He became the jockey everyone wanted but it didn’t begin that way. Joe Lawson, the trainer of Never Say Die, approached several senior members of the weighing-room to ride his colt but met with rejection. Few gave him much chance. That including his veteran American owner, Robert Clark, who did not consider it worth his while travelling over to watch.
Piggott was Lawson’s third or fourth choice. Having accepted the ride, Piggott wasted no time advising the trainer to leave off all the various devices used to try and prevent the horse from adopting his usual habit of hanging left. The 18-year-old, from a background steeped in racing history, recognised it would be an advantage around Epsom.
Never Say Die went off at 33/1 but gained a relatively straightforward two-length success. Piggott, already riding in the race for a fourth time, quickly had him perfectly positioned before quickening ahead two furlongs from home. Such a ride was to become his signature.
Lester Piggott had become one of the youngest jockeys to win the Derby but there was no chance of the success going to his head. His celebratory meal was tomatoes on toast. As usual, he was in bed by about 9pm. However, he was curious to see exactly how he prevailed and in his book, Lester’s Derbys, revealed he watched a re-run of the race in a Reading cinema a week later after arranging a private showing.