Graham Lee

Graham Lee
Citrus Zest, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A Grand National-winning jockey, Graham Lee had a period in his career where he was the go-to jockey for anyone needing a top-class jockey in the North. Lee carved out winners on the minor Northern circuit but also had his fair share of success on the bigger stages.

His biggest day came in 2004 when he rode Amberleigh House to victory in the Grand National. It was a big day for Lee, made sweeter by the fact that he won the race for Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain, a man who needs no introduction at all when it comes to the big race at Aintree. McCain trained Red Rum to victory in the race three times, so being trusted to ride in the race for him was a big deal, one that was delivered on by Lee when he won in 2004.

Due to injuries in his career, Lee switched from national hunt riding to the flat, hoping that would prolong his career. The North is still where he is best known, and in terms of national hunt riding, it is where he will always be remembered as being one of the very best during his time.

Graham Lee Grand National Wins

  • 2004 - Amberleigh House trained by Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain

Full Results

Year Horse Result Prize Money Trainer
2011 Big Fella Thanks 7 £6,270 Ferdy Murphy
2010 The Package Fence 19 - Unseated Rider - David Pipe
2009 Kilbeggan Blade Fence 21 - Pulled Up - Tom George
2007 Joe's Edge Fence 20 - Pulled Up - Ferdy Murphy
2006 Amberleigh House Fence 21 - Pulled Up - Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain
2005 Amberleigh House 10 - Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain
2004 Amberleigh House 1 £348,000 Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain
2003 Amberleigh House 3 £66,000 Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain

Winning The Grand National For Ginger McCain

Graham Lee tasted success in the Grand National in 2004 when he won the race aboard Amberleigh House. Of course, after his success on Red Rum over 30 years earlier, much of the attention both before and after the race was on Ginger McCain, but don’t let that take anything away from the ride that Graham Lee gave him that day.

Coming to the final fence, we were in for a Grand National classic. Four horses in contention, one jump left and then the big run-in, fans were excited, and there was a great noise around Aintree. At the final fence, Hedgehunter fell, leaving Amberleigh House, Clan Royal and Lord Atterbury. At the time of the jump, Amberleigh House was actually the last of those runners, with work to do.

However, when asked, he found plenty under the driving of Graham Lee. Lord Atterbury was the first to fade, then Clan Royal began to wonder, while Amberleigh House was closing and running in a straight line. He got up, didn’t stop and then went away from the other two horses to record a winning distance of three lengths back to Clan Royal and a further two lengths back to Lord Atterbury in third.

This was not an easy task for the horses, just 11 finished the race from 39 starters, showing this was a tough test. Amberleigh House needed every yard of that test, showing that the extreme staying distances are precisely what he needs.

After being brought down in 2001 and finishing 3rd in 2003, it was a case of third time lucky for Amberleigh House in the Grand National. He would return to try and defend his crown a year later, where he finished 10th and came back again in 2006, where he was pulled up.

Running five times is a feat itself but adding a win into the equation is the cherry on top of an excellent career for Amberleigh House, and Graham Lee was on board for four of those five runs.

Completing The Grand National Double

In 2004 when winning aboard Amberliegh House, Lee ticked off the first leg of a very special double. A few weeks after his National win, Lee won the Scottish Grand National on top weight Grey Abbey to win the Grand National double.

This was a feat that few have managed to complete, Lee became the third jockey to complete the challenge after Brian Fletcher and Ruby Walsh did it previously.

Injuries Force Move To Flat Racing

Graham Lee had an exceptional national hunt career, spending a lot of time riding for McCain while also teaming up with Howard Johnson to create a formidable partnership that many in the North often followed blindly, such was their prowess.

However, in April 2012, he decided it was the right time to move back to flat racing, which is where he originally started out back in 1995. Lee cited injuries and the potential for further injuries from falls as the reason for moving codes and has continued to have success on the level after the move.