Graham Lee won the Grand National in 2004
PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
By David Ashforth 5:50PM 10 OCT 2016
GRAHAM LEE has long been a jockey I’ve admired and got great pleasure from watching over many years in countless races. He was a wonderful, successful but latterly underused jump jockey and has converted himself into a fine, successful but recently underused Flat jockey. His achievements are unique, having won the Grand National and the Ascot Gold Cup, been top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival, won the Stewards’ Cup, twice ridden over 100 winners in a jumps season and repeated the feat four times already on the Flat.
Lee is a top horseman and jockey and it’s been disappointing to see the quantity and quality of his rides decline this year. Jim Goldie and James Given, once suppliers of many mounts, now use other jockeys. Roger Varian, for whom Lee rode nine winners from 45 rides last year, has not used him this year. Hopefully, he will again.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Lee has established a fruitful partnership with Mick Channon, for whom he has ridden eight winners from 32 rides this year, including twice on the useful Kassia. He’s got a strike rate of two from three for Sir Michael Stoute and two from six for both John Gosden and Simon Crisford.
Now, bravely, Lee has revealed that he has been suffering from depression, which caused him to take time off from racing earlier this year. Depression is a horrible illness, in a different category from a short spell of “feeling down” in the way that everyone does at some time. It can strike anyone, however confident they are that it is not something they would be vulnerable to, and can prevent a person from functioning normally.
When I returned from living in the USA a few years ago I was treated for depression for several months and it’s a mental condition I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’ve known others who have suffered far worse and longer lasting, horribly debilitating depression.
Lee should feel proud to have spoken openly about his illness, in a move that, hopefully, will help both him and others. Depression is not something to be ashamed of; it’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a medical condition less immediately obvious than many physical illnesses but equally one requiring treatment and support.
Lee is on the road to recovery. I hope the illness is soon completely behind him and that he can once more enjoy what he does so well and that gives racefans like me so much pleasure.
Having ridden at Windsor on Monday, Lee rides at Musselburgh on Tuesday. That’s jockeys for you. It means he won’t be at Leicester where the splendidly named Doctor Bong runs (2.40). Doctor Bong is a villainous character in Marvel comics. Being the villain, you’d think he’d never win a race but he won last year, unlike his comic foe Howard The Duck, once owned by bookmaker Victor Chandler, who was hopeless (the horse, not the bookmaker).
It might be worth trying Wonder Woman or Captain America. They usually do well.