Graham Lee ‘humbled’ by racing club initiative

Amy Lee: ‘It’s so nice that something so positive comes out of something so awful.’

On the 20th anniversary of Graham Lee winning the Grand National on Amberleigh House, a new racing club was launched to help raise money for the jockey after he suffered life-changing injuries in a fall at Newcastle in November.

The 48-year-old had a long and distinguished career in the saddle – under both codes. As well as winning the Grand National, he completed the unique double of riding the Gold Cup winner at Royal Ascot, via Trip To Paris.

The Graham Lee Racing Club has been set up by the Good Racing Company, founded by Phil Hawthorne, who established a similar venture for former rugby league player Rob Burrow.

They have purchased a two-year-old filly called We’ve Got This, in reference to a message Lee’s wife Becky posted on social media after the accident.

Lee’s daughter Amy and son Robbie have been at the forefront of the fundraising, with the latter designing the club’s logo, featured around Lee’s favourite number 17, also the number Amberleigh House wore at Aintree and the cost, GBP 17, to join the venture, while Amy set up the initial Just Giving page.

Graham Lee with son Robbie, wife Becky and daughter Amy in hospital
Graham Lee with son Robbie, wife Becky and daughter Amy in hospital (Louise Pollard)

She said: “It’s so nice that something so positive comes out of something so awful. I love meeting people who know dad, everyone has their really cool stories and everyone has been wanting to help so much. It’s nice to create something positive.

“When we set up a Just Giving page for dad, the target was GBP 100, last week it hit GBP 200,000 – which is crazy. I never expected that.

“I’ve always said to dad every time he has a negative thought, there’s a donation to show him he needs to keep going, there are so many people behind him.

“When he’s had his down days, we’ve sat there and we’ve read all the lovely messages and it always puts a smile on our faces.

“We’ve had so much support and the McCoys have been like a second family to us – the night it happened AP picked me up, as I live near him, and he brought me up home.”

She went on: “Dad is just dad to me. I never really clicked how incredible he was. I’ve always thought the world of him but another jockey said to me ‘he’s like God, he’s who everyone wants to be like’. It’s so nice to hear something like that.

“I wish that I could be half the person. I’m a performer, I’m studying musical theatre, and to have that competitive mindset to be a winner, to be a champion, is admirable.

“While he was a jockey, it was onto the next thing. When he won the National, he was just thinking ‘I need to go to Hexham tomorrow’, he never got to celebrate it really, but since his accident, he’s really reflected and we’ve pulled out the old photos and old videos.

“When his friends and fellow jockeys come and see him, they reflect on races from years ago and his memory is insanely sharp. I think it’s starting to click that ‘actually, I think I was all right. I don’t think I did too bad a job’.

“So many people have come to see him or got in touch with a message, it’s been so nice and really kept dad going.

“The world goes on but for us four, we’re still at November 11, time’s just stopped since then. Everyone has been carrying on, as they should. But it’s nice that people are still caring at this point, five months down the line. They are still showing up, ringing, messaging.”

Club ambassador Adele Mulrennan with Paul Hanagan on the left with trainer Craig Lidster and Good Racing Company founder Phil Hawthorne on the right of William Pyle with We've Got This
Club ambassador Adele Mulrennan with Paul Hanagan on the left with trainer Craig Lidster and Good Racing Company founder Phil Hawthorne on the right of William Pyle with We’ve Got This (Louise Pollard)

Lee’s former weighing room colleague and dual champion jockey Paul Hanagan is now assistant trainer to Craig Lidster, who has been entrusted with looking after We’ve Got This.

“It’s an honour to be involved in this, Graham’s family are closely involved, Steve and Wendy Burdett, who own Eboracum Stables, have given us the horse, so a lot of thanks go to them,” said Hanagan.

“The filly is by Invincible Army, she’s been doing everything right and I’ve sat on her myself. She’s flourished these last few months and we’re really looking forward to the season.

“Obviously, I’ve had a few sleepless nights hoping I’ve picked a good one! Hopefully she’ll be running in the next five to six weeks.

“Graham has made a huge contribution to racing all through his career and I’d love to give something back.”

Lee himself said: “I’m really humbled that a fundraising racing club has been set up in my honour, and that Paul Hanagan has chosen the horse for me. I’ve been shown videos of the horse and she looks very promising. No pressure Paul, but I hope you’ve picked a winner!

“I’ve seen what the Good Racing Company has achieved for Rob Burrow and how it’s united the racing community. I have high hopes that this new racing club achieves the same success with We’ve Got This, and my family and I look forward to following the excitement and being part of this new community.”

Lidster, whose yard is flourishing, said: “As you can see, she’s a nice, big filly, so hopefully we might get to York at some point.

“I don’t want to put her on a pedestal but she’s going the right way, she’s got a great attitude, she loves her work and we’re pleased with her.

“She has size and scope about her, so we’ll be choosing the right track for her; galloping tracks like York and Doncaster.

“This is a special cause. Family is family, whether that is your own or the racing industry – and that is how we look at Graham and anyone else in this sport, we all look to help each other when these things happen.”

More information can be found at: https://thegoodracing.co/

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