71cm x 97cm Newbridge Co Kildare
Phenomenal original oil on canvas of a motionless Lester Piggott cantering to an easy victory on board a handsome bay colt.The famous colours of the Aga Khan and Lady Clague can be seen battling for the minor honours.
“Lester Piggott, a dapper yet gaunt man, ghosts across the cold marble floor of a hotel in Mayfair with a vaguely haunted expression. The prospect of another interview, after a lifetime of such encounters, does not fill the great old jockey with glee. He has heard every question before and, as an infamously reluctant communicator, he has dodged most since his first winner in 1948. A Piggott interview is meant to be a challenge like no other.
Having spent the past few days consumed by grainy yet riveting footage of Piggott riding magnificent horses like Nijinsky and Sir Ivor, or watching him show a brutal need to win while driving on Roberto and The Minstrel to victory in the Derby in the 1970s, I launch into an earnest waffle of a greeting.
“Hello,” the 79-year-old Piggott says in his whispery mumble, offering a fleeting handshake.
Piggott’s life – stretching from 11 champion jockey titles and 30 Classic victories to a tangled personal life and being jailed for tax evasion – has always been compelling and prickly. Who else has won the Derby nine times, been stripped of his OBE and waged war against his own body so that he could scale 30 pounds less than his natural weight? The vivid backdrop lingers and a splash of colour peeks out in the form of Piggott’s pink shirt beneath a sober grey suit.
Forty years ago, when known as the Long Fellow, Piggott’s fame saw him ranked alongside Muhammad Ali, Pelé and George Best. Ali boasted loudly and justifiably that he was The Greatest; but the Long Fellow preferred icy silence or his trademark mumble.