Lester Piggot statues unveiled
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2019
The Epsom statue was unveiled by The Queen on the day of the Derby and Morrice pointed out that this could well have been interpreted…
English international racing journalist, tipster and broadcaster Neil Morrice’s lifelong sporting hero has been the legendary jockey Lester Piggott and thanks to his determination to have the great man recognised in perpetuity nine statues have been sculpted, two of which have already been unveiled at Epsom and Ascot respectively.
The Epsom statue was unveiled by The Queen on the day of the Derby and Morrice pointed out that this could well have been interpreted as an unofficial pardon for Piggott’s brush up with the taxman in the 1980’s which cost him his OBE.
The second one was unveiled on the first day of Royal Ascot last Tuesday.
Morrice lives in Wantage in Oxfordhire, England, where Piggott was born on November 5, 1935.
He regards Piggott as the greatest sportsman England has ever produced.
Lester’s career encompassed almost five decades. He dominated the golden age of jockeys in the 1960s and 1970s and won the British Flat Jockeys Championship eleven times. He rode 4493 winners in all, including 116 Royal Ascot winners, the Gold Cup a record eleven times, the Derby a record nine times, the 2000 Guineas five times, St. Leger eight times, the Oaks six times and the 1000 Guineas twice.
Piggott also made one of the most celebrated comebacks in sporting history.
The racing world were staggered when he announced his plan to return to the saddle in 1990 at the age of 54. He had retired at the end of the 1985 season and a burgeoning career as a trainer, sending out 34 winners, had been ended by his brush with the taxman.
Within ten days of his return he rode the Charles O’Brien-trained Royal Academy to victory in the Breeders Cup Mile. There have been few moments in racing history which have caused as big a media sensation.
Morrice believed it was high time Piggott was officially recognised for his contribution to British sport.
Lester was happy with Morrice’s idea of drumming up support to have a statue of him erected in Wantage.
Morrice consequently formed a project partnership with Geoffrey Hughes, owner of the Osborne Studio Gallery in Belgravia, London. The project was expanded to three statues, one for Wantage, one for Newmarket and Piggott was asked which site he would like for the third and he chose York racecourse. Morrice was personally thrilled with the latter choice as it was the first racecourse his father had taken him to as a boy.
Piggott loved the York racecourse and was adored by Northern England racing fans, as he won all of their big races.
The next step was to find a backer to fund the project.
Piggott suggested the family of the late Charles St George, a flamboyant owner whose offices as an underwriter for Lloyd’s were in Upper Brook Street in Mayfair, London. Piggott twice rode Ardross to victory for St. George in the Gold Cup, he rode his horse Giacometti to win the Group 1 Champion Stakes, Abergwaun to win the Group 1 Vernons (Haydock) Sprint Cup and he rode the St. George-owned Bruni to victories in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup and Group 3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes. Piggott became a close friend of St. George’s and was a pall bearer at his funeral.
Charles’ widow Christine put the proposal to her sons David and Christopher after lunching with Morrice, Hughes and top racing journalist Brough Scott at Claridges.
The St George brothers agreed and nine statues were then commissioned.
Piggott chose William Newton to both design and sculpt the statues.
The next statute to be unveiled will be in the Wantage museum and significantly it will take place on August 18, the date of a twelve-year-old Piggott’s first winner 71 years ago at Haydock racecourse on a horse called The Chase trained by his father Keith. The unveiling date will also see the launch of an exhibition in the Wantage museum of the life and times of Lester Piggott, which will run for four months.
The fourth unveiling will take place on the first day of the York August meeting on Tuesday 20 August, the day of the Group 1 Juddmonte international.
Piggott won this race five times, including on Rodrigo de Triano, who gave him the last of his 30 English classic winners when winning the 2000 Guineas in 1992.
The fifth statue will reside in the paddock of the Rowley Mile course in Newmarket.
The fate of the other four statues is still to be firmed up, although one of them has been pencilled in to be auctioned at the annual Sir Peter O’Sullevan charity lunch towards the end of the year.
The bulk of the money raised will go to racing charities.
Piggott and Morrice have been very good friends for a long time and have become closer since the statue project began.
Morrice has an enviable collection of Piggott memorabilia.
The various Piggott-worn silks he has include the Ardross Gold Cup-winning set.
He has many racecards signed by Lester, including all nine of his Derby-winning and all eleven of his Gold Cup-winning racecards.
He also has a signed racecard of a meeting in which Piggott, unbeknown to many, rode Red Rum. This flat horse subsequently switched to jumps and became a living icon by winning the Grand National a record three times.
Piggott has a hearing and a speech impediment which has resulted in his reputation as a taciturn character.
However, Morrice concluded, “Lester chooses his words parsimoniously, but this brings about a greater resonance and meaning when he puts forward his opinion. I feel privileged to have learned so much about the man and become closer to him over the two and a half years it’s taken to see the statues project bear fruit.”
By David Thiselton
Image: Lester Piggott in front of the statue unveiled in his honour at the first day of the Royal Ascot meeting on Tuesday last week. He is alongside racing media personality Neil Morrice, who drove the project to have Piggott officially recognised.
