Newmarket to host Pat Smullen Memorial race

Newmarket Racecourses has announced a race will be run in memory of the late Pat Smullen at next month’s bet365 Craven meeting.

Smullen, champion jockey nine times in Ireland, died of cancer at the age of 43 but left a lasting legacy.

Close friend and Newmarket resident Ted Durcan suggested the idea of a race in his honour – and the Pat Smullen Memorial Handicap will be run on Tuesday, April 13.

Durcan said: “There were a lot of people in England at the time of Pat’s funeral who weren’t able to pay their respects with all the COVID restrictions.

“I know many of us would have liked to have been able to hold a memorial service, which we weren’t able to do, and this is just hopefully a nice way to remember Pat.

“The Craven meeting is always a very exciting time, and Pat had huge success over the years at the Rowley Mile. The team at Newmarket Racecourses were extremely helpful and only too happy to stage a race in Pat’s name.”

The race will also offer a small bonus to the stable staff involved in it.

“Rather than have a best-turned-out prize, we decided that everyone who leads up will get £25 rather than just one person getting £50,” added Durcan.

“Pat was always very well-liked and respected by racing staff, and we all respect how much effort from the staff goes into getting the horses to the racecourse. It isn’t a large sum, but it is just a token of our appreciation.”

Mercury Stakes to be run in memory of Pat Smullen

Pat Smullen will be remembered at Dundalk on October 16, with the feature Mercury Stakes run in his honour.

The nine-times champion and multiple Classic winner was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018 and died last month at the age of 43.

While Smullen accomplished an impressive amount in the saddle, he also undertook some notable charity work following his retirement in May 2019 on medical advice.

Smullen raised €2.5million for Cancer Trials Ireland, with a legends charity race at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend drawing support from the likes of Sir Anthony McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Kieren Fallon and others.

Malih Al Basti was a long-standing friend of Smullen and hopes the Group Three Al Basti Equiworld, Dubai Pat Smullen Mercury Stakes will prove a fitting memorial.

He said: “Pat was a terrific horseman and a great friend.

“I hope this race will provide all those who knew him or admired his achievements from afar with an opportunity to reflect on a true racing legend.”

The track’s chief executive Jim Martin added: “We are delighted that Al Basti Equiworld, Dubai has chosen to honour Pat with a race at Dundalk, where he rode his first winner, Vicosa, for trainer Tom Lacy in June 1993 and his last aboard Anthony McCann’s Togoville in March 2018.

“We have enjoyed some great moments with Pat in between and look forward to celebrating his outstanding career with this prestigious event later this month.”

Monday Musings: The Day Pat Changed The Law

I only met Pat Smullen once, as against bumped-into as we do or rather did on the ever-moving canvas that is or was until March 2020, the world of horse racing, writes Tony Stafford. I’m sure I smiled across at him on one or more of my increasingly-rare trips to Ireland, or his sporadic jaunts to the UK while he was busy winning his nine domestic titles and an immense warmth within the Irish racing community and his own family which is right at the centre of that intense world.

It was with a mixture of delight and trepidation that I learned on July 7th 2016 from Hughie Morrison’s ultra-efficient secretary Jane Bexx –maybe the real Posh and Becks! – that Pat Smullen would partner Raymond Tooth’s home-bred Dutch Law in the 6.05 race on the following Saturday.

It seemed he’d not been required for Tipperary that day and had been booked for six rides at Ascot’s Summer Mile meeting, presumably working around his primary objective, riding Sir Michael Stoute’s Convey in the feature race. Convey was a disappointing seventh that day but Pat’s trip over did provide its dividend when he brought home Ed Dunlop’s 6-1 shot Manjaam to a comfortable success in the 5.35 race, a mile and a half handicap.

So Smullen’s final act of a long day, before he headed off to nearby Heathrow for his flight home, was his mount on Dutch Law.  At that point in his life the gelding was a 13-times-raced winner of one handicap under Martin Harley on the July Course just over a year previously, and less-than-honourable possessor of five second places. Hence the trepidation: the delight was the prospect of what Pat might encourage him to do!

Well he, with the jockey’s help, made it six runner-up slots, with a decent effort which the race close up in the Racing Post reminds me that he squeezed through after being short of room to run the George Baker-ridden Experto Crede, a three-year-old trained by Ed Walker, to just over a length, conceding that younger horse 12lb.

