James Graham was born May 17, 1979 in Finglas, Dublin, Ireland James notched his first Arlington riding title in 2011 with 82 victories topped by graded stakes scores in the Grade III Hanshin Cup with Workin For Hops, and the Grade III Arlington Handicap with Tajaaweed.
James left home at 15 to attend race-riding school in Ireland. He was an exercise rider for trainer Jeff Thornbury before taking out his jockey's license in 2003. He recorded his first win at River Downs on July 1, 2003 aboard B. J. Star. He won 46 races as an apprentice at the Fair Grounds during the 2003-04 season before coming to Chicago. James made a big splash at his first meet at Arlington in 2004, winning 57 races to finish fifth in standings. He started the season as an apprentice and his momentum kept on going after he lost his "bug". He won his first graded stakes race when he guided Lovely Afternoon to a dead-heat victory in the Grade III $150,000 Arlington Breeders' Cup Oaks.He won the track's Rising Star Award that season.