, Lester had to wait another 11 years before the majestic Sir Ivor provided him with a second. His final 2,000 Guineas victory – and his last Classic – came at the age of 56 aboard Rodrigo De Triano, for Peter Chapple-Hyam, in 1992.
One of the greatest jockeys to grace the sport – if not the greatest – Piggott rode his first winner at the age of 12 in 1948 and enjoyed his last in the autumn of 1994 before retiring the following year.
Champion jockey 11 times, he rode almost 4,500 winners in Britain during a period when there is nothing like the amount of racing we have nowadays. Thirty of those victories were in British Classics – that is still six more than Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore have managed between them – and it is difficult to think of any significant race which eluded him.
In many of the top contests which now comprise the QIPCO British Champions Series, backing him blind often paid dividends. He enjoyed ten triumphs in the July Cup, for example, and, at the other end of the speed spectrum, 11 in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. It is unlikely his nine Derby wins will ever be matched.
At 5ft 8in, he was tall for a Flat jockey and, with his upright stance, often imitated since, he became known simply as The Long Fellow.
Piggott was a man of few words off the track, but had a sharp wit. “A good jockey doesn’t need orders and a bad jockey couldn’t carry them out; so it’s best not to give them any,” he was credited with saying.
Now, 60 years on from that first 2,000 Guineas win, Lester is still an avid racing fan. He says he was impressed by the 2,000 Guineas trial wins of Eminent, Barney Roy and Al Wukair but remains convinced that Churchill is the one to beat.
Main picture: Crepello winning the 1957 2,000 Guineas, courtesy of QIPCO British Champions Series.
Recalling the Triple Crown
Legendary jockey Lester Piggott, was the last rider to win racing’s Triple Crown in 1970 on Nijinsky (pictured above, courtesy of Great British Racing).
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. Speaking to Sky Sports News Radio, he recalled his St Leger experience – the final leg required to clinch the Triple Crown.
He said, “Nijinsky was bred for speed and we were never sure whether he would get a mile and a half, never mind the St Leger trip [of 1 mile and 6 furlongs]. There was always that doubt because he was by Northern Dancer and that was all speed.”
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.”
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