I tried to rekindle the visual imprint I have of that race by pressing the race video feature on the Racing Post site this morning, but was instead shown the first race of Salisbury’s evening fixture, scheduled off five minutes earlier at 6.00 p.m. Inevitable, maybe, with all that racing going on, as was the case last Saturday when three races with their mini-screens, were showing at the same time on Racing TV.

What I do remember clearly though without any need of a memory jog is Pat spending quite a lot of time being very gracious about a horse that in the scheme of things could easily not have meant anything much to him. I left the track that night reflecting on what a nice man as well as a brilliant jockey he was.

His riding also had an emollient effect on Dutch Law. Next time out, just a week later, back on Newmarket’s July Course, this time teaming up with Oisin Murphy for the only time, he won with a last-stride lurch on the line. Then the partnership did something I’d never previously witnessed on an English racecourse. Oisin was aware that the gap between this 4.55 race, off almost five minutes late, and his intended ride on a Ralph Beckett good thing in Lingfield’s 6.10 race did not leave much spare time for the 95-mile (presumably less as the plane flies) trip.

So there they were actually cantering across the July Course paddock and into the winner’s enclosure with barely room for the announcement of his narrow win with future champion Oisin looking back apologetically saying: “Can’t stop, see you!” He did make it to Lingfield, incidentally, winning easily and as he has often conceded since, it’s the fastest he’s ever gone on a racecourse after pulling up!

Then came the Charlie Bennett show. That 5lb apprentice also showed a good degree of communication when after another successful run on the same Newmarket track three weeks later, Charlie stayed and chatted for at least half an hour following a more comfortable seven-furlong victory with me and Peter Ashmore.

Tried at a mile there six days later he was third, not really getting home, but then came his greatest triumph when together Dutch Law and Bennett came from last to first to collect a £50k to the winner prize in the Albert Bartlett handicap early in September. We had a couple of frustrating eliminations from races we thought he could win from the bottom of the handicap, but did get a final run on that track when for a time looking like winning the £112k first prize in a Heritage handicap before fading into a close 11th of 18 behind Librisa Breeze.

The last rites on Dutch Law’s career were left to Jim Crowley, who in three previous tries on him had never been over-complimentary, in a conditions mile race at Doncaster when he was slowly away and never in contention finishing last of eight.

Jim, never one to mince his words and never mind that Dutch Law had won three nice handicaps in his previous five races, said: “Basically he’s a shit!” That was telling Raymond and me too, but fortunately Raymond was safely at home and never got to hear Jim’s measured condemnation. For some reason Raymond has chosen not to use Charlie, so I’m delighted that the jockey has been getting plenty of rides and winners lately. His performance on easy winner Bad Company at Windsor recently was an excellent example of his developing talents.

Here it’s worth acknowledging Hughie Morrison’s skill with members of Dutch Law’s family, progeny of Ray’s dual-winning mare Lawyer’s Choice, who now is the dam of five winners. They all need careful management as their knees are often not the best.

There is a post-script to the Doncaster run. Only days afterwards, Dutch Law went to the Tattersalls Newmarket Horses In Training sales and was sold for 150,000gns. Constant vigilance has shown only one subsequent public mention of him, an entry in one race in Dubai that wasn’t taken up and he didn’t appear again.

The aforementioned Experto Crede never raced again in the UK after that Ascot defeat of Dutch Law, turning up in Hong Kong, presumably after a whopping private sale. While ultra-busy for the next two years there, Experto Crede never achieved a high level. He did manage to win three of his 31 races, one each with the Hong Kong greats, Zac Purton and Joao Moreira, as well as Silvestre De Sousa also winning on him.

Another major player that day also had only a limited time before his career and almost his life was ended. It’s easy to erase the memory of even recent events and I admit I’d forgotten just how successful George Baker had been.  He is now one of the regular expert guests on Racing TV, mostly for the all-weather fixtures and often with the immensely-talented American, Rachel Candelora. George has overcome the dreadful injuries sustained in a horror fall on the ice track in San Moritz, Switzerland, on a John Best-trained horse in March 2017.

When George won the race at Ascot on Experto Crede, it was one of 1364 winners in an 18-year riding career during which he recorded six centuries, four in a row to 2016. The most unlikely statistic was his tally of 163 in 2014, astonishing in view of the fact that ever since his first rides in 1999 he always had to cram his six-foot frame into riding at 9st, something that even the two brilliant O’Brien boys could handle for only a few seasons once they reached maturity.

