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Wednesday, 16th September 2020

Horse Racing Ireland pay tribute to racing great Pat Smullen

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Free Eagle and Pat Smullen win The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, June 2015 Photo: Edward Whitaker.

The racing community are in mourning following the passing last night of one of its brightest stars. 

The nine-time Irish champion flat jockey Pat Smullen was a totemic figure in Irish racing, a rider of the highest calibre and an inspiration to so many both during his storied career and since his retirement. His passing will be felt heavily by the Irish racing and sporting community, but most especially by his family and friends, his wife Frances and children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah. 

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “Today is the saddest of days as Irish racing comes to terms with the loss of one of our brightest stars. Pat Smullen was a nine-times champion jockey, but his achievements in the saddle pale in comparison to his qualities out of it. All our thoughts are with Pat’s wife Frances, children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, his mum Mary, brothers Ger, Sean and Brian, his close friends and colleagues in the weighroom, trainer Dermot Weld and all the staff at Rosewell House. 

“Pat was an inspiration for the selfless way that he faced up to the most awful of diagnoses and his fundraising efforts through Cancer Trials Ireland will benefit many people in the future, The Pat Smullen Charity Raceday will go down in the annals of Irish racing as one of the best days ever at the Curragh. For Pat to be taken from us at such a young age is hard to comprehend. His memory will live long wherever horse racing is discussed. May he rest in peace.” 

From Rhode in County Offaly, Pat Smullen was one of the finest Flat jockeys of recent generations. He was champion jockey in Ireland on nine occasions, enjoying a tremendous partnership with trainer Dermot Weld. 

A.P McCoy with Pat Smullen after winning the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh, Longines Irish Champions Weekend 2019 Photo: Patrick McCann.

Pat's early career was highlighted by his success in the apprentice championship in 1995 and again in 1996. He rode his first Group 1 winner on the Tommy Stack-trained Tarascon in the Moyglare Stud Stakes in 1997 and for the next two decades dominated at the very top level, winning the biggest races in Ireland and Britain. 

His first Classic came in 2001 aboard Vinnie Roe in the Irish St Leger and his greatest day in the saddle came aboard Harzand when winning a thrilling Epsom Derby in 2016. The same horse gave Pat his second success in the Irish Derby at the Curragh later that month, 12 years after his first on Grey Swallow. 

Pat’s nerve on the biggest days meant he was a ‘go-to’ big race jockey for many trainers and as well as Irish and English Classics, he also won eight times at Royal Ascot. 

Weighroom colleagues acknowledge that his guidance and presence singlehandedly raised standards in Ireland and while Pat didn't ride again after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018 and announced his retirement from the saddle in May 2019, he refused to let his diagnosis define him or deter him. 

Pat immediately set about fundraising for pancreatic cancer trials and awareness of pancreatic cancer research and his efforts saw more than €2.5m raised for Cancer Trials Ireland. He was at the centre of a drive by the Irish horse racing and breeding industry over Longines Irish Champions Weekend in September 2019 which culminated in an incredible day at the Curragh exactly one year ago with the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland. 

May He Rest in Peace

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