(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:

1 Tyler Baze 167 25 24 21 $885,813 15% 70 42%
2 James Graham 157 26 26 21 $819,656 17% 73 46%
3 Corey J. Lanerie 115 25 23 13 $766,998 22% 61 53%
4 Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 129 15 14 21 $725,421 12% 50 39%
5 Miguel Mena 123 13 20 10 $541,275 11% 43 35%
6 Declan Carroll 117 19 12 12 $470,695 16% 43 37%
7 Florent Geroux 47 11 3 12 $456,567 23% 26 55%
8 Shaun Bridgmohan 36 11 6 4 $439,175 31% 21 58%
9 Gabriel Saez 68 7 15 9 $368,343 10% 31 46%
10 Declan Cannon 88 10 8 15 $330,107 11% 33 38%
11 Adam Beschizza 74 5 10 10 $308,647 7% 25 34%
12 Rayan Gazader 89 11 12 14 $308,568 12% 37 42%
13 Calvin H. Borel 69 8 12 10 $303,637 12% 30 43%
14 David Cohen 83 11 13 12 $275,647 13% 36 43%
15 Edgar Morales 99 7 7 10 $218,202 7% 24 24%
16 Chantal Sutherland 62 6 5 7 $173,543 10% 18 29%
17 Channing Hill 39 5 5 2 $172,217 13% 12 31%
18 Joseph Rocco, Jr. 56 8 3 10 $170,359 14% 21 38%
19 Martin Chuan 27 6 5 4 $162,310 22% 15 56%
20 Jon Kenton Court 75 4 4 6 $143,493 5% 14 19%
21 Jack Gilligan 66 6 5 7 $140,722 9% 18 27%
22 Jesus Lopez Castanon 17 3 2 3 $113,303 18% 8 47%
23 Tyler Gaffalione 6 1 1 1 $77,830 17% 3 50%
24 Chris Landeros 3 3 0 0 $74,400 100% 3 100%
25 Julien R. Leparoux 4 1 0 1 $40,150 25% 2 50%

(Stats courtesy of Equibase)