Lee hop­ing he will have plenty to smile about aboard hot tip Growl

The Herald - Herald Sport - - RACING - PAUL WHEELER

ASK most jock­eys what is the tough­est part of the job and the an­swer will be “get­ting on the right horse”.

It gets even harder come the big races but Gra­ham Lee will find him­self on the horse who will be the hot favourite for the big­gest race of the day when he rides Growl in the Wil­liam Hill Ayr Gold Cup.

For over a decade as a jump jockey Lee was of­ten the right man on the right horse and har­vested a rich crop of the win­ter game’s glit­ter­ing prizes, in­clud­ing the 2004 Scot­tish Grand Na­tional on Grey Abbey, un­til he switched to rid­ing on the Flat in 2012.

He hit the ground run­ning with a cen­tury in each of his first four sea­sons and big win­ners like the Gold Cup at Royal As­cot last year on Trip To Paris, but it has been a harder road to travel this sea­son.

“I was off five weeks with a virus in the sum­mer, which didn’t help. Out of sight out of mind,” he said. “But there’s no point get­ting older un­less you get wiser. Some lads feed off hav­ing win­ners for their con­fi­dence. But I don’t think it af­fects me that way. If the horse is good enough, I’ll win on it.

“Yes, it’s been an av­er­age sea­son but I’m not both­ered. You just take each day as it comes and I’m too old to get both­ered by fig­ures and stats.”

The stats say that Lee had a 29 per cent strike-rate rid­ing on the Flat for Richard Fa­hey but only 0-4 this year so it was a lit­tle sur­pris­ing to some out­siders when the trainer of­fered him the ride on Growl, on whom he will not have sat un­til he gets the leg up in the pa­rade ring.

“One of the great pieces of ad­vice I was given as a young­ster was ex­pect the un­ex­pected,” he said, “and I didn’t see that com­ing.”

Those who try to see a way through the co­nun­drum of this 25-sus­pect whow­ill-win-it have of­ten fallen back on the draw bias. Growl is drawn in stall six but changes to the sprint track at Ayr, with a false rail on the stands’ side, are con­sid­ered to have nul­li­fied what was de­scribed as a “golden high­way” that had favoured high-drawn horses and Don’t Touch won the race for Fa­hey 12 months ago when breaking from stall eight.

“I’m still go­ing through the race but there’s pace around him, with Watch­able and Nameitwhaty­oulike drawn near to him, and that’s a mas­sive help. He can take a tow off the pace and get taken into the race,” Lee said. “Since the golden high­way has been re­moved it’s all about where the pace is. I don’t think there’s a draw bias at all now.”

The bet­ting mar­ket is heav­ily bi­ased in favour of Growl and will mean that the fate of mil­lions of pounds will be de­cided in around 72 sec­onds. Lee does not give the prospect of such pres­sure even a sec­ond’s thought.

“Not in the slight­est. I wouldn’t even bat an eye­lid at it,” he said, with a late en­try for least sur­pris­ing com­ment of the week.

“Growl doesn’t know what price he is and I’m not both­ered. If he’s good enough and he has luck on the day he’ll win.”

Per­haps, but when those stalls open, if Growl is the right horse then Lee will back him­self to be the right man for the job. SELECTIONS Growl

Lulu The Zulu Ster­ling Davis wants Glas­gow Rocks sum­mer ar­rivals to fight for their start­ing spots when his side faces a USA Select team in their fi­nal pre-sea­son friendly to­mor­row.

With Great Bri­tain duo Kieron Achara and Gareth Mur­ray not sched­uled to link up with the squad un­til Mon­day, the Amer­i­can seized the chance to look through his line-up in Tues­day’s 101-41 rout of the Scot­tish League side Bor­ough­muir.

But with seven days un­til the BBL opener against Manch­ester, Davis wants to get a feel for how the Rocks shape up.

“I just want to see us con­tinue to grow,” he said. “Play­ing Bor­ough­muir gave me some­what of an idea of where we are but Sun­day will be a tougher test. Our of­fense so far looks okay. Our de­fence has been pretty good. But there’s still a lot of growth we need be­fore our first league game next week­end.”

GRITTED TEETH: Growl, rid­den here at As­cot by Jimmy For­tune, will be steered by Gra­ham Lee in to­day’s fea­ture race Gold Cup at Ayr.

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