There’s something of the Pat Smullen about George Baker, polite and friendly to all, despite his travails. It’s marvellous that he could rebuild such an unpromising life prospect into a successful second career as well as his valued role behind the scenes helping Ed Walker.

There was to be no positive long-term happy solution to Smullen’s cancer, though, after it was first diagnosed in 2018. From that point, Pat, married with three children to Frances Crowley, sister of Anne-Marie O’Brien and therefore uncle to Joseph, Sara, Anastasia (Anna) and Donnacha, worked tirelessly (and no doubt often more than tiredly) in charitable causes and above all organising that memorable race when A P McCoy and many other greats of racing joined together to make such a financial emotional success.

It isn’t unusual for people to be spoken of in a kindly way when they die. What is remarkable is for an entire country to show such shock, dismay and above all love and deep affection for someone. Pat Smullen, only 43, should have had many more years to live and enjoy with his family and legion of friends not only in his native land. As I said, I met him properly only once, but I never forgot the experience. Neither did Dutch Law!

- TS

Aidan O’Brien pays tribute to ‘irreplaceable’ Pat Smullen

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.”

McCoy full of emotion following death of Pat Smullen

Sir Anthony McCoy struggled to overcome his emotions when paying tribute to Pat Smullen, who died at the age of 43 on Tuesday.

Smullen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018, with his death coming exactly a year after the nine-times champion Irish Flat jockey persuaded McCoy to come out of retirement to ride in a charity race at the Curragh.

“He was a wonderful man. It’s very hard, it’s very hard on the family. It’s just a tragic time, it’s heartbreaking,” McCoy told Sky Sports Racing.

“We served our apprenticeships around a similar time. His was a lot more successful than mine was, so I’d known him a long time.

“Paying a compliment to him as a rider, he took over from as good a rider as I have ever seen in Mick Kinane (at Dermot Weld’s) and you wouldn’t have known. That is how good Pat Smullen was. You can try to think about races he maybe should have won – there aren’t any.

“It’s just horrifically sad. I spent a long time crying last night.”

Sir Anthony McCoy rolled back the years to ride in Pat Smullen's charity race last year
Sir Anthony McCoy rolled back the years to ride in Pat Smullen’s charity race last year (Niall Carson/PA)

Smullen convinced McCoy to take part in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials in Ireland last September, and he rose to the task when making all the running on Quizical at the Curragh.

The 20-times champion jumps jockey beat other legends of the turf such as Ruby Walsh and Johnny Murtagh, on a day that helped Smullen raise over €2.5million for charity.

“It was very special,” said McCoy.

“I know he said that some of us were harder to persuade to ride than others, and it did take me a bit of time to think about it because I was a bit unfit at the time and worried about making a show of myself.

“But because it was for Pat Smullen and for such a special cause – there is no doubt it is one of the memories that will last forever in my mind. The Curragh was very special because of how the day went, the success and what he made of it. He raised the best part of three million in a very short space of time.

“It was a very memorable day and I know that he, having organised that, will have made a difference to people. It was a very special day.

Sir Anthony McCoy celebrates victory with Quizical
Sir Anthony McCoy celebrates victory with Quizical (Niall Carson/PA)

“He served his apprenticeship riding against Mick Kinane and Christy Roche. He rode with the best of them and learnt from the best. It showed what a world-class jockey he became.

“I looked at a picture this morning of a lunch in Leopardstown in February 2018. It was not long after that he was diagnosed with cancer.”

Quizical’s trainer Sheila Lavery is also finding it hard to come with the news of Smullen’s death.

“It’s just so sad and is too hard to put into words really,” she said.

“That was an amazing day at the Curragh and we all said at the time it was pure testament to Pat.

“It’s just devastating. We are all heartbroken. It’s pure despair that he was taken so young. I just can’t just begin to imagine what his family are feeling. It’s so heartbreaking.

“I think there were very few people Pat didn’t touch in some way.

“He was just one of those who treated everyone exactly the same way – the stable hands, or the owner, the trainer, everyone. He was just a really decent person.”

Pat Smullen with Sir Anthony McCoy and trainer Sheila Lavery
Pat Smullen with Sir Anthony McCoy and trainer Sheila Lavery (Niall Carson/PA)

Cancer Trials Ireland paid its own tribute the rider, hailing him “as a friend like no other” and underlining his “dramatic and unusual” degree of his fundraising efforts.

