Lightweight Lee to give up NH for Flat
Wednesday 28 March 2012
Watching the scales is an occupational hazard for most jockeys; the 16-times jump champion Tony McCoy, for example, exists at a stone and a half below his natural weight. For Graham Lee, however, the problem is not the traditional one. The Grand National-winning rider has accepted that he is too light to ride over fences and hurdles and is to reboot his career on the Flat.
Lee, still sidelined after a fall at Southwell last month, scored at Aintree on Amberleigh House eight years ago and has ridden five winners at the Cheltenham Festival. But, rarely among his weighing-room colleagues, he has struggled to put on enough muscular bulk to keep him comfortable in the jumping arm of the sport.
The minimum to be carried by a jumper, 10st, is the upper limit for a Flat horse. Lee, who aims to be back in action by the end of April, is currently 8st 12lb. "I've always had to work very hard to keep weight on, with training in the gym," he said yesterday, "and since that day at Southwell [he disclocated a hip on 15 February] it's just fallen off me. When I got home from hospital five weeks ago I was 9st 12lb and on the scales this morning I was a stone lighter.
"I love riding over the jumps and always have. But I did think about switching back in 2008, when I was off after a head injury at Huntingdon, and then I had to work so hard at being a stone above my fighting weight. The main reason I came back was because I was only 20 winners behind AP [McCoy] in the title race, and he was off with a broken back at the time.
"I've decided this time I can't really face the gym to get a stone back on me, so I'm going to go for the Flat. Riding a five-furlong sprint at Ripon will be different to a three-mile chase round Hexham, but I'm sure I'll adapt and I'll give it 110 per cent."
The best jumper ridden by 36-year-old Lee has been Inglis Drever, on whom he won the 2005 World Hurdle. He last rode on the Flat in 2008, when he partnered Brian Ellison's Keisha Kayleigh to victory over a mile at Hamilton, albeit in a contest for jump jockeys.
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