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National winner Lee in Flat switch

Grand National-winning jockey Graham Lee is to make a shock switch to ride full-time on the Flat.

Winner of the Aintree showpiece in 2004 on the Ginger McCain-trained Amberleigh House, Lee cited weight issues as the primary reason for the move, in that he has always found it a struggle to put on enough to ride over jumps.

The jockey, who has also ridden five Cheltenham Festival winners but is currently sidelined after a fall at Southwell last month, said: "I'm going to concentrate on riding on the Flat. I've always had to work very hard keeping weight on me with training and it's just fallen off me since the latest fall I took."

He went on: "I got home from the hospital and I was 9st 12lb and I got on the scales this morning and I was 8st 12lb, so I've took a stone off in just over five weeks. I can't really face the gym to get a stone back on me, so I'm going to go Flat racing.

"I love riding over jumps and I always have done. I got a fall at Huntingdon in 2008 and suffered quite a bad head injury. I actually thought about it then, because I had to work so hard at being a stone above my fighting weight.

"But when that fall occurred I was second to AP (McCoy) in the championship, who was off with a broken back at the time. I was 20 behind him and that was the main reason why I came back, because I was dreaming of a championship. I got back in the gym and got all the weight back on and went back jumping."

Despite all the falls Lee, 36, insists a full retirement from the saddle never crossed his mind.

He added: "There is no way in the world am I ready to give up. I'm as competitive as ever and that thought never entered my head for a second. I'm going into this with the rev-counter in red, I'm giving it my all and I'm fortunate enough that my body is giving me the chance to go down this road.

"The sport is starting to catch up with other sports (fitness-wise) and I have a great fitness coach, Chris Barnes, who is involved in the Premier League. I don't drink, I don't smoke and I look after myself. I'm eating well, I'm exercising every morning on the bike and I feel really good. I cannot wait to get at it.

"I've been very fortunate to win a National, I was top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005 and I've won a Scottish National and a Whitbread (Bet365 Gold Cup). They were great, great days. But they are in the past and we live in the future. I'm so focussed on what I'm going to have a go at."


From Belfast Telegraph