Tuesday 21 October 2014

Jamie Piggott: apprentice legend

Lester's son, Tracy's brother, Keith's grandson, Ernest's great grandson – the young jockey has lots to live up to . . . No pressure then.

Jamie Piggott, pictured at RACE, Curragh house in Kildare. Photo: El Keegan
Jamie Piggott pictured with his sister Tracy.
Jamie Piggott pictured with his sister Tracy.
Lester on Desert Orchid with Jamie when he was four, and mum Anna Ludlow.

Son of legendary jockey Lester and younger brother to former jockey and racing pundit Tracy, Jamie Piggott comes from a rich heritage of horse-racing stock.

The young jockey was also born into a family that have deep roots as jockeys and trainers, with Jamie's great grandfather Ernest Piggott winning three Grand Nationals in 1912, 1918 and 1919 and his grandfather Keith Piggott riding a Champion Hurdle winner in 1939.

"It's just my family to me. I feel very proud to look back and see the success that my ancestors and current family have enjoyed in the world of horse racing."

The 20-year-old from Newmarket in Suffolk, England, is currently based in Cashel, Co Tipperary, as during the racing season he works for trainer Aidan O'Brien and former National Hunt racing jockey and now trainer Tommy Stack.

"My father rode at Aidan's yard, which is called Ballydoyle, about 40 years ago. At that time it was occupied by legendary trainer Vincent O'Brien. It's a great honour to be riding somewhere with so much history, and the same place that my father shared in so much success," says Jamie.

It was inevitable coming from a famous racing family with a father at the helm who was an 11-time champion and nine-time Derby winner riding more than 5,000 winners, that horses were to become Jamie's great passion from an early age.

"I've always been involved with horses and horse racing. I learnt to ride growing up in Newmarket and first rode a racehorse out for trainer Rae Guest in my school holidays, when I was 12 years of age. I got some lessons on the basics of exercising racehorses from the instructors at the British racing school."

However, it was always made clear to the young jockey by his parents Lester Piggott and Anna Ludlow that education must come first.

"For this reason it was difficult to gain much experience or strength at riding, as I would ride for a few weeks of the holidays and then lose the fitness and confidence before the next time."

During his final two years at school, he focused on maths and science before taking part in the Irish pony racing circuit where he completed a few races.

"I completed my A-levels in maths and three sciences before giving riding a go. I did less riding and more work in other areas of racing, such as at the racehorse sales, equine veterinary practices, and on stud farms."

Coming to Ireland in July 2012 after finishing his exams, he went to work as a stud hand at Coolmore Stud in Fethard, Co Tipperary, the world's largest breeding operation of thoroughbred racehorses.

"I wasn't riding but instead preparing the yearlings, young horses of between one and two years old for either the horse sales, or to go into training in a racing yard.

"I've only been riding properly since November 2012. I've been riding out in Tommy Stack's and have been there full time since before the winter – hopefully, I can make a career of being a jockey now."

Lester went on to become a teenage sensation, riding his first winner of the Epsom Derby on Never Say Die in 1954 aged 18 years and winning an astonishing eight more.

So what's it like to be a son of the jockey affectionately known as 'The Long Fellow' who had such a sparkling and accomplished career as one of the most well-known English flat racing jockeys of all time?

"To be honest, I don't know any different. There's a lot of pressure when I ride, not from him, but because everyone expects more from me than usual."

Irish Independent

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