Legendary Irish jockey Ruby Walsh has expressed concern over the recent fall suffered by Graham Lee, saying that such incidents are becoming too frequent in the sport.
Last week, the 47-year-old, originally from Galway, was ejected from his horse Ben Macdui as the starting stalls opened. Subsequently, he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. Regrettably, Lee sustained damage to his spinal cord, and his condition is currently believed "very serious."
A statement from the Injured Jockeys Fund revealed, "Jockey Graham Lee's MRI scan has shown that he has suffered an unstable cervical fracture causing damage to the spinal cord, as well as damage to blood vessels in the mid-cervical region. He remains in ITU with respiratory support at the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital in Newcastle, but it has been possible to reduce his sedation. This is a very serious injury, and at this early time, it is not possible to predict the extent of long-term recovery. Graham’s family are very grateful for the many messages of support that they have had."
Ruby Walsh, a close friend of Lee's, became the latest prominent figure in the sport to convey his thoughts and prayers to Lee and his family amid the challenging circumstances surrounding Lee's "serious" condition.
"I know him very well; I rode with him for a long time. He was very dedicated to his craft, a gentleman obviously, and gave everything to his profession. I just feel so sorry for him. You hope that every bit of news you get going forward is positive, and my thoughts are with him, Becky, and his kids. It is a very worrying time for them, and you just hope that God is good," said Walsh in an interview with Racing TV this week.
Walsh, having faced his own injuries during his career, is well aware of the risks in the sport. However, he believes that an injury like Lee's should not be allowed to happen more than once.
"They don’t happen often, but once is too often. We all know the risks involved, but you just hope it never happens to anybody," he added. "He is such a good jockey, very stylish and tactical. He managed to do what a lot of people can't, which is go from a very successful National Hunt jockey to a very successful flat jockey. How many jockeys have won Grand Nationals and then Group Ones on the Flat? Not many.
"It’s a fair double - an Ascot Gold Cup on Trip To Paris and then a Grand National on Amberleigh House - that doesn’t happen by luck."