The charity detailed how Smullen’s work had resulted in nine research proposals this year that will be advanced or explored, that he had also helped raise €120,000 for ovarian and prostate cancer trials last November and earlier this year gave the go-ahead to fund a Next Generation Sequencing machine for St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin – equipment that could potentially open up treatment options for patients with all types of cancer.

CEO Eibhlín Mulroe and Professor Ray McDermott, who is Cancer Trials Ireland’s clinical lead, also pointed out Smullen’s contributions on a more personal level, making himself available for “interviews, photo calls, and phone calls – anything that might help people in a situation similar to his own”.

Pat Smullen raised millions of euros for charity
Pat Smullen raised millions of euros for charity (PA)

An open letter to the Smullen family concluded: “It is a mark of the man that he had such a wide-ranging generosity. Pat’s popularity – and humility – was and is legendary.

“It was truly remarkable, and inspiring, to see that these qualities can coexist with the drive and determination it takes to reach the very top of his demanding sport.

“Our thoughts, today and always, are with Pat’s wife Frances, his children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and his wider family.

“Clinical trials offer patients very real, tangible, important benefits – but they can also provide something as vital as it is intangible: Hope. That is Pat’s real gift to the people who come after him, who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“The outpouring of love and support his efforts have generated give hope to us all.”

Kieren Fallon looks back fondly on Derby days with Pat Smullen

Kieren Fallon has spoken fondly of his memories of riding alongside nine-times Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen.

The Classic-winning rider was among a number of past and present British champion jockeys to reminisce about some of the great moments shared with the 43-year-old, whose death from pancreatic cancer has rocked the racing world.

Though the pair rode together in numerous races at the top level throughout their glittering careers, it is the aftermath of Smullen’s 2016 Derby triumph at Epsom aboard the Dermot Weld-trained Harzand that Fallon vividly remembers.

Smullen on Grey Swallow (right) saw off Fallon on North Light
Smullen on Grey Swallow (right) saw off Fallon on North Light (Haydn West/PA)

Fallon said: “He was a really nice guy, a very dedicated family man and what more can you say.

“I just want to remember him winning the Derby on Harzand at Epsom. Everyone was saying beforehand he is a lovely guy, but they were looking for something different – I said to one of the press boys ‘he loves his tractors, so write about that’.

“I remember going in the weighing room the next day, we were together and he had that cheeky smile on his face shaking his head at me – I can still him now shaking his head and smiling at me!”

Having fought out plenty of finishes while rivals on track, it was the defeat Smullen, who was diagnosed with his illness in March 2018, inflicted on Fallon aboard North Light in the 2004 Irish Derby the six-times champion will best remember him for.

He added: “I was on North Light bidding to do the English-Irish Derby double and I thought I was a certainty. But Pat had other ideas and beat me on Grey Swallow. He was a very good judge and you don’t get to the top of your game without being a good judge.

“He wouldn’t give you an inch in a race, but that is what made him so good and a nine-times champion jockey. He was strong in the finish and he really did have all the attributes.”

Pat Smullen with Kieren Fallon (far right) and the other legends ahead of his charity race
Pat Smullen with Kieren Fallon (far right) and the other legends ahead of his charity race (Niall Carson/PA)

While Smullen was denied a comeback ride in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh last September following a relapse, Fallon is in no doubt his career would have continued for years to come given the chance.

He said: “He knew what he had was not easily fixed and whereas most of us, like myself, would have laid down feeling sorry, he got out there and really fought it.

“You would have not thought there was anything wrong with him that day at the Curragh for his charity race, as he was buzzing around as he wanted to be involved.

“He was so dedicated as he didn’t smoke and would only have the odd beer. I was hard on myself and I went (on riding) into my 50s, as did Lester Piggott, and I know he would have gone on for a lot longer if he could.”

Frankie Dettori hailed Smullen as a “great man and a complete gentleman”, having competed against him across the globe for more than two decades.

He said: “I’d travelled the world for 20 years with Pat and he was a great friend that fought until the end. It is always a shock when you get the news.

“I texted him about 10 days ago and he said he was not good and that he was back in hospital. It is such a shame as he leaves behind his wife and three children.

“He was a great man, not just with the horses, but with the way he conducted himself throughout the whole of this illness. He was a complete gentleman in every way.”

Dettori, like Fallon, selected a race in which Smullen got the better of him as a contest that typified his talents in the saddle.

