James Graham earned his 3,000th career win when he piloted Vortex to victory in the second race at Fair Grounds Sunday.
“It's quite emotional actually,” Graham said. “I came here in 2002 and all I ever wanted was a shot. I wish my mom was still alive to see this. Thank you to everybody who has ever put me on a winner throughout my whole career. This is all because of you guys. Thank you to my wife. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be where I am. Fair Grounds has been good to me over the years. I've made a lot of friends and lost a lot of friends. Racing is a life and we are all a big family. Thank you to everybody.”
Graham recorded one win in his native Ireland before launching his career in the U.S. where his first victory came at River Downs on July 1, 2003 aboard B.J. Star for trainer Allan Shapoff in just his 12th mount. Later that year, his first Fair Grounds victory came aboard High Octave for trainer Ronny Werner. With 1,340 wins, Graham is the third winningest rider at Fair Grounds since 1986, behind Ronald Ardoin and Robby Albarado.
“This is special for me doing it [at Fair Grounds],” Graham said. “My career took off here. When I first got here in 2003 and started riding, this is the meet that got the ball rolling for me. Look at the guys I started riding with here. Gerard [Melancon], Robby [Albarado], Shane Sellars, E.J. Perrodin–I got educated here. I've got a couple more goals at this track that I want to accomplish, so I'm banging on the door and I'm young, fit and healthy.”
The 44-year-old has won over 47 graded stakes, including Fair Grounds victories aboard 135-1 shot Ive Struck a Nerve in the 2013 GII Risen Star S., 28-1 shot Call Me Midnight in the 2022 GIII Lecomte S., and 7-1 shot Ron the Greek in the 2010 Lecomte.