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I'm devastated RTÉ doesn't want me back and wish I'd had more warning - Piggott

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Emotional: Tracy Piggott, who has presented horse racing on RTÉ since 1989, at home in  
Co Kildare. Photo: Tony Gavin

Emotional: Tracy Piggott, who has presented horse racing on RTÉ since 1989, at home in Co Kildare. Photo: Tony Gavin

Emotional: Tracy Piggott, who has presented horse racing on RTÉ since 1989, at home in Co Kildare. Photo: Tony Gavin

Racing presenter Tracy Piggott (54) has said she is "devastated" at RTÉ's decision not to renew her annual contract.

She received confirmation this week that, after 30 years fronting some of the country's biggest race meetings, the broadcaster will not be using her for its racing coverage in 2020.

"From what I can gather, I am no longer part of the RTÉ team anymore," she told the Irish Independent.

"I was told that they were not renewing my contract, that they were looking to bring in fresh faces, which is fine - but I wasn't expecting it.

"If I had a bit more warning, I could have been able to make other plans. I'm a single parent with a daughter due to start secondary school this September."

She fronted RTÉ's racing coverage for the past three decades - starting back in 1989 - along with Robert Hall, who will present his final programme on Sunday from Leopardstown, with Hugh Cahill in line to take over.

Piggott - whose father Lester was one of the world's leading flat-race jockeys - said the writing was on the wall for her towards the end of 2019, but she only got confirmation from RTÉ yesterday.

"It was something that I was led to believe towards the end of last year could be on the cards.

"But I was hoping we could come up with a solution. I have so enjoyed the time that I've had with RTÉ and obviously it was something that I wanted to continue doing," she said.

"But I'm no longer with them, which is devastating. I feel very emotional about it. It's been such a huge part of my life and, at the same time, I just have to accept this is the decision that's been made.

"I have to keep things in perspective but I suppose it's just the abruptness of it. It has come out of the blue.

"While I was with RTÉ, I wasn't able to take other work so I just would have liked a bit more lead-in time to make plans and set up another source of income."

Looking back over her long career with the RTÉ racing team, she cited numerous highlights, like the Jessica Harrington-trained horse Our Duke winning the 2017 Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. He was a horse she knew very well, given that she used to ride him out on the morning gallops every day before he died suddenly in 2018.

Interviewing her famous father, who was Champion Jockey 11 times over his illustrious time in the saddle, was another career highlight for her. Lester struck up a legendary partnership with the late Ballydoyle supremo Vincent O'Brien during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

She also paid tribute to the Irish racing fraternity for its support over the years, in addition to members of the public who she said were "fantastic".

"The trainers and the owners and the general public have been so fantastic over the years," she said.

"I'll just miss all the people and the support was amazing so there is just a sense of sadness there. But I don't feel any bitterness, I'm just not made that way. Life's too short."

The Co Kildare-based commentator said she had plenty to keep her busy in the near future, including working in Harrington's yard in Moone, Co Kildare, every day.

She is also involved in the Sensational Kids social enterprise project in Kildare town, which supports children with additional needs.

A RTE spokesperson said they had "no comment" when asked about the decision not to renew Piggott's contract for 2020.

Day 3 of the Punchestown Festival with Tracy Piggott

Irish Independent