Irish Champion Jockey Pat Smullen, 43, Passes Away

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Irish Champion Jockey Pat Smullen | Healy Racing Photographers

Pat Smullen, Irish Champion Jockey nine times throughout his career, passed away on the evening of Sept.15 at St Vincent’s Hopsital in Dublin, Ireland. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March of 2018, he was 43.

Smullen began riding out as an apprentice for Tom Lacy, and made an immediate impact, being named champion apprentice both in 1995 and 1996. He also rode for Joanna Morgan and after serving his apprenticeship, Smullen rode for various other trainers, including John Oxx, and Tommy Stack before joining forces as first call rider for Irish maestro Dermot Weld in 1999. For Weld he would serve the rest of his 20-year career.

Among those two decades were the aforementioned nine riding titles, the most recent in 2016, after piloting Harzand (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) to a win in the G1 Epsom Derby. Smullen booted home 10 other Classic winners, including G1 Irish Oaks victress Covert Love (Ire) (Azamour {Ire}), G1 2000 Guineas hero Refuse to Bend (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells) and quadruple G1 Irish St Leger winner Vinnie Roe (Ire) (Definite Article {GB}).

Smullen began penning a weekly column for the TDN shortly before he retired from the saddle in May of 2019 after doctors advised him against a return to race riding. He put those months to good use, however, subsequently raising over €2.5 million for Cancer Trials Ireland through various charity efforts. One of the highlights of his fundraising was the Pat Smullen Champions Race. He also was part of the advisory team at Eva Bucher-Haefner’s Moyglare Stud, for whom he rode many successful horses during his jockey days.

During the annual Cartier Awards last year, Smullen was presented with the Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award of Merit in London on Nov. 12. (Click here to view the video). He was also appointed as the honourary president of the International Federation of Jockeys Associations.

Smullen is survived by his wife Frances Crowley and their three children-Hannah, Paddy and Sarah. Funeral plans are pending.

Twitter Tributes:

“I never saw courage like this–Pat Smullen was a truly special man.” — Nick Luck

“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. An inspiration to us all, his legacy is large. All our thoughts this evening are with Frances, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.” — Brian Kavanagh

“Pat Smullen was that rare breed of a genuine great at what he did, yet utterly decent and unpretentious about that greatness. RIP Pat.” — Vincent Hogan

“Truly heartbreaking news about Pat Smullen. He was great jockey and even better man. My thoughts are with his family at this time.” — Jonjo O’Neill

“So very sad to learn of the passing of Pat Smullen. What a jockey and ambassador for a sport we all love, but above all what a gentleman and legend. My sincerest condolences to Frances, Hannah, Paddy, Sarah and all his family. May he rest in peace.” — Mouse O’Ryan

“Heartbroken–for his family, for his friends, for racing–the world is a worse place tonight without Pat Smullen. He was the true combination of both legend & gentleman–courageous, gracious, humble & kind. My deepest condolences to Frances, Hannah, Paddy & Sarah.” — Cathy Grassick

“Terrible news to hear this morning of the passing of Pat Smullen, A legend of the weigh room and a jockey that I was lucky enough to ask for advice many times. Will be sadly missed and a massive loss to the sport.” — Robbie Dolan

“It’s days like today that make you question everything. Thoughts with Pat’s family and friends and the racing community. Irish sport and society has lost a gem. Rest In Peace, Pat.” — Ronan O’Gara

“He will be so dearly missed by the global horse racing community. Rest In peace, Pat.” — Breeders’ Cup

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