James Graham won a stakes race on Friday, and two on 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. They looked at races run from December 8-14. For the first time this week, a vote from the public was also included in the balloting. In an online poll on JockeyTalk360.com, the racing fans agreed with the experts, making Graham their choice.
Overall for the week, Graham won eight races, including three on Sunday, with 11 seconds and one third from 32 starts, earning $324,352.
On Friday, he led wire-to-wire on Buggin Out in the $50,000 Magic City Classic to win by more than seven lengths.
The next day, he came back on String King for a length and a half win as the odds-on favorite in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes. Two races later, he took the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile by three lengths on Mr. L.S. Shoe.
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. veryone 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 in 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.