James Graham reaches 3000 wins
Jockey James Graham celebrates after winning his 3000th race aboard Vortex at Fair Grounds.
Jockey James Graham, a native of Dublin, Ireland, notched career win number 3000 in the second race at Fair Grounds on Sunday, December 3 aboard 7-5 favorite Vortex for trainer Keith Desormeaux in a $12,500 maiden claiming race with a $16,000 purse. Graham attended jockey's school and worked for four years as an apprentice, recording one win in his native Ireland before launching his career in the USA. His first victory in America came at River Downs on July 1, 2003 aboard B.J. Star for trainer Allan Shapoff in just his 12th mount. Later that year his first Fair Grounds victory came aboard High Octave for trainer Ronny Werner. Graham has gone on to win 1,340 local races and stands tall as the third winningest rider at Fair Grounds since 1986, behind Ronald Ardoin and Robby Albarado. He said, "This is special for me doing it (at Fair Grounds)," Graham said. "My career took off here. When I first got here in 2003 and started riding, this is the meet that got the ball rolling for me. Look at the guys I started riding with here. Gerard (Melancon), Robby (Albarado), Shane Sellars, E.J. Perrodin--I got educated here. I've got a couple more goals at this track that I want to accomplish, so I'm banging on the door and I'm young, fit and healthy."
Asked about how he felt about the feat, he said, "It's quite emotional actually. I came here in 2002 and all I ever wanted was a shot. I wish my mom was still alive to see this. Thank you to everybody who has ever put me on a winner throughout my whole career. This is all because of you guys. Thank you to my wife. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be where I am. Fair Grounds has been good to me over the years. I've made a lot of friends and lost a lot of friends. Racing is a life and we are all a big family. Thank you to everybody."
James Graham with the Fair Grounds jockeys after winning #3000
Over his career, the 44-year-old has four local riding titles, and won many of the track's most prominent stakes. Graham has won over 47 graded stakes, and 13 of those have come at Fair Grounds, including victories aboard 135-1 shot Ive Struck a Nerve in the 2013 Risen Star (G2), 28-1 shot Call Me Midnight in the 2022 Lecomte (G3), and 7-1 shot Ron the Greek in the 2010 Lecomte (G3). Ive Struck a Nerve and Call Me Midnight were both trained by Desormeaux. "Keith has been very good to me since I started my career," Graham added. "We've had a lot of luck. He's always been a big supporter. I think he's a brilliant horseman. Thank you to all the horsemen. All I ever wanted was a chance. To have a chance. And these guys gave me a chance."
James Graham after aboard Two Emmys winning the Mr. D Stakes (G1)
Coming into the 2023-2024 meet, Graham was ten away from the milestone. He wasted no time closing the gap, winning ten races over 9 cards, including stakes victories in the Claiming Crown Tiara and Iron horse, as well as the John Valene and Joseph Peluso over opening weekend. Having had three mounts in the Kentucky Derby, Graham's best finish was aboard Lone Sailor in 2018 when he crossed the line in eighth for trainer Tom Amoss. One of Arlington Park's all-time winningest jockeys, Graham earned his first graded stakes victory in the 2004 Arlington Breeders' Cup Oaks (G3). With five Grade 1 wins to his name, Graham's most recent came aboard 27-1 longshot Two Emmys in the 2021 Mr. D., affectionately known as "the last Arlington Million," the race moving to Churchill Downs and then Colonial Downs after the historic Chicago venue closed its doors for good. Upon winning his 3,000th race, Graham has amassed $111,328,888 in career earnings from 22,095 mounts. In Graham's 19th season at Fair Grounds, it is his first year being represented by agent Doug Bredar.
James Graham aboard Daisy Devine after the First Lady Stakes (G1)
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