Roy Had Enough odds slashed
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2019
Track And Ball themselves cut winner, Roy Had Enough from 250-1 to 150-1 but left favourite Hawwaam unchanged on 18-10…
Roy Had Enough’s win in Saturday’s Track And Ball Derby has made barely a ripple in the Vodacom Durban July market. Track And Ball themselves cut the winner from 250-1 to 150-1 but left favourite Hawwaam unchanged on 18-10.
Indeed the firm made no changes to any of the other leading contenders, going 3.85-1 Do It Again, 11-2 Rainbow Bridge, 7-1 Barahin, 16-1 Eyes Wide Open, Twist Of Fate, 22-1 Head Honcho, 25-1 Magnificent Seven, 28-1 and upwards others.
Runner-up Charles has been marked out from 100-1 to 150-1 and most expert opinion is that he is unlikely to make the cut. Brett Crawford said: “Maybe he could run in the Betting World 2200 consolation or I might bring him home – he is still a young horse.”
Declarations for the Johnsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes are tomorrow but Track And Ball already has Oh Susanna favourite at 13-10 and goes 4.2-1 Front And Centre, 13-2 Santa Clara, Snowdance, 17-2 Fresnaye, 12-1 and upwards others.
Majestic Mozart is 2.55-1 favourite for the Winter Derby at Kenilworth on Saturday with Brett Crawford’s East Cape Derby winner St Vladimir on 2.9-1 and Herodotus next on 3.05-1. The unbeaten Captain Of Stealth is odds-on for the Langerman at 0.55-1.
By Michael Clower
VDJ panellists face ‘relatively easy’ task
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2019
The final field of 18 and two reserves as well as the draws will be announced at a function at Gateway tomorrow (Tuesday)…
The Vodacom Durban July final field panellists often face a nightmare but this year they look to have a relatively easy task if the last July log and recent results are the guideline.
The final field of 18 and two reserves as well as the draws will be announced at a function at Gateway tomorrow (Tuesday).
The last July log was published on June 3.
Subsequent events have not complicated matters.
Roy Had Enough won the Grade 3 Track And Ball Derby at Scottsville on Saturday so deserves to be given the place vacated in the top 18 by the scratching of Hero’s Honour.
The result of the Grade 3 Cup Trial run on June 8 did not cause any headaches.
The winner Kampala Campari is not a July entry, the runner up Eyes Wide Open had already earned his place by winning the Grade 2 WSB 1900. The third and fourth-placed horses Doublemint and Made To Conquer ran well enough not to be dropped from their positions of 11th and 17th respectively on the last log.
The Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge did not cause any problems either as all of the July entries in that race had already earned their berths.
The traditional Johannesburg July pointer, the Grade 3 Jubilee Handicap, was won by Barahin, who had already earned his berth. July entries Shenanigans and Dazzler finished second and fourth respectively but they are both merit rated in the 90s and did not do enough to warrant inclusion.
Miyabi Gold, winner of the Grade 2 Gold Bracelet over 2000m last year and the Listed Scarlet Lady over 1750m this year, was 18th on the last July log and Fresnaye was 16th. The latter won the Grade 3 Victress Stakes over 1800m in December and in the SA Champions Season she has finished a close fourth in the WSB 1900 on favourable weight terms and then won a Pinnacle Stakes race over 1600m.
These two fillies might come under pressure for their incumbent positions.
Their competition for a place will likely be Bunker Hunt, who caught the eye running on strongly for third in the strongly contested Grade 2 KRA Guineas, Charles, who has finished runner up in both the Grade 1 Cape Derby and Grade 3 Track And Ball Derby, log 20th placed Zillzaal, who placed in all three legs of the SA Triple Crown including finishing second in the Grade 1 SA Derby, log 19th-placed Camphoratus, who won the Grade 1 Empress Club Stakes, and possibly Elusive Silva, who finished third in the July last year.
So the final field as it stands and barring further scratchings will likely be Do It Again, Rainbow Bridge, Hawwaam, Return Flight, Head Honcho, Twist Of Fate, Lady In Black, Legal Eagle, Tilbury Fort, Eyes Wide Open, Made To Conquer, Magnificent Seven, Divine Odyssey, Barahin, Roy Had Enough, Doublemint and then any two of Fresnaye, Bunker Hunt, Charles, Camphoratus, Zillzaal, Elusive Silva and Miyabi Gold.
By David Thiselton
Tiger Roll gives Botha the results
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2019
The Ossie Noach-ridden Tiger Roll at Kenilworth on Saturday was Botha’s second winner in as many meetings and his fourth since his first runner…
Had there been racing 2 000 years ago the Good Lord might well have changed his famous ‘camel through the eye of a needle’ analogy to it being harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a trainer starting from scratch to get off the ground.
Yet ex-jockey and coffee machine businessman Piet Botha looks like making it. The Ossie Noach-ridden Tiger Roll at Kenilworth on Saturday was Botha’s second winner in as many meetings and his fourth since his first runner in September, and his numbers have increased from ten to 18.
