James Graham won three races, including two stakes, Saturday at Fair Grounds to be named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week. The title goes to the week’s outstanding jockey in the opinion of a panel of industry experts, plus a public vote. They looked at races run from January 12-19.
Overall for the week, Graham won 9 races, with 8 seconds and 5 thirds from 39 starts, earning $325,685. A $2 mutuel ticket on each of his 9 winners paid an average of $7.00.
Graham and String King rolled past favorite Gentleman’s Kitten in the stretch to win the $125,000 Grade III Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap on a “good” turf course on Saturday.
“He’s just a cool little Louisiana-bred,” Graham said.
In the day’s other turf race at Fair Grounds, Graham helped Notte d’Oro make her stakes debut a winning one, capturing the $60,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial by a length. “She liked a little cut in the ground and just wanted to keep grinding,” he said.
Graham, 35, was born in Finglas, Dublin, Ireland, where he got involved in racing.
“I was no good in school,” he said. “I was in the career guidance teacher’s office every day, and he said ‘what sparks your interest?’ I said horses, and he gave me an application for the apprentice school in Ireland. They took me on, and it’s been straightforward since.”
He came to the States in 2002 and rode his first winner at River Downs on July 1, 2003. His first stakes win came in the Canterbury Park Lassie on Berbatim in 2004. He got his first graded stakes win in the 2004 Grade III Arlington Breeders’ Cup Oaks on Lovely Afternoon.
He has won riding titles at Arlington International and Fair Grounds. On August 18, 2013, he rode five winners in one day at Arlington International.
“All the wins mean something, from the $5,000 claimer to the Grade I winner,” Graham said. “This job we (jockeys) have is hard enough, but I enjoy it. Everyone is busy doing what they have to do to make a living and I’ve been fortunate enough to carve out one for myself.”
Graham is on top of the Fair Grounds jockey standings by both wins and earnings.
JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, the Daily Racing Form, Equibase, the Jockeys’ Guild, the Paulick Report, the Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America.