A Classic Day out for Lester; RACING LEGENDS: Sir Peter O'Sullevan with Lester Piggott

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Powell

RACING legend Lester Piggott took centre stage once more yesterday atthe course where he won seven Classics in his matchless career.

On an afternoon of high emotion at Newmarket, the greatest jockey of them allwas feted by thousands of racegoers, friends and past rivals. Punters queuedpatiently for up to half an hour between races for an autograph from the manwho dominated the sport for almost half a century.

Sir Peter O'Sullevan set the tone, as he declared: 'This man is a hero.Wouldn't it be lovely if we could greet him next time as Sir Lester. Nosportsman deserves it more.' The subject of all the adulation was typicallytaciturn yesterday. Looking fit and well after a heart scare in the spring, hepreferred to leave the talking to others.

Though he did acknowledge: 'It's great to be here and a fantastic compliment to

Though he did acknowledge: 'It's great here and a fantastic compliment to haveall these races named after my Guineas winners.' Piggott was the heartbeat ofracing for six decades. He rode his first winner aged 12, in 1948, had hisfirst ride in the Derby at 15 and finished second on Gay Time, in 1952.

Two years later, he won the Derby for the first of nine times on Never Say Die.

The following month his refusal to be intimidated by senior jockeys on the samehorse at Ascot cost him a sixmonth suspension for rough riding..

Piggott was too tall and unorthodox to be the perfect jockey, but overcamethose difficulties to record over 5,000 winners around the world, ninechampionships and a record 30 Classics.

Through it all he was essentially a loner, a free spirit, with a mystique thatmade him the one jockey in the world everyone wanted to see. …