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Graham Reaches 1,500 Win Plateau

Jockey James Graham
Jockey James Graham may be a native of Ireland but for the last decade he has been a wintertime resident of New Orleans, and it was in that capacity that he reached the 1,500-career win milestone at Fair Grounds Thursday in the first race of the day before getting his 1,501st victory four races later on the same card.

“It’s such a pure spot,” said Graham Friday morning during training hours when speaking of his adopted wintertime hometown. “It’s such a unique city. To get to come here to live in the winter when it’s freezing everywhere else is a very good deal for me and my family. They love New Orleans as much as I do.”

That family includes not only his wife Lisa but daughter Hannah, who will turn 5-years-old Monday, and son Christopher, who just turned three. The family is due to increase by one more child at the end January.

“This is a very exciting time for all of us,” said Graham of his family, “especially considering that we have Christmas coming on and the birthdays of all of the kids. But it’s my wife that keeps me in place – keeps me from getting a big head. If it wasn’t for her, I might have turned out the wrong way.”

Victory number 1,500 for Graham came in Thursday’s opener on Right Time Racing’s Dangerous Dream, trained by Brad Cox, while win 1,501 came aboard Hall Racing’s El Otro for conditioner Wes Hawley in the fifth.

“Reaching 1,500 wins yesterday was a good feeling for me,” said Graham. “Now I want to keep my momentum going. Hopefully, 1,600 wins will come quickly. It’s been a good career for me so far, but someone told me once that if you don’t keep dreaming you’ll never be any good, and now I just want to keep getting better.”

JOCKEY CALVIN BOREL DUE BACK AT FAIR GROUNDS DEC. 28

Veteran Louisiana native jockey Calvin Borel accepted his first two mounts this season at Fair Grounds Thursday, but is due back at the Crescent City oval on Dec. 28.

“I’m going to Florida and then I’m going to be with the wife (back in Louisville, Ky.),” Borel said Thursday before leaving on his return flight to the greater Miami area. “I’m going to take a little break for Christmas, and then I’ll go to Hot Springs (for the upcoming Oaklawn Park meeting), but I’ll be back here on the 28th. I’m going to come back to ride a good colt for my brother (trainer Cecil Borel). His name is Malibu High and I’ve been very impressed with him.”

Borel, winner of three of the last six renewals of the Kentucky Derby and always revered in his home state, is currently two wins shy of the 5,000-career win milestone, and he will be joining only 25 other jockeys in Thoroughbred racing history to accomplish that feat.

One of those is the equally popular native Louisiana-born jockey Mark Guidry, who is riding at Fair Grounds this winter.

“(Five thousand wins) is a huge milestone,” said Guidry, when speaking of Borel’s immediately pending accomplishment. “Calvin is such a great gentleman and has had such a great, great career. That will be one more thing on his list of achievements. All his life he’s been a hard, hard worker. Everything he’s earned in his career he’s deserved and I love him to death.”

Another regular Fair Grounds rider who speaks very highly of Borel is Irish-born jockey James Graham, who passed the 1,500-win milestone at Fair Grounds Thursday.

“When I first came to Fair Grounds (as an apprentice in 2002) he (Borel) was the first rider in the room to actually go out of his way to try and help me,” said Graham. “I’d barely learned how to cross my reins. He took me aside and said, ‘Now look here, Bugsy, you’ve got to learn some things about riding here at Fair Grounds. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes, for both your safety and that of all the other riders.’

“I’m really looking forward to Calvin getting 5,000 wins,” Graham said. “I still treat him like he’s my big brother. He’s been very instrumental in my career. If it wasn’t for him my career could have went the wrong way.”

EARLY BIRD LOUISIANA DERBY NOMINATIONS CLOSE MONDAY 

Horsemen are reminded that Early Bird nominations of $500 for this season’s Grade II Louisiana Derby close this Monday (December 17). The 100th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby will be on March 30.

Early Bird nominations to the Louisiana Derby also include nominations to Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes Jan. 19 and the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Feb. 23.

ACTOR, FORMER JOCKEY OTTO THORWARTH TO SIGN AUTOGRAPHS SATURDAY 

Actor Otto Thorwarth, a former jockey who played the role of Ron Turcotte in the movie Secretariat, will be available to sign autographs at 2 p.m. Saturday in the paddock area at Fair Grounds.

Thorwarth, also increasingly sought after as a motivational speaker, will be accompanied Saturday by country singer Bo Bullock, who often travels with Thorwarth at his functions and will also be available for autographs.

NHC QUALIFIER SATURDAY

There are still spots available for Saturday’s “Beat the Champs” NHC Qualifier with three expenses-paid berths to the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas on the line. Registration will open at 10 a.m. on the west end of the Grandstand’s third floor. For contest rules and other information, visit FGNO.com/tournaments.

NO HANDICAPPING SEMINAR SATURDAY 

This week’s No Favorites Allowed handicapping seminar has been cancelled so that the team of regular Fair Grounds handicappers can assist with registration at the “Beat the Champs” NHC Qualifier. However, any guests seeking insight on the day’s races are encouraged to visit Brian “The Biscuit” Kohn and Gary Palmisano Jr. at the Contest registration table on the Grandstand’s third floor during the races that afternoon. 

 

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