Jockey James Graham made a successful return to Arlington Park last Saturday, winning the Grade I Mr. D. Stakes to earn Jockey of the Week honors for August 9 through August 15. The award, which is voted on by a panel of racing experts, is for jockeys who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 active riders in the United States as well as retired and permanently disabled jockeys.
Arlington Park had been home to Graham, a native of Dublin, Ireland, for more than a dozen years before moving his tack to Kentucky tracks and Fair Grounds in Louisiana. He returned on Saturday for the first time since 2018 to ride on what may be Arlington Park’s last premier day of racing. Trainer Hugh Robertson, a mainstay at Arlington Park for decades and very familiar with Graham, entered long-shot Two Emmys in the Grade I Mr. D. Stakes and gave simple instructions to Graham, “Go to the front and slow it down.” Graham followed those instructions faithfully.
Breaking from post position four in the field of eight, Graham and Two Emmys went straight to the front and controlled the pace around the first turn and down the backstretch with his half-mile in a pedestrian 52.43 seconds. In upper stretch, Graham asked Two Emmys for his best and held on when confronted late by the favorite Domestic Spending and Florent Geroux to win by a neck in 2:03.34 for the mile and one-quarter turf race. “When I didn’t see anyone behind me at the quarter pole, I knew they would really have to run to catch me,” said Graham. “He’s shown he can do it before and he did it today.” With the win, Graham posted his fifth career Grade I race.
Weekly statistics for Graham were 15-2-2-2 for an in-the-money percentage of 40% and total purses of $407,668.
Other nominees for Jockey of the Week were Alex Birzer with an in-the-money percentage of 55%, Tyler Gaffalione who won the Gr. I Fourstardave, Antonio Gallardo with nine wins for the week, and John Velazquez who won two stakes races at Saratoga.