He said: “The one race that really stands out for me was when he beat me in the Prix de l’Opera. He was riding Covert Love and I was on Jazzi Top and he beat me by a head. I don’t think there was much discussion after the race, but it just showed what a professional he was.

“He was a nine-times champion jockey and is an example for any young rider to follow. No one had a bad word to say about him. At the end of the day, he was just a great mate.”

Jamie Spencer hailed Smullen's long relationship with Dermot Weld
Jamie Spencer hailed Smullen’s long relationship with Dermot Weld (PA)

Jamie Spencer was another to praise Smullen’s character both in and out of the saddle.

He said: “Our careers were parallel to each other and I’ve known him my whole professional career. I’m very saddened to hear of his passing and my thoughts go out to his family.

“In the saddle he was a great competitor. He was a very tough, but extremely fair rider and he would always do the right thing.

“He worked for Dermot Weld for two decades and that showed his loyalty. He was Mr Dependable off the track, as you saw what he did with his charity work while battling this illness.

“A lot of Flat racing involves travelling and you would have to spend a long time flying to hear anybody have a bad word to say about Pat.”

Free Eagle was a Royal Ascot winner for Smullen
Free Eagle was a Royal Ascot winner for Smullen (David Davies/PA)

Every rider has their own recollection of Smullen at his best – and Spencer is no different, highlighting his ride aboard Free Eagle in the 2015 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot as one of his finest achievements.

He said: “I suppose the one that stands out for me is when he beat me on The Grey Gatsby in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. It was a typical no-nonsense ride. He controlled the race and won by a short head and it is a race I will always remember.”

Reigning British champion Oisin Murphy was another to hail Smullen’s talents in the saddle and commended his impeccable attitude towards up-and-coming riders.

He said: “Pat was an incredible rider and a brilliant tactician. He enjoyed so much success across the world, and he was such a popular rider all over the world.

“As a jockey he was a very good rider and a gentleman, while he was very good with young riders. I feel for his family at what is a tough time. He had so many friends and it was a pleasure to know him.

Smullen claimed Derby gold aboard Harzand
Smullen claimed Derby gold aboard Harzand (David Davies/PA)

“His rides aboard Free Eagle in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Fascinating Rock in the Champion Stakes were both incredible.

“There are two moments I would really like to touch on. I won a Listed race on Search For A Song at York last year for Dermot Weld and that was a really emotional win as I’d spoken to Pat before the ride. That was very special and that is a memory that will live forever.

“The other is Pat winning the Derby on Harzand. It was an incredibly good tactical ride – it is every jockey’s dream to win the Epsom Derby and I’m delighted that Pat was able to achieve that.”

Dermot Weld remembers ‘very, very special man’ in Pat Smullen

Dermot Weld highlighted Pat Smullen’s loyalty and integrity in paying tribute to the man who was his stable jockey for the best part of 20 years.

The pair enjoyed untold success all over the world, winning the 2016 Derby at Epsom with Harzand, teaming up for several major Royal Ascot winners and having several fruitful trips to America.

Following his retirement, Smullen, who died on Tuesday evening at the age of 43 after a long battle against pancreatic cancer, arranged a legends race with the aim of raising money for cancer research.

Dermot Weld (left) with Pat Smullen and Harzand after winning the 2006 Irish Derby
Dermot Weld (left) with Pat Smullen and Harzand after winning the 2006 Irish Derby at (Pat Healy/PA)

Names such as Sir Anthony McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Charlie Swan and Kieren Fallon were involved, as over €2.5m was raised.

“Pat Smullen was just a very, very special man, with regards to the sport of horse racing and indeed to me personally. He was unique,” said Weld, speaking on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

“In this day and age I would have to say his loyalty and his integrity stood out. He was my stable jockey for 20 years and was just the professionals’ professional.

“His detail and his determination were major factors, as was his bravery. He was a very principled man, he was a family man and his loyalty and integrity were an example to anybody within the sport.

Pat Smullen with Lester Piggott and Mick Kinane
Pat Smullen with Lester Piggott and Mick Kinane (right)

“I only had two retained jockeys, Michael Kinane for about 13 years and Pat for about 20. We just built together, but he was simply an excellent jockey.”

Highlighting some of their biggest successes together Weld went on: “You saw in England wonderful rides like on Rite Of Passage, two spectacular rides at Ascot.

“It is worth noting, from the limited chances he got at Ascot, rides like winning the Gold Cup on Rite Of Passage when he set the track record, Fascinating Rock in the Champion Stakes, Free Eagle in the Prince of Wales’s and on a horse called In Time’s Eye when he got the better of a great duel with Pat Eddery going way back to the early days (Wolferton, 2003).

