Fingers crossed that ‘happy days’ return for top jockey Graham Lee

Inside Track with John McIntyre

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this week’s column. For one of Galway’s greatest sportspeople ever lies stricken in a north of England hospital after a horrific accident at Newcastle Racecourse on November 10.

Graham Lee had done it all as a jockey; notably achieving the rare distinction of winning some of the most prestigious races over both jumps and on the flat. He took the Cheltenham Festival by storm in 2005 with a series of Grade One triumphs on Arcalis, No Refuge, and Inglis Drever. The previous April, he had steered Amberleigh House to an improbable success in the Aintree Grand National.

Lee would go on to enjoy further Cheltenham Festival glory on L’Antartique (2007) and Divers (2011) – both for the Ferdy Murphy stable – and during an outstanding career also landed the Grade One Betway Bowl and Scottish Grand National on the front-running Grey Abbey. Further big-race glory was achieved on the likes of Aces Four and Kalahari King.

In July of 2010, he returned to his local track at Ballybrit to capture the Guinness Galway Hurdle on English raider Overturn. Three years previously, Lee had come up trumps on Another Promise in the Ryanair Novices Chase at the Punchestown Festival; and he went on to join an elite band of jockeys to ride 1,000 plus winners over jumps.

Against that background, it came as something of a surprise when he switched to the flat in April of 2012. A series of injuries together with, ironically, an increasing battle to do the weight for National Hunt races due to his light frame, resulted in the Mervue native making a major career change.

Again, Lee hit the top of the sport with Group One victories on Trip To Paris in the 2015 Ascot Gold Cup, and Alpha Delphini in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York three years later. He would finish third in the 2014 Jockeys’ Championship behind Richard Hughes with 127 winners.

By any standards, Lee had made a major mark on horse racing and up to the time of his distressing injuries when unseated from Ben Macdui on exiting the stalls at Newcastle, he was still going strong in the saddle with 47 winners to his credit for the season so far.

Pictured: HAPPY DAYS: Galway jockey Graham Lee return in triumph after landing the Aintree Grand National on Amberleigh House in 2004.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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