The racing world was rocked on Tuesday evening with the news that one of Ireland’s great jockeys had been taken away from us too soon at the age of just 43.
Pat Smullen’s life was unfortunately cut short because of pancreatic cancer. He fought the disease with a typically stoic and unselfish attitude. Making the best of his terribly unlucky situation, Pat organised the Legends race last year at Leopardstown which raised an incredible €2.5 million for pancreatic trials and research.
It was this determination and perseverance that helped him reach the very top of the sport. Pat was a double Irish Champion Apprentice in 1995 and 1996, and following this early success he then went to have 1,892 career winners.
Not only was he a consistent performer week in, week out which earned him a massive nine Irish Jockey Championship titles – he was so dependable in the big races as well.
The biggest win in Pat’s career was winning the Derby aboard Harzand in 2016 at Epsom. Pat was typically humble after his huge win, he said “I’m privileged to ride these horses but it’s a huge team effort, the team worked hard today to pull this win off”.
The pair followed up with victory in the Irish Derby three weeks later.
These races showed, what a great judge of pace Pat was. As a jockey he was in the right place at the right time more often than not, as well as being incredibly hardworking and detailed in his preparation. These characteristics were part of the reason why he won 12 Classics, 25 Group 1 races and 165 Group races.
Check out some of Pat’s biggest race wins.
Pat was a hugely loved figure in racing, in the weighing room, by trainers, owners and anyone that came across him.
Here are some tributes for the great man after his tragic passing.
AP knew Pat Smullen for over 30 years and they’re both pictured below after AP won the Champions Race For Cancer Trials at Irish Champions weekend last y
Pat Smullen was stable jockey to Dermot Weld for 19 years which included victories in the Derby and Irish Derby with Harzand.
“His loyalty and integrity have shone out” – Dermot Weld reflects on the many highlights he enjoyed with his stable jockey for 19 years, Pat Smullen… pic.twitter.com/dMiPLPjMcE— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) September 16, 2020
An old friend and long-time rival to Pat when they were jockeys. Johnny Murtagh told Racing TV:
“The racing world mourns a true legend, 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.”
Mick paid tribute to his weighing room mate. He told Racing TV:
“A top-class professional and top-class man. 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. We had some great tussles and we had some good times.”
“Unfortunately he couldn’t win his last battle, but he tried so hard.”
President Higgins has expressed his deep sadness at the untimely death of champion jockey Pat Smullen, saying his remarkable performances at home and abroad brought joy to so many.— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) September 15, 2020
The President conveys his sincere condolences to his family, wife and children.