“He won the English 2000 Guineas on Refuse To Bend and I think that typified the man. Right to the end when he was fighting pancreatic cancer he had this will to win, this belief, determination and he was able to impart that to the horses he rode.

“After he won the Epsom Derby (on Harzand in 2016) – and he so deserved to ride the winner of an Epsom Derby – the amount of public support, I can even use the word love at his achievement, was amazing. People not even connected to the sport sent him congratulations.

“It was the same right around the world. He won the Matriarch Stakes (Dress To Thrill 2002) one day for me and the respect the American jockeys had for him was very special. He was a leader in his own profession.

“He led by example, I think that is the best way I can describe him.”

Kinane and Murtagh lead tributes to Pat Smullen

Mick Kinane hailed a “top-class professional and top-class man” as he paid tribute to his long-time weighing-room colleague Pat Smullen.

Smullen, who died on Tuesday evening at the age of 43 following a brave battle against cancer, succeeded Kinane as stable jockey to Dermot Weld at Rosewell House on the Curragh in 1999 and enjoyed huge success in the role.

Smullen went on to become Irish champion jockey nine times and was a multiple Classic winner, landing the Derby in 2016 aboard the Weld-trained Harzand.

“He was a gentleman. He came to Dermot’s, things moved on and he took over my job and did a fantastic job for a long time,” said Kinane.

“He was a top-class professional and a top-class man. We had some great tussles and we had some good times.

“Unfortunately he couldn’t win his last battle, but he tried so hard.”

Pat Smullen won the Gold Cup at Ascot on Rite Of Passage (right)with Johnny Murtagh second on Age Of Aquarius
Pat Smullen (right) won the Gold Cup at Ascot on Rite Of Passage with Johnny Murtagh second on Age Of Aquarius (Sean Dempsey/PA)

One of Smullen’s keenest rivals throughout his career was Johnny Murtagh, who is now a successful trainer – and as recently as Saturday Smullen was still in touch with his old friend.

“The racing world mourns a true legend,” said Murtagh.

“I had a big winner on Saturday (Champers Elysees in the Matron Stakes) and one of the first messages I had was from Pat saying ‘well done, Johnny, brilliant win’ so he was showing class right up to the end.

“He set the standard in the weighing room in Ireland, everyone wanted to be like him – he was the champion jockey in Ireland in more ways than one.

“He leaves some legacy. We knew all about him in racing, but it wasn’t until he retired the wider community got to see what he was like, raising all that money for cancer research and pulling so many people together for his charity race last year.

“In and out of the saddle he was just a really great guy and my thoughts and now with Frances (wife) and the kids and his mam, all his family. It will be a tough few days, but we look on his life and career with very fond memories.”

Pat Smullen celebrates winning the Irish Oaks with Covert Love
Pat Smullen celebrates winning the Irish Oaks with Covert Love (Pat Healy/PA)

Newmarket trainer Hugo Palmer will always be grateful for his association with Smullen.

The pair teamed up for a number of big-race victories – most significantly with Covert Love in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in 2015, as Smullen and the filly gave Palmer his first Classic success.

Palmer said: “I’m hugely saddened by the news that Pat has died. A finer jockey or finer man is impossible to imagine really.

“He was always a star to work with before and after a race, and was invariably brilliant in a race. He rode some great winners for me early on in my career.

“Short Squeeze and Gifted Master were two of the key ones, but his efforts aboard Covert Love in both the Irish Oaks, which was our first Classic, and in the Prix de l’Opera, which was a thrilling victory and an extraordinary ride, were things that I will remember forever.

“I’m just incredibly grateful not only for what Pat did for me and my career, but also to have known him. My heartfelt sympathy to his wife Frances and their three children.”

Harzand and Pat Smullen come home in front in the Derby
Harzand and Pat Smullen come home in front in the Derby (David Davies/PA)

Smullen also steered Harzand to victory in the Irish Derby for owner the Aga Khan. Pat Downes, general manager at the Aga Khan’s Irish studs, said: “It’s very sad news. We had some great days. Obviously Harzand’s two Derbys were the highlight.

“A great jockey, but also a great person and he battled hard for the last two years.

“It’s a terrible loss to his family – Frances, and (children) Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and it’s just so sad, but I think in time we can all look back and feel lucky we have known him. He was a really great person.”

