Tributes pour in for much-loved Pat Smullen

Features | 17th September 2020

Racing pays tribute to Derby winner and nine-time Irish Champion Jockey Pat Smullen after he tragically passed away, aged 43, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

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 McCoy

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

Dermot Weld

Pat Smullen was stable jockey to Dermot Weld for 19 years which included victories in the Derby and Irish Derby with Harzand.

Ruby Walsh

Ruby on Pat Smullen as a man and as a jockey.

Johnny Murtagh

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.”

Frankie Dettori

Frankie Dettori rode with Pat for many years in many different countries.

Fran Berry

Former jockey and close friend to Pat.

Kevin O’Ryan

Jockey agent and great friend to Pat Smullen.

Mick Kinane

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.”

Oisin Murphy

Oisin Murphy on how Pat was an inspiration to all.

The President of Ireland – Michael Higgins

Hannah Smullen

Pat Smullen’s daughter.

An inspiration to the last