Lester Piggott began racing horses from his father's stable when he was 10 years old and won his first race in 1948, aged 12 years, on a horse called The Chase at Haydock Park. A teenage sensation, he rode his first winner of the Epsom Derby on Never Say Die in 1954 aged 18 years and went on to win eight more, on Crepello (1957), St. Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Roberto (1972), Empery (1976), The Minstrel (1977) and Teenoso (1983). He was stable jockey to Noel Murless and later to Vincent O'Brien and had a glittering career of unparalleled success. Known as the "housewives' favourite", Piggott had legions of followers and did much to expand the popularity of horse racing beyond its narrow, class-based origins.
Famously tall for a jockey (5 ft 8 in/1.73 m), hence his nickname of "The Long Fellow", Lester Piggott struggled to keep his weight down and for most of his career rode at little more than 8 stone (112 lb/51 kg). He pioneered a new style of race-riding that was subsequently widely adopted by colleagues at home and abroad and enabled him to become Champion Jockey 11 times. There can be little doubt that had he not chosen after the 1971 season to ride more selectively that he would have won more championships.
In 1980 his relationship with the Sangster—O'Brien combination came to an end and in a jockeys' merry-go-round he was appointed as stable jockey to Noel Murless's son-in law Henry Cecil, the British flat racing Champion Trainer, at Murless's old stables, Warren Place. He was again champion jockey in 1981 and 1982. However, as the result of a dispute in late 1983 as to whether he had reneged on an agreement to ride Daniel Wildenstein's All Along the ride went to young Walter Swinburn in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Wildenstein refused to allow him to ride any more of his horses. It was costly for Piggott, as All Along won the Arc and a string of other international races in an autumn campaign that ended with her being named U.S. Horse of the Year. Further, as Wildenstein was one of Cecil's principal owners, this placed a strain on the relationship, and in 1984 Cecil and Piggott split, with Steve Cauthen taking over at Warren Place.
Like many other jockeys and trainers Lester lives near the Home of Racing at Newmarket in Suffolk.