GRAHAM Lee will miss the Cheltenham Festival – and at least three high-profile rides for top Yorkshire trainer Ferdy Murphy – after dislocating his right hip in a horrific fall.
Lee, who rode his 1,000th career winner last month, faces months on the sidelines after being unseated from Murphy’s Rich Lord at the fourth last fence at Southwell yesterday and landing on the joint.
The jockey was taken to hospital in Nottingham where he underwent surgery last night to put the injured hip back in its socket, and he may require a further operation once his condition has stabilised.
Racing had to be delayed at the Midlands track until a replacement ambulance could be summoned, one of racing’s safety requirements.
It was initially thought that Lee had fractured his right femur but X-rays revealed that he had suffered an anterior dislocation of his hip.
BHA doctor Alison Green, who attended to the stricken rider, said last night: “He’s suffered an anterior dislocation of the hip which is a most unusual injury.
“We’d originally thought the right femur had been fractured but the hospital have been in contact and confirmed the hip was dislocated, but they’ve already put that back.
“It would be very unusual for the bone to come out of the socket without breaking part of the hip socket and depending on how bad the break is will determine if he needs surgery. He could be out of action from anywhere between three and six months.”
Lee’s agent Richard Hale added: “I have spoken to Becky, Graham’s wife, and he has just come out of theatre. The hip was definitely dislocated and has been put back in.”
The timing could not have been worse for the 36-year-old rider, coming four weeks ahead of Cheltenham. His career has been blighted by injury – he missed the 2008 Cheltenham Festival when he broke his jaw in two places and was kicked in the chest at Huntingdon – .
The timing is also poor for Murphy’s West Witton yard, which had slowly been running into form after a quiet season.
While Lee, who lives near Bedale, North Yorkshire, was overwhelmed by racing’s reaction to his 1,000th career winner, he still needs five more triumphs to reach the celebrated landmark under National Hunt rules. That will eat away at him during his convalescence.
It will also pain the father-of-two, who famously delivered Ginger McCain with a fourth Grand National win on Amberleigh House in 2004, that he will miss several high-profile rides at Cheltenham and Aintree festivals – he knows he will not get many more chances to add to his big-race tally.
The most notable of these is Murphy’s stable star Kalahari King, who has been placed at the last four Festivals. His target remains the Ryanair Chase where the 11-year-old hopes to avenge last year’s narrow defeat to an AP McCoy-inspired Albertas Run, who heads the field following the latest declarations.
Kalahari King, who is on the comeback trail from injury and relishing his regular gallops along Redcar Beach, runs in the same distinctive red and white colours as the progressive De Boitron – one of the ante-post favourites for the Grand Annual Chase.
Fourth last year, De Boitron was an eyecatching third at Musselburgh on Saturday where Lee was very optimistic about the chaser’s Cheltenham chances.
Murphy’s other major hope will be Divers, who won the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase a year ago before finishing a credible third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November.
Though no decisions have been taken, Murphy is likely to opt for riding experience with his former stable star Davy Russell, 2008 Gold Cup-winning jockey Sam Thomas, Saltburn’s James Reveley and Richmond-based Keith Mercer among the names that could come into contention.
The key, however, is likely to be their availability during the busiest, and most important week, of the jumping calendar.
“I want to let the dust settle and take stock of the situation,” Murphy said last night.
“The priority is making sure Graham gets the best possible treatment. My thoughts are with him and his family. I’m not thinking about anything else. All you can say about a season like this – we’ve had three unseat in two days – is that it is character building.”