Good Guy Graham Never Cracks, Wins Ellis Park Riding Title

(James Graham takes the Ellis Park riding title / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

James Graham is one of the most likable people you will ever meet in  your life.

Quick with a smile, and warm with a handshake, he meets people with the same gracious and kind ability that he shows nearly every time he throws a leg over a Thoroughbred. He can shine both on and off a horse’s back. He can win in either a race to the wire, or a chance to win your friendship.

In simple terms, which is the way James Graham tackles his profession and his life, the man is a good guy.

And, some times, good people do finish first.

This is the case this week when rider and jockey James Graham won just enough races to capture his first ever riding title in Kentucky, capturing the Jockey’s Title at Ellis Park. After the races and the counting was all done, Graham had a total of 26 wins to inch past both Tyler Baze and Corey Lanerie — who hit the finish line in a  dead heat for second with 25 wins.

In 157 mounts this meet at Ellis Park, Graham had a record of 26-26-21 and his horses earned over $819,000 in purses.

Baze, who rode first saddle for trainer Steve Asmussen much of the Ellis Park meet, finished with a mark of 25-24-21 in 167 rides. His horses had a meet-leading total of $885,813 in purses.

Lanerie, who missed the meet’s closing day card to ride Gray Magician to a second place finish in the G3 Smarty Jones Stakes on Monday, had a 25-23-13 record in just 115 rides.

Here’s a look at the Top 25 riders this meet:

1Tyler Baze167252421$885,81315%7042%
2James Graham157262621$819,65617%7346%
3Corey J. Lanerie115252313$766,99822%6153%
4Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.129151421$725,42112%5039%
5Miguel Mena123132010$541,27511%4335%
6Declan Carroll117191212$470,69516%4337%
7Florent Geroux4711312$456,56723%2655%
8Shaun Bridgmohan361164$439,17531%2158%
9Gabriel Saez687159$368,34310%3146%
10Declan Cannon8810815$330,10711%3338%
11Adam Beschizza7451010$308,6477%2534%
12Rayan Gazader89111214$308,56812%3742%
13Calvin H. Borel6981210$303,63712%3043%
14David Cohen83111312$275,64713%3643%
15Edgar Morales997710$218,2027%2424%
16Chantal Sutherland62657$173,54310%1829%
17Channing Hill39552$172,21713%1231%
18Joseph Rocco, Jr.568310$170,35914%2138%
19Martin Chuan27654$162,31022%1556%
20Jon Kenton Court75446$143,4935%1419%
21Jack Gilligan66657$140,7229%1827%
22Jesus Lopez Castanon17323$113,30318%847%
23Tyler Gaffalione6111$77,83017%350%
24Chris Landeros3300$74,400100%3100%
25Julien R. Leparoux4101$40,15025%250%

(Stats courtesy of Equibase)

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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