Tributes have been paid to Pat Smullen, the nine-time Irish Flat champion jockey, who died yesterday (15 September) aged 43.
Pat was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018, and announced his retirement from the saddle in May 2019. His initial treatment had been positive, but he suffered a relapse last year.
He had been married to Frances Crowley, Ireland’s first female champion amateur rider and Classic-winning trainer, since 2001. The couple have three children; Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.
During his career, Pat won 25 Group One races, his first aged 20 in 1997 on the Tommy Stack-trained Tarascon in the Moyglare Stud Stakes. In 1999 Pat succeeded Mick Kinane as stable jockey for trainer Dermot Weld at Rosewell House stables, a partnership which remained in place until Pat’s retirement.
His many successes included victory in the Irish Derby and the Epsom Derby in 2016 aboard Harzand, the 2004 Irish Derby on Grey Swallow, the 2010 Royal Ascot Gold Cup on Rite of Passage, the Irish 1,000 Guineas on Nightime in 2006 and on Bethrah in 2010. He won the Tattersalls Gold Cup three times: in 2005 on Grey Swallow, 2009 on Casual Conquest, and on Fascinating Rock in 2016. He was crowned Ireland’s champion jockey nine times between 2000 and 2016, and throughout his career rode 1,892 winners in Ireland and Britain.
Following his diagnosis, Pat started fundraising; organising the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland on 15 September 2019. The race featured top retired jockeys who had agreed to return to the saddle for the spectacular including Pat’s nephew Joseph O’Brien, A P McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Kieron Fallon and Paul Carberry.
Pat had been due to take part in the race but was forced to withdraw the month before on medical grounds, stating at the time he had suffered a “setback” in his health and would undergo chemotherapy. The race, won by Sir A P McCoy, raised more than €2.5m (£1.9m) for the charity.
Tributes to Pat have been shared by the racing community with Ruby Walsh describing his friend as a “great man”.
“I had great fun with him as a friend and great admiration of him as a jockey,” he said.
A spokesman for Stack Racing said Pat was “one of life’s true gentlemen”.
“During his time here at Thomastown Castle, Pat provided us with one of our most special days when winning the Moyglare Stud Stakes aboard Tarascon,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Frances, Hannah, Paddy, Sarah and all of his family.”
A spokesman for Punchestown racecourse said the sport had lost “one of the greats”.
“Pat was a world class jockey but beyond that a wonderful family man, friend and an inspiration even through the toughest of times,” he said.
Trainer Gordon Elliott said he was “so sad” to hear of Pat’s passing.
“One of the greatest jockeys we’ve ever seen and above all a true gentleman who I was fortunate enough to know. Condolences to Frances, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah and all his family. May he rest in peace,” he said.
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