GALWAY native Graham Lee added a Gold Cup to his Grand National triumph but it was with a twist as unlike Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty and AP McCoy to name just a few that can list the honour of winning on both of jump races biggest occasions, Lee was adding flat racing’s Ascot Gold Cup to his Aintree Grand National triumph.
Just over three-years since announcing his retirement from jump racing to switch to riding on the flat, Lee was celebrating one of the biggest victories of his career in one of the sports most prestigious races aboard the Ed Dunlop trained Trip To Paris.
The four-year-old won the Chester Cup earlier in the season but it was only then that he was added to the Ascot Gold Cup field with connections having to fork out a loft supplementary fee but it was worth every penny as he enjoyed a dream run up the rail in the home straight of the 2m4f marathon and he may now even be ready to take on a global tour with a Melbourne Cup tilt not ruled out by his trainer.
“Those who know me know I’m not the most adventurous when it comes to stumping up £35,000, particularly when I own a bit of the horse,” said Dunlop.
“Graham Lee has been a big part of this - I thought it was a great ride, although I was bemoaning him going around the outside for a bit until he sensibly got to the inside rail where he quickened well.
“He’s made phenomenal progress this season - he was on a mark of 88 at the start of the season and ran in last year’s Shergar Cup, where the jockey was run away with and made the running. Then he was a bit disappointing and we gelded him and put him away. He’s won four of six this year and is one of the most improved horses in training.
“His owners are all very sporting and put up with me - some have been with me since the start. There are seven of us in the partnership.”
Of Melbourne, where he has saddled Red Cadeaux to finish second in three Melbourne Cup’s, he said: “The guy leading him up today is Steve Nicholson, who also looks after Red Cadeaux, and until today he always said, ‘he (Trip To Paris) is not coming on the same plane as Cadeaux’, but after today we’ll see. The Australians, the clever ones, said you ought not be running in the Gold Cup because you’ll spoil his mark for the Melbourne Cup, but I think his owners will want to do it now. Why not?”
For Graham Lee it was an incredible way to break his duck at Royal Ascot and he described it as a “super day”.
Lee said: “The second I got legged up on him in the parade ring I knew he was going to run well. He was asleep, he went to post asleep. He was relaxed all the time, conserving energy. The race went well and happy days. Thank the man above, everything went good.
“I had a look when I turned in where I was going to go and there was a gap down the rail. He has picked up good and he deserved this.”
Dermot Weld’s Forgotten Rules lost his unbeaten record but little in defeat and Weld said: “He is significantly better on soft ground, he cruises on it and that is what he would have favoured today. With all that said, he ran all the way to the line and he has finished third in a Gold Cup.”