Injured jockey Graham Lee improving as racing rallies round him and over £125,000 raised for Injured Jockeys Fund
Lee, 47, suffered life-changing injuries eight days ago at Newcastle after being thrown from Ben Macdui at the start of a five-furlong sprint.
He was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in the city where he placed in intensive care and has since undergone surgery having been identified as having an unstable cervical fracture causing damage to his spinal cord.
A Just Giving appeal set up by his 18-year-old daughter Amy, with the modest target of £100 to help the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF), had raised ???? by yesterday evening.
The dual purpose jockey won the 2007 renewal of the famous Prestbury Park handicap – for many years known as the Mackeson Gold Cup – on L'Antartique – for legendary West Witton trainer, the late Ferdy Murphy.
Murphy’s assistant at the time of the famous Cheltenham win was Niall Hannity, a former National Hunt jockey himself, who is now better known as one of the presenters on Racing TV.
Hannity first got to know Lee when he was 11-years-old, back in his native Ireland and looked on with pride as his friend went on to win races like the Paddy Power, the 2006 Grand National on Amberleigh House for Red Rum’s trainer Ginger McCain and completing a rare double having won the Scottish Grand National on Grey Abbey two years earlier.
In 2012, having ridden over 1000 jumps winners for the likes of Murphy, McCain, Malton’s Malcolm Jefferson and J Howard Johnson and including five Cheltenham Festival scorers, he switched to the Flat.
Incredibly, the Bedale-based rider went on to enjoy more top level success, winning the Group One Ascot Gold Cup in 2015 on Trip to Paris and the Nunthorpe at York in 2018 on Alpha Delphini and was still riding regularly when he suffered his horrific accident at Gosforth Park.
Hannity was visiting his friend in hospital yesterday and told The Yorkshire Post: “His CV of what he has done over the jumps, a 1,000 winners in a vintage era and then on the Flat was brilliant.
"It seems very cruel for it to happen to anyone but especially to Graham and our thoughts are with him, his wife Becky, his children Amy and Robbie.
"It’s going to be a long old road for him and we don’t really know so we are waiting for updates, but he is in the right hands.
"I know that Becky has said that all the staff at the RVI have been fantastic, the doctors and nurses and they are grateful for his care.
Hannity did not see his friend’s fall – “and has no interest in seeing it” – as he was working for Racing TV at Chelmsford at the time, but praised the way Lee’s daughter had responded to the grave situation.
"Amy has been amazing, She sent the appeal up off her own back, 100 per cent, and it is keeping her strong, the messages coming in.
“Obviously he has got life-changing injuries and it is keeping her focused and every penny counts.
“Hopefully if people have a good weekend they can keep donating and their money will genuinely make a difference.
“The family have been overwhelmed by the generosity so far from everyone – punters, friends, people who appreciate the sport and what Graham has done for it.
“It’s been a real focus for her and she is a little star. She is actually writing down all the messages on and A4 pad and reading them out to her dad every day.”
Another of Lee’s close friends, 20-time Champion Jockey Sir AP McCoy, is the current president of the IJF.
He drove Amy to Newcastle and 3am on Saturday morning in the wake of her father’s accident.
Speaking earlier this week, McCoy said in a joint- statement with Malton trainer Jack Berry, who has an IJF rehabilitation centre named after him in the town, said: “As bad as Graham’s injuries are, please do rest assured that our team at the IJF will look after his needs to assist him in his recovery and predicament for as long as it takes.
“Whatever help he and his family needs, we will be there to provide it.”
If you would like to donate to the appeal, you can go to: https://www.justgiving.com/page/amy-lee or Google Just Giving Amy Lee and follow the link from there.