Horse racing owes Lester Piggott a “huge debt of gratitude”, the Professional Jockeys Association said on Monday in a fitting tribute to the late, great rider.
Piggott’s family announced on Sunday the 11-times champion had died peacefully in Switzerland at the age of 86, leading to an outpouring of emotion from the racing world.
The PJA released a statement praising not only his achievements on the track, but also his work off it.
“Lester Piggott was a true icon of the sport whose name and impressive racing achievements are known not only in this country, but throughout the world,” the statement read.
“He carried an aura about him both on and off the track that no other jockey could emulate. His phenomenal riding record was achieved before Sunday or all-weather racing extended the season to its current level, and without the benefit of travel and technology advances jockeys have today.
“Horse racing owes Lester a huge debt of gratitude, as indeed do all jockeys both past and present. When Lester was riding at a meeting, thousands of fans attended – Lester didn’t need a marketing team or a business card. Ask any jockey riding or retired, beating Lester in a tight finish was an achievement, whether they managed it once or multiple times.
“Lester was one of the group of jockeys who founded the Flat Race Jockeys Association of Great Britain in 1966. He made ad hoc donations to the association, particularly in the early days when it was short of operating funds. He was also at the forefront in pushing the authorities for better conditions and expenses for jockeys, which included making representations to the Jockey Club in London.
“Lester was elected Vice President of the Flat Race Jockeys Association from its inception and remained so when the Flat Racing and National Hunt Jockeys Associations amalgamated in 1969 and became the Jockeys Association of Great Britain Limited (JAGB). He was elected President of the JAGB in 1978 taking over the role from Robert Sangster and relinquished this role on his retirement in 1986. The JABG then rebranded in 2008 when the Professional Jockeys Association was formed.
“Lester showed great interest in the work of the association and gave wise counsel. After his retirement he continued his support donating memorabilia and attending functions, none more so than the annual jockeys’ award ceremony (Lesters) named after the great man.
“The Lesters were inaugurated in 1991, and he attended the event regularly, enjoying the adulation of his many fans. We plan to restart the popular event again in London early next year. Lester would no doubt approve.
“On behalf of the members of the Professional Jockeys Association both past and present, we send our sincere condolences to Lester’s family and friends at this sad time. RIP Long Fellow.”