GRAND NATIONAL-WINNING rider Graham Lee is looking forward to a new career on the Flat after the shock announcement he is to switch codes.
Lee landed the world’s most famous steeplechase in 2004 on the Ginger McCain-trained Amberleigh House, and rode five Cheltenham Festival winners, including a treble in 2005 on Inglis Drever, No Refuge and Arcalis.
Lee, 36, cited weight issues as the primary reason for his decision, in that he has always found it a struggle to put on enough weight to ride over jumps.
Currently sidelined after a heavy fall at Southwell on February 15, Lee told Racing UK: “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 that I took at Southwell.
“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 taken a stone off in just over five weeks.
“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 (winners) 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.
“Then last December I broke my collarbone and was parked up on the sofa for a couple of weeks. Then when that started to heal, I got back in the gym, got the weight back on again and then I had the fall in Southwell.
“I can’t really face the gym to get a stone back on me, so I’m going to go Flat racing.”
Looking back at the National, Lee said: “That was an amazing day. When I watch it, it’s like looking at someone else. It’s never really sunk in and probably won’t until I’ve packed in and I’m watching the Grand National with my children and my grandchildren.
“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 the great days that I’ve had are in the past and we live in the future. I’m so focused on what I’m going to have a go at.”
Lee’s boss, Ferdy Murphy, said: “Graham was in the yard on Sunday and it’s an absolute no-brainer for him.
“He has always had a light frame and had to do a lot of work in the gym to keep the weight on. He had to build up a lot of hard muscle.
“He’s been a great man to work with and has been fantastic for the yard.
“We had Adrian Maguire before him and both of them are legends.
“It’s obviously a relief for him and it’s a big disappointment for the yard. I’m not going to do anything stupid.
We’re near the end of the season now and I’ll speak to my owners.”