01/17/2009 12:00AM

Graham enjoying his time at top


NEW ORLEANS - Jockey James Graham didn't celebrate taking over the top of the rider standings in the strong Fair Grounds colony - he was more focused on the joy of being a jockey.

"How can you get paid for something you love so much?" said Graham. "I work hard every day, but this ain't work; I just try to get as much run out of them as I can."

Graham has been getting a lot of run from his mounts lately. Entering racing on Saturday as the only rider at the meet with over $1 million in earnings, Graham had 37 wins from 238 mounts.

His biggest victory of the meet came Jan. 10, when he booted home French Beret in the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley. The victory was a repeat of Graham's 2008 victory with French Beret in the same race.

"I love French Beret because he wants to win, but he wants to do it his way," said Graham. "He's got his quirks, like myself."

Graham, 29, finished second in the rider standings last year at Fair Grounds. Born in Finglas, Ireland, near Dublin, he has partially settled in New Orleans, buying a house in a neighborhood near Fair Grounds.

"It takes me four minutes in the morning with all of the lights," said Graham. "I'm here every day, bar Tuesdays, and things are falling right at the moment."

Graham credits his agent, Britt McGehee, for the way the season is coming together.

"I've got the best agent; we have a great relationship," said Graham. "I don't tell him who to ride, and he doesn't tell me how to ride."

Graham's regular circuit is Fair Grounds in the winter, Chicago in the summer, and Keeneland in the fall and spring. He skipped the fall meet at Keeneland this year, due to the death of his mother.

"That could have a little to do with the success," said Graham. "She's riding on my shoulder."

Timely Advice on the improve

Timely Advice was impressive as he took his next step forward Friday, winning a six-furlong second-level allowance in 1:09.76 under Patrick Valenzuela. The time was the second-fastest mark for six furlongs this season at Fair Grounds.

"I don't know if Patrick even hit him," said trainer Malcolm Pierce. "He said he had a lot of horse under him at the eighth pole and hand-rode him home."

Pierce has worked to teach Timely Advice to rate, and the colt showed Friday he has learned his lessons. He raced last early in the field of six before beginning to pick off rivals on the turn. He took over in the stretch, and drew away to win by 3 3/4 lengths.

Timely Advice is a perfect 2 for 2 this meet since being shortened up to six furlongs and being put on dirt. He made his first four starts on Polytrack at Woodbine. The improvement leaves Pierce wondering which is the critical variable - the shorter distance or the dirt surface.

"At some point we'll have to find out if he's as good on the Polytrack as he is on dirt," said Pierce. "We'll find out if the improvement is due to him learning to rate, or if it is a preference for dirt, but it's a nice problem to have."

Pierce said that Timely Advice will likely be pointed toward a third-level allowance.

"It might make the most sense to do the next allowance condition," said Pierce. "There will be plenty of opportunities for stakes conditions in the spring."

* The feature race on Monday is the ninth, a statebred first-level allowance at six furlongs. Silent Pipe looks to be the favorite off his second-place finish in the Louisiana Futurity. In that race he lost by a neck to Leestown Gift, and finished 3o1/2 lengths in front of Shockin Blow, the fourth-place finisher, who also returns in this race.