Do I not like that . . . Master of his own destiny: Tracy Piggott, the racing broadcaster, defends the right of her father Lester to delay retirement

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The Independent Online
I SPENT many years of my childhood and adolescence wondering and worrying about the fact that I had no ambition, no real desire for a certain career in life. There were plenty of things that I felt passionate about, and probably people too, but no particular aspect of work.

I did plenty of travelling and tried my hand at different jobs, but nothing inspired me in a way that I believed I was supposed to be inspired. I have now reached the ripe old age of 29, and finally by pure chance I have experienced that buzz, that feeling of elation which comes from finding a career that one knows is right. It has altered my whole outlook.

I sometimes try to compare this to my father's feelings on his life. Lester Piggott has been riding horses since he was a very young boy and rode his first winner at the age of 12. He continued to climb the ladder of success, writing himself into the record books and achieving heights that even he must have once thought unimaginable. He has a love for racing that is hard to define; it is part of his make-up, the very essence of him.

I know that before his first retirement, he would walk into the winning enclosure after a big win, little more than a frown on his face, hence the nickname 'Stoneface'. But that did not mean he was not bathing in the glow of his win, and sensing with affection the public's warmth towards him, a thing he has never taken for granted.

So, he would come home, have a small meal, and go in and study the form for the next day's racing. No parties or celebrations? I often thought that strange as a child, but as I got older I began to realise that was what he wanted to do. To him that was and still is his way of relaxing, and trying to figure out his chances in a race, how he will plan his tactics, what chances other horses are likely to have and so on.

It is hard to imagine a life without that. The awful fall he suffered in the 5.20 at Goodwood on Thursday led many commentators to question his need to continue. But the accident, caused by his saddle slipping, could have happened to the youngest rider, and there are so many different occupations in life that involve danger. From boxing to motor racing to firefighting. It is up to the individual to decide what he or she wishes to do in life.

I have had so many complete strangers write to me and approach me at race meetings or in the street to tell me how much pleasure my father has given them. How they have followed his career and treasured the memories of his great wins. That alone is reason enough for him to continue doing what he does so well.

When he retired in 1985, I remember so clearly the feeling of sadness as I stood and watched him ride in his 'final' race at Nottingham. It felt like the end of an era, and I could not foresee what things would be like in the future. His short time spent as a trainer was by no means unsuccessful, but it seemed a light had gone out inside him. And although he enjoyed what he was doing it was not 'it'.

I have never been to jail. And would like to think that I am highly unlikely to do so. But I have often wondered what it is like to be locked up, and prevented from going where you want when you want. There would be plenty of time to reflect on your life, to realise that this is not a rehearsal, and that life is short. It is difficult to accept a substitute for something that you know is the only one thing that you truly want to do. It is also difficult to deny a drive and passion that has been in your soul.

So Lester Piggott is 58. I know a lot of 58-year-old people; they all vary in different ways. He has never been a man of convention; it is unlikely that he has that word in his vocabulary. He knows no other life. As do all sportsmen, he knows the risks he is taking when he gets on a horse and, as all sports persons' nearest and dearest, we are also aware of those risks.

As a family we know Lester is at his happiest riding in races, and to try to prevent him from continuing would be foolish, and cruel. He has always been different, sometimes controversial, sometimes distant, but he is Lester Piggott.

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