Famous Name was a prolific winner in the hands of Pat Smullen
Famous Name was a prolific winner in the hands of Pat Smullen (Niall Carson/PA)

One of Smullen’s most remarkable associations was with the Weld-trained Famous Name in the Juddmonte silks of Khalid Abdullah.

Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: “Famous Name won 21 races, and 20 of them were at Listed or Group Three level – Pat rode him to win every single one. You can’t imagine that that has happened many times

“He was an incredibly talented jockey, but an even better human being. I know Prince Khalid was incredibly fond of him as well, both as a rider and a person.

“He was a rare breed of a man, as he showed with his work for charity.

“His life may not have had great quantity, but it had fantastic quality.”

A gentleman and complete professional – Pat Smullen was one of the greats

Pat Smullen had a riding career to match – and surpass – many of the modern-day riding greats.

He also battled with such heart and dignity after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018. Advice from doctors regarding a return to race-fitness ultimately led to him hanging up his riding boots – and it is was no surprise at the time when the tributes to his talents poured in.

For Smullen, who lost his brave fight at the age of 43, was not just champion jockey in Ireland nine times and winner of nearly every big race worthy of the name, he was a man universally regarded as a gentleman. The complete professional.

Frankie Dettori summed up the feelings of many in the racing world when he said on his retirement: “He is 100 per cent professional and was a great rider. He won almost everything there is to win, including the Epsom Derby.”

Harzand was a deserved Derby winner for Pat Smullen
Harzand was a deserved Derby winner for Pat Smullen (Steve Parsons/PA)

That Epsom triumph came in 2016 through the Dermot Weld-trained Harzand. The pair went on to secure the Irish Derby and cement the legacy of a rider who enjoyed his first victory at Dundalk on June 11, 1993.

Born in County Offaly, on May 22, 1977, Smullen, the son of a farmer and who became involved with horses at the age of 11, formed a formidable alliance with master trainer Weld, taking over in 1999 from another riding great in Mick Kinane.

Apprenticed to local trainer Tommy Lacy, his earlier years saw him ride for Erwan Charpy in Dubai and he also spent two years with Tommy Stack, who gave him his first Group One winner with Tarascon in the 1997 Moyglare Stud Stakes.

That would be an appropriate one, as many big-race victories came his way in the Moyglare colours so closely associated with Weld, among them Refuse To Bend in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in 2003.

Vinne Roe and Pat Smullen were unstoppable in the Irish St Leger
Vinne Roe and Pat Smullen were unstoppable in the Irish St Leger (Haydn West/PA)

His first Classic was provided by the brilliant stayer Vinnie Roe in the Irish St Leger of 2001. Remarkably, they would win that race three more times in succession.

Married to Aidan O’Brien’s sister-in-law, former trainer Frances Crowley, with whom he had three children – Hannah, Paddy and Sarah – Smullen was dominated the Irish championship at the peak of his powers, first winning the title in 2000 and following up a year later. He claimed what would be his last championship in 2016.

Ascot Gold Cup glory was gained with Rite Of Passage in 2010, Grey Swallow added the 2005 Tattersalls Gold Cup to his victory in the Irish Derby of 12 months earlier, and there were two Irish 1,000 Guineas wins, with Nightime (2006) and Bethrah (2010).

Free Eagle was a big favourite of Pat Smullen and Dermot Weld
Free Eagle was a big favourite of Pat Smullen and Dermot Weld (David Davies/PA)

Casual Conquest (2009) was another Tattersalls Gold Cup winner, while lightly-raced but brilliant Free Eagle came good in the 2015 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting.

Many other big-race triumphs adorned his CV – and he earned the unrelenting respect of the racing world and beyond with his fund-raising efforts for charity, with the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh in September last year a huge success.

Perhaps Weld summed it up best as he discussed jockey plans when news of Smullen’s illness was made public: “I’ve been spoiled for 34 years that I’ve had Mick Kinane and Pat Smullen and it is hard to believe they covered that length of time (as stable jockeys).

“They are two brilliant men.”

A brilliant man, indeed.

Vinnie Roe and Harzand were two of the jewels in the crown for Pat Smullen

Pat Smullen enjoyed many magical moments in his long and illustrious riding career. Here, we look at six of the best:

Vinnie Roe

Vinnie Roe and Pat Smullen racing to victory in the Irish St Leger
Vinnie Roe and Pat Smullen racing to victory in the Irish St Leger (Haydn West/PA)

Trained by Dermot Weld, Vinnie Roe was a magnificent stayer and gave Smullen his first Classic success when winning the Irish St Leger in 2001. Remarkably they were also triumphant in the following three years. In total Smullen and Vinnie Roe won 13 races together – five of them at Group One level.


