Aidan O’Brien has joined the growing list of people to pay tribute to Pat Smullen – hailing the nine-times Irish champion jockey a “very special person” and “irreplaceable”.
Smullen, who was married to O’Brien’s sister-in-law Frances Crowley, died in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin on Tuesday aged 43 following a long battle with cancer.
While Smullen spent much of his illustrious riding career in opposition to the O’Brien runners, as stable jockey to Dermot Weld, the Ballydoyle maestro has nothing but admiration for the way Smullen conducted himself both on and off the track.
“Pat was one very special person – one of these people you meet once in a lifetime,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.
“He is irreplaceable. He was genuine, tough, consistent – an unbelievable horseman and a brilliant jockey.
“He helped everybody and was very sincere to everybody. Nothing about Pat was false – he was true to everybody. I think that’s why he was so admired and will never be forgotten.
“We felt privileged to know him and to have worked with him and to be part of our family.”
Chief among Smullen’s many achievements was completing the English-Irish Derby double aboard Harzand in 2016.
O’Brien saddled the second and third at Epsom in US Army Ranger and Idaho, while the latter was beaten just half a length into second at the Curragh three weeks later.
O’Brien added: “Pat beat us in two Derbys – he beat us at the Curragh and at Epsom. We did everything in our power for that not to happen, but he had it worked out and had the power, the courage, the skill and the determination to make it happen.
“We’re so delighted that he experienced those days.”