This Sunday, the Vale & Downland Museum in Wantage is unveiling a statue of racing legend Lester Piggott.
Lester was born on 5 November 1935 in Wantage. With 4,493 career wins, including nine Epsom Derby victories, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest flat racing jockeys of all time.
The date of the unveiling falls exactly 71 years since he rode his first winner “The Chase” in the Wigan Selling Plate at Haydock on August 18th, 1948.
This is the third of nine identical statues being placed around the country in celebration of his record nine Derby wins.
The first statue was unveiled at Epsom by Her Majesty The Queen on Investec Derby Day, 1 June 2019.
Lester himself unveiled the second statue in the Brigadier Gerard Garden at Royal Ascot on Tuesday 18 June.
The 'Nine Statues' project came about from an idea by Wantage-based journalist Neil Morrice who was joined by London art gallery owner Geoffrey Hughes and journalist and author Brough Scott, with the funding for the statues from the St. George family for whom Piggott rode many well-known horses.
I spoke to Neil about the project:
“I have idolised Lester from the first time I went racing, back in 1965, and felt strongly that something should be done to recognise his achievements.
“He was born in Wantage, while I've lived there for 33 years. I was thrilled when he met me in Geneva and gave his approval that I take the statues project forward.
“I would like to thank the St George family for their great generosity in funding what has now become the 'Lester Piggott Nine Statues Project'.
“It will give me tremendous personal satisfaction when Lester, who in my humble opinion is the greatest English sportsman of all time, returns 'home' on August 18th to unveil William Newton's stunning life size bronze.”
The Vale and Downland Museum is opening an exhibition charting the life and times of Lester Piggott on 19 August 2019 when the public will be able to see the statue.
The Exhibition, Lester Piggott — Born to Ride provides a pictorial journey through Lester’s life exploring his early days, family and friends, the owners he has worked for, and the racecourses he has ridden.
It also includes unique memorabilia from Lester’s career rarely on show to the public and brought together for the first time in conjunction with The Jockey Club.
Fnd out more about the museum at valeanddownlandmuseum.org.uk