“I own half of them so it is not that good,” he said modestly. “But people want to see results and things are now expanding a bit.”
Peter Wrensch, who took over the late Ronnie Sheehan’s horses ( there weren’t many) and had his first runners six months ago, is still at the nervous nought stage but half the racecourse was willing him on as Over Again headed for the line in the Interbet.co.za Handicap. Just when it looked as if he was going to hang on, the Richard Fourie-ridden Spirit Festival came with a wet sail to kick the legs from under the celebration table and the trainer in the teeth. Hopefully “Lester” won’t have to wait much longer for consolation.
The winner was the second leg of a quick Justin Snaith-Fourie double with Frank Lloyd Wright’s victory in the Tellytrack.com Handicap coming too late for Qatar Racing. There were big hopes for this horse and the encouragement that he would give the rulers of the oil-rich country to increase its investment in South African racing. But Qatar Racing is no longer involved and Etienne Braun now shares ownership with the gelding’s breeder Drakenstein.
Chris Snaith said: “The handicapper was brutal with this horse and he lost his form totally. He has now got to the stage where he is competitive again (he has come down 20 points) but it has taken a long, long time.”
More than an inch of rain turned the going to officially good-to-soft (“soft but even, ie soft throughout” was the opinion of the jockeys.). However it played havoc with the form and punters were left feeling like investors in the South Sea Bubble. Six favourites floundered and half the winners started at prices varying from 18-1 to 36-1.
The Candice Bass-Robinson-trained newcomer Arctic Drift was the rank outsider in the Tabonline Maiden Juvenile – “A great surprise,” said Mark Bass. “We chucked him into the race for a gallop.”
Anthony Andrews, who rode the gelding, was fined R1 500 for using his whip more than the permitted dozen – it was his third offence – and Bernard Fayd’Herbe paid the same penalty for the same thing when scoring on the Glen Kotzen-trained Miraculously Ours.
Randall Simons, who came down from Johannesburg at the request of Adam Marcus, doubled his Cape Town score with victories on two-year-old newcomers Late At Night and Templeton (Dean Kannemeyer).
The former carries the colours of Tony Millard patron Robert Ng and so has Hong Kong as his eventual destination. “I was pleasantly surprised even though he has done so well in the last four to six weeks,” said Brett Crawford. “He is going to keep progressing.”
Jabu Jacobs impressed when making all on the Andre Nel-trained Suite Francaise at 28-1 in the last. It was the apprentice’s second winner.
By Michael Clower
Stradivarius magnificent in Gold Cup
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2019
On the rain-soaked course, Dettori chose the shortest way home, keeping Stradivarius on the rail and tucked in behind front runners…
Stradivarius (IRE) is the reigning Stayer of the Year in the UK and after back to back victories in the £500,000 G1 Gold Cup (4014m) on soft ground at Royal Ascot last Thursday, he seems unlikely to relinquish his crown any time soon. The dramatic victory by the five-year-old Sea The Stars (IRE) entire, trained by John Gosden, was also the fourth consecutive victory on the card for jockey Frankie Dettori, who famously won all seven races on the card at Ascot in September 1996.
On the rain-soaked course, Dettori chose the shortest way home, keeping Stradivarius on the rail and tucked in behind front runners Dee Ex Bee (GB) and Master Of Reality (IRE). In the home straight it appeared as if Dettori had made a costly mistake with Donnacha O’Brien on Capri and Cross Counter under James Doyle moving up on his outside, effectively shutting the door on the even money favourite. Dettori however, who has now ridden 66 winners at the Royal meeting, was unperturbed and when a small gap opened during the closing stages, he was quick to send Stradivarius through and after the leaders.
The horse, who apparently “loves getting into a fight” according to Dettori, wasted no time in catching and passing the longtime leaders, to win by a length with Dee Ex Bee in second and Master Of Reality back in third. It was Stradivarius’s seventh straight victory for owner/breeder Bjorn Nielsen, who was on hand to collect the Gold Cup trophy from Her Majesty The Queen. Nielsen admitted that he was a bit concerned after Dettori’s victory in the first three on the card. “I did not believe he could win four races in a row, but he’s riding so confidently, and he rode Stradivarius confidently. He’s such a good stayer, he has a huge heart, and his mind is so relaxed. I hope it can continue for a while.”
A delighted Dettori, who launched himself skywards in his famous flying dismount, was full of praise for the gutsy stayer. “Stradivarius does not know how to lose. All I have to do is get him amongst other horses and he does the rest – what a horse. Everyone loves him, including me. Every time he runs, he delivers, he is unbelievable. I wasn’t worried about the trouble in the home straight as I just had to wait for the split. It got tight, but when I got the split, it was all over.”
Interestingly, the dam of Stradivarius, Private Life (FR) only produced one filly before her untimely death and that filly, an Oratorio daughter named Magical Eve (IRE), resides at Ridgemont Highlands Stud in Robertson. According to the Stud, Magical Eve currently has a lovely weanling filly by Silvano (GER).
By Liesl King