Jockeys vie for Haydock victory in honour of Lester Piggott’s maiden win

The career of Lester Piggott, who won the Triple Crown on Nijinsky, will be celebrated at Haydock today.
The career of Lester Piggott, who won the Triple Crown on Nijinsky, will be celebrated at Haydock today.
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THE 70th anniversary of legendary jockey Lester Piggott’s first winner will be celebrated at Haydock today.

A special race is being staged in honour of Piggott who rode his first winner, The Chase, at the Merseyside track in 1948 when aged 12.

Lester Piggott: Won his first race 70 years ago at the tender age of 12.

Lester Piggott: Won his first race 70 years ago at the tender age of 12.

Now 82, Piggott will be present at Haydock today for the Smarkets Lester Piggott 70th Anniversary Handicap in which trainer Eve Johnson Houghton hopes Frank Bridge can prevail and rekindle memories of her family’s association with the 11-times champion jockey jockey.

Johnson Houghton’s late father, Fulke, teamed up with arguably the greatest jockey of them all to win plenty of big races, including two St Legers with the brothers Ribocco (1967) and Ribero (1968).

“It would be lovely to win given the family history,” said Johnson Houghton. “I’m sure we’ve won a race named after Lester before.

“Dad won it – I’m sure it was a sprint.

“Frank Bridge would need rain to run, but I really hope he can and they are due some rain.

“With Lester being there it would be really nice to win it.”

Piggott’s final success also came at Haydock courtesy of the Jack Berry-trained Palacegate Jack in 1994. In total, Piggott – known as ‘The Long Fellow’ because of his unnatural height – rode 4,493 winners and his record 30 domestic Classics includes nine Epsom Derbies. He won the Triple Crown in 1970 with Nijinsky, the last colt to complete the feat.

One man keen to take the spoils is Joe Tuite, who runs Surrey Hope.

“It would be a very nice race to win – especially with Lester being there,” said Tuite.

“Every race is nice to win, but some are nicer than others and this would definitely be one of those.

“Surrey Hope needs to get back on track as he’s slightly lost his way. We’re going there in good form and hopeful of a good run. He had been so consistent before his last few runs, but he has been in very deep races like the Royal Hunt Cup. Things just haven’t gone his way, so we need to get him back on track.”

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Top prospect Dark Vision will stay in training with Mark Johnston after being purchased by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation.

Bought for just 15,000 guineas at Tattersalls, he has won all three starts in impressive fashion for the Kingsley Park 10 syndicate.

Dark Vision took his form to a new level last week when he came from last to first to win the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in eyecatching fashion.

“Obviously I’m delighted that he stays with us,” said Middleham-based Johnston. “The sale hasn’t actually been completed as yet, but he was vetted yesterday and has come out of Goodwood 100 per cent.”

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Connections of Royal Ascot heroine Main Edition are confident she will take the step up in trip in her stride in the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket today.

The Mark Johnston-trained daughter of Zoffany will bid to leave her effort in last month’s Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at the Suffolktrack behind by attempting to concede 3lb to her rivals on her first try over seven furlongs.

Charlie Johnston, the Middleham handler’s son and assistant, said: “Main Edition has come out of the Duchess of Cambridge fine and we don’t envisage the step up to seven furlongs being an issue, although the Lowther is still an option going forward.”

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Roaring Lion will step up his preparations for York’s Juddmonte International later this month with a racecourse gallop at Newmarket today.

Trained by John Gosden, the grey won York’s Dante Stakes in May before finishing third to Masar in the Epsom Derby after just failing to see out the mile-and-a-half trip.

However, Oisin Murphy’s mount proved himself to be a 10-furlong champion when landing Sandown’s Group One Coral-Eclipse last month in a thrilling battle with Aidan O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior who is also on track for the Juddmonte. Rivals also include Sir Michael Stoute’s Poet’s Word who has enjoyed two high-profile wins at Ascot this summer.