Pat Smullen: pictured at his home in Rhode, County Offaly in 2019
Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
The international racing community was rocked on Tuesday night after it emerged that Pat Smullen had died in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin from pancreatic cancer. He was 43 years of age.
A nine-time Irish champion jockey and 12-time European Classic winner, Smullen had been diagnosed with the illness on March 26, 2018.
His initial treatment led to him being given a clean bill of health last year, and he proved an inspiration for many in the way that he put his efforts into fundraising initiatives for Cancer Trials Ireland, including an Irish Champions Weekend legends race that ultimately raised over €2.5 million for the cause.
The news of his death, almost a year to the day after that most memorable of occasions, is unfortunately poignant.
Smullen suffered a relapse in recent months and his condition is believed to have deteriorated last week. His family confirmed that he died on Tuesday evening.
A dual champion apprentice in 1995 and 1996, Smullen’s glittering career reached a glorious climax when he soared to victory aboard Harzand in the Derby in 2016.
Harzand: wins the 2016 Derby at Epsom with Pat Smullen on board
Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
That memorable triumph on the Aga Khan’s homebred was achieved in partnership with his great ally Dermot Weld, for whom he succeeded Mick Kinane as stable jockey in 1999.
Recognised as one of the most dependable and steady big-race riders of his era, Smullen made the breakthrough at Group 1 level aboard the Tommy Stack-trained Tarascon in the 1997 Moyglare Stud Stakes.
During his spectacular tenure at the helm for the Rosewell House trainer he farmed nine championships – only Kinane has won more Irish titles.
Harzand’s brilliant Epsom-Curragh Derby was the undoubted highlight, but he also won an Irish Derby on Grey Swallow, two Irish 1,000 Guineas on Nightime and Bethrah and four consecutive Irish St Legers on Vinnie Roe.
His other major wins for Weld in Britain included the 2,000 Guineas on Refuse To Bend, the Ascot Gold Cup on Rite Of Passage, the Champion Stakes on Fascinating Rock, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Free Eagle and the Sun Chariot Stakes on Dress To Thrill, on whom he also won the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes in the US.
Smullen rode his first winner on Vicosa for Tom Lacy at Dundalk on June 11, 1993, and also rode what proved to be his final winner at the modern incarnation of the track on Togoville for Anthony McCann on March 16, 2018.
In all, he rode 1,892 winners in Ireland and Britain, and 25 at the highest level around the world. He leaves behind his wife Frances, the Classic-winning trainer who is a sister of Aidan O’Brien’s wife Annemarie, and their three children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.
“Pat Smullen was one of Irish racing’s brightest stars, a nine-time champion, but his achievements in the saddle pale in comparison to his qualities out of it,” said Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh on Tuesday night.
“An inspiration to us all, his legacy is large. All our thoughts this evening are with Frances, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.”