Old Stoneface depicts the illustrious and controversial career of Lester Piggott, the greatest flat Jockey in England’s history and perhaps the best jockey of all time.
Lester Piggott was virtually deaf from birth and later developed a speech impediment. This handicap created an imbalance in Lester which affected his early childhood. He was isolated from partaking in boyhood activities like riding a bicycle or playing ball. But when he jumped on a horse for the first time he found a deep connection with the animal and discovered his identity and balance in his life. Like a thoroughbred race horse is bred for excellence, Lester unmistakably became an extension of this magnificent beast.
With his family being prominent jockeys and trainers dating back to the 18th century, he was groomed for a winning path as a jockey, achieving his first win at the age of 12. By the age of 18 in 1954, he rode in front of the Queen of England at the Epsom Derby, and won on a horse named “Never Say Die”. He went on to win eight more.
Lester was taught early, by his father Keith, never to allow another jockey up his inside to gain advantage and Piggott never did. He was known for punching any horse or jockey that would get in his way. This attitude sometimes resulted in tragedy as in the 2,000 Guineas trial at Salisbury in 1985 when Lester forced another horse into the rail. The horse hit the rail and came down badly and had to be put down.
Lester Piggott was a ruthless man that was borderline psychotic and was known for his controlling ways. He was an arch-manipulator who wanted everything and would do almost anything to get it.
He possessed an arrogance that he could control everything and anything… money, women, owners, trainers and jockeys. He had to have all the money in the world, he had to have his wife, his mistress and as many other women as he could.
Lester Piggott was known for taking silverware from airplanes and cheating people for money. He got a kick out of this and most of his colleagues excused his compulsive behavior by saying, “ he can’t help it…he is just like an animal or a child.”
As arrogant a man as he was, the truth is, Lester lived for racing. He didn’t have time for anything else in his life. He changed the course of the sport and was the first jockey to exploit his talent in financial terms, opening the way for a wave of millionaire jockeys.
To the racing world, Piggott, undisputedly, dominated horseracing and became the Housewife’s favorite, the expert’s choice, and the envy of all of his fellow jockeys.
He was beloved by his followers and his Queen. In 1975 he was awarded the prestigious OBE (Order of the British Empire) and by 1988 he was devastated when he was stripped of this award after he was convicted of tax evasion in 1987.
Despite his blemished career, Lester will always be remembered for what he did for horse racing and his uncanny and intuitive relationship he had with the horse. This is what makes Lester Piggott a champion beast and the most notable horse racing icon in history.