SECRET LIVES: LESTER PIGGOTT
He's a master tactician, an extraordinarily gifted rider with acute judgment of a horse's pace and stamina. His determination to win has all too often bordered on fanatical. And off the racetrack he has faced disgrace and imprisonment. What drives this man?
His unsmiling face, which looks like it has been carved from weather- beaten stone, became as familiar as his Derby-winning exploits (nine in all, a record unlikely to be beaten). He had books written about him: over 20 biographies that detailed his genius in the saddle, his ability to make the thoroughbred racehorse run faster than anyone else could, to dig into its reserves like no other jockey and produce it on the winning line ahead of the pack.
His biographers assiduously chronicled his battles with authority and with his weight, his travels around the world and the travails with Her Majesty's Customs & Excise that would lead to a three-year jail sentence for tax evasion.
They wrote about his charisma and how enigmatic he was, they wrote about his determination, his will to win, his strength. Anecdotes were told about his love of money and his reluctance to part with it.
And, of course, they told the story of the great horses - NIJINSKY, SIR IVOR, and THE MINSTREL, PETITE ETOILE, CREPELLO and ALLEGED - horses which Piggott had coerced, cajoled, beaten or fooled into greatness, tapping into their foibles like a friendly analyst, understanding them and starting a relationship between man and beast that was a mystery to outsiders.
Piggott's biographers told the truth: everyone in racing knows the man was a genius. But his biographers didn't dare look beyond the legend, just in case the view wasn't quite so pretty. And it isn't.
At the end of a great career, the sporting world embraces its heroes. There is so much to learn from such talent and experience that it must remain harnessed - to be used for the next generation. They are put on committees, on coaching courses, they are asked for their opinion and their opinion is revered like an 11th commandment. But not in the case of Lester Keith Piggott. He is not on any committee, he gives no advice to young jockeys. He has no role in the running of racing. He doesn't lend the years of his experience to anyone else's ears.
When "Secret Lives" set out to make a documentary on Lester, this was something that puzzled us. Why was the greatest figure in racing this century - if not ever - so ignored by the very sport that made his name? Gradually, over the course of dozens of interviews, the answer became clear.
It was as if a different lexicon was in use. Instead of hearing of the sportsman's merits of determination, will to win and competitiveness, we were told about a ruthlessness that bordered on the psychotic, an arch-manipulator who wanted everything and would do almost anything to get it. The picture was of a compulsive skinflint, womanizer and superme and all-purpose sponger. Worse, a mistreater of horses, and a ruthless jockey, on the track and away from it. And even worse than that.
The Lester Piggott who wasn't in the books was a Lester Piggott who had to have everything: he had to have all the money in the world, he had to have the cutlery from a plane, he had to have his wife, his mistress and as many other women as he could. He wanted not just to control the horse that he sat on, he wanted to control the owners and the trainers and where they raced their horses. He wanted to control the rules, the way the business was run - and he did it in such a way that when his distinguished riding career was over, some were reluctant to do business with him again.
This is the calculating Lester Piggott behind-the-scenes, countless stories that you probably have never heard from reliable and certified sources.
|Format(s) Available:||DVD And VHS|
|Category:||European Flat Racing|