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The great Lester Piggott’s passing this week at the age of eighty-six has brought in tributes from just about every jockey of any consequence, all of whom have remained in awe of Piggott’s prowess in the saddle in spite of all of their own high level of achievement.

Willie Carson … five times Champion Jockey of Britain: “He was a person who made us all better, because we had to be better to beat him. We had to up our game to compete with him, because he was so magical on top of a horse.”

Frankie Dettori … “We always tried to aspire to be like him and none of us can do it. He was a hero of mine.”

And so the tributes keep coming.

That theme of unsurpassed excellence is the ultimate tribute to Piggott. It is quite incredible to think that Piggott set the bar so high all of those years ago and that those who should know best believe his equal as a jockey has yet to be seen.

Not surprising then, and totally fitting, was the announcement that Piggott’s memory would be honoured in a very special way at the running of Epsom Derby at the weekend.

The Jockey Club and the Derby sponsors Cazoo have come together to rename this year’s Derby with the ‘Cazoo Derby In Memory of Lester Piggott’ becoming the first-ever Classic run in memory of anyone.

Jockeys will wear black armbands, videos of Piggott’s legacy will be played on television screens, a wreath in the Nijinksy colours will be placed by the statue of Piggott that overlooks the Downs … and two separate minutes of applause will take place – one before racing and one before the Derby.

Speaking to attheraces, Phil White, London regional director for Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “No jockey is more synonymous with our most famous race than Lester Piggott. (Piggott won the Epsom Derby nine times).

“Running the Cazoo Derby in his memory, which we believe has not been done in the 242 previous editions of the race, is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest jockeys of the modern era and the record-holder for most wins by a rider.

“We want to give racegoers on both days the opportunity to pay their respects and celebrate the life and career of this extraordinary sportsman, and we hope that taking the unprecedented step of renaming the Derby shows the high esteem in which Lester is held.”

He added: “I would like to thank our sponsors Cazoo for accommodating this request and we hope Friday and Saturday will allow for a fitting tribute to one of the icons of our sport.”

 
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