The Queen presents Pat Smullen with his Derby trophy following the victory of Harzand
The Queen presents Pat Smullen with his Derby trophy following the victory of Harzand (David Davies/PA)

The Aga Khan-owned colt gave Smullen arguably his biggest success when beating US Army Ranger by a length and a half in the Derby at Epsom in 2016. The Weld-trained three-year-old went on to record a Derby double in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.

Refuse To Bend

Refuse To Bend was a smart winner of the 2000 Guineas
Refuse To Bend was a smart winner of the 2000 Guineas (Andrew Parsons/PA)

Running in the colours of Moyglare Stud, Refuse To Bend was a landmark first British Classic for Smullen in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in 2003.

Rite Of Passage

A big thumbs up from Pat Smullen after the Gold Cup triumph of Rite Of Passage
A big thumbs up from Pat Smullen after the Gold Cup triumph of Rite Of Passage (Sean Dempsey/PA)

Yet another high-class Weld stayer, Rite Of Passage was a formidable performer over jumps and on the Flat and enjoyed his biggest day in the hands of Smullen when producing a 20-1 surprise in the Ascot Gold Cup of 2010.


Nightime was a very popular winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas
Nightime was a very popular winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas (Kim Houghton/PA)

Nightime’s win in the 2006 running of the Irish 1,000 Guineas was memorable for Smullen and also Weld, as the filly was owned and bred by the trainer’s mother, Marguerite. Nightime also won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Free Eagle

Free Eagle saw off The Grey Gatsby in a thrilling renewal of the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot
Free Eagle saw off The Grey Gatsby in a thrilling renewal of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot (Steve Parsons/PA)

Always held in the highest regard by Weld and Smullen, the lightly-raced Free Eagle was give a typically brilliant ride to hit the Group One jackpot in the 2015 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Racing world mourning death of Pat Smullen at age of 43

Nine-times Irish champion jockey and multiple Classic-winning rider Pat Smullen has died at the age of 43.

Smullen, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018, died at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin on Tuesday evening.

His initial treatment had been positive, but he suffered a relapse and was forced to abandon plans to ride in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh in September last year – an event that proved an overwhelming success.

Born in County Offaly, on May 22, 1977, Smullen, the son of a farmer and who became involved with horses at the age of 11, went on to form a formidable alliance with master trainer Dermot Weld, taking over in 1999 from another riding great – Mick Kinane.

Among their greatest triumphs was the Derby at Epsom in 2016 with Harzand. The pair went on to secure the Irish Derby and cement the legacy of a rider who enjoyed his first victory at Dundalk on June 11, 1993.

Smullen leaves wife Frances and their three children – Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.

Pat Smullen (left) with Lester Piggott and Mick Kinane
Pat Smullen (left) with Lester Piggott and Mick Kinane (PA)

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, told the PA news agency: “Pat was one of our greatest stars. He was nine-times champion jockey, but in many ways his greatest achievements were out of the saddle.

“Since his diagnosis, he did wonderful work fund-raising for charity and he battled this disease with great heart and it’s hard to believe he has passed at such a young age. All our thoughts are with Frances and his three children, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and all his friends and colleagues in the weighing room.

“It’s a really sad day for Irish racing. Pat was one of the finest men you could hope to meet. There’s been such a reaction around Irish racing and such a degree of shock, which shows the high regard in which Pat was held.

“He was a pleasure to have anything to do with – his achievements in the saddle were one thing, but his qualities outside of it were something else.

“He was a global figure in racing, but his reaction to his diagnosis and the fund-raising he did last year in particular was really wonderful.

“It’s just a sad, sad day.”

Sir Anthony McCoy with Pat Smullen at the Curragh last year
Sir Anthony McCoy with Pat Smullen at the Curragh last year (Niall Carson/PA)

The charity race at the Curragh came exactly a year ago and was won by Sir Anthony McCoy aboard the Sheila Lavery-trained Quizical.

Paying his tribute, McCoy said: “Devastated, there’s no words. It’s hard to believe his amazing charity race was a year ago today. Heartbreaking.

“Thinking about Fran, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah. RIP champ.”