Frankie Dettori has said he is “honoured” to be asked to lay a wreath at the statue of his hero Lester Piggott on Derby Day this Saturday (June 3rd), as Epsom Downs Racecourse announces it will also be permanently renaming a race in memory of the legendary jockey, who died aged 86 exactly a year ago today.
Piggott rode in The Derby 36 times between 1951 and 1994, winning on a record nine occasions aboard Never Say Die (1954), Crepello (1957), St Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinsky (1970), Roberto (1972), Empery (1976), The Minstrel (1977) and Teenoso (1983). Nicknamed ‘The Long Fellow’, Piggott also partnered six Oaks winners and recorded an unmatched nine victories in the Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs.
In every year going forward, a floral wreath in the colours of Piggott’s 1970 Derby winner Nijinsky, the last horse to win the English Triple Crown, will be laid by a current member of the weighing room at the Lester Piggott statue on the Queen Elizabeth II Stand lawn.
In 2023 this will be Frankie Dettori, who will be riding in the Betfred Derby for the final time ahead of his retirement at the end of the season. The wreath-laying will be followed by a minute’s applause in the great jockey’s memory.
Additionally the £75,000 10-furlong handicap on Derby Day has been permanently renamed the Lester Piggott Handicap Stakes. Betfred will sponsor this contest in 2023.
Frankie Dettori said: “It is an honour to be asked to lay a wreath at Lester’s statue on Derby Day. He was a hero of mine who then became a good friend and it’s impossible to measure the impact he had on me both as a person and a jockey throughout my life.
“I’m sure it will be a poignant and emotional moment for many reasons and I’m grateful to Epsom Downs for inviting me to lead this year’s tributes to Lester on my last Derby Day as a jockey.”
Brian Finch, Chair of Epsom Downs Racecourse, added: “For so many of us, Lester Piggott is synonymous with The Derby and Epsom Downs like no other jockey before or since.
“Lester sadly passed away just six days before The Derby in 2022 and we ran The Derby in his memory.
“For such a distinguished figure in the long history of The Derby and with his unprecedented achievements unlikely to be matched, we felt it was important to establish a permanent annual commemoration and celebration of Lester’s life on Derby Day.
"I would like to thank Frankie Dettori for agreeing to lay the wreath in Lester’s memory this year ahead of his final ride in The Betfred Derby and I hope the Betfred Lester Piggott Handicap will provide an exciting finish of which Lester would have been proud.”