By Emma Berry
The first day of the new season of racing at Newmarket will feature a race named in honour of the multiple Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen, who died last September at the age of 43.
The Pat Smullen Memorial H. is a Class 2 contest for 4-year-olds and up on the opening day of the Craven meeting on Apr. 13. It is to be run over the Rowley Mile, where Smullen recorded his first British Classic victory aboard Moyglare Stud's Refuse To Bend (Ire) (Sadler's Wells) in 2003.
The race has been sponsored in Smullen's name by his great friend and Newmarket resident Ted Durcan, one of the nine retired stars of the weighing-room to have ridden in the Pat Smullen Champions Race which contributed significantly to the late jockey raising more than €2.5 million for Cancer Trials Ireland.
“There were a lot of people in England at the time of Pat's funeral who weren't able to pay their respects with all the Covid restrictions,” Durcan said. “I know many of us would have liked to have been able to hold a memorial service, which we weren't able to do, and this is just hopefully a nice way to remember Pat.”
He continued, “The Craven meeting is always a very exciting time and Pat had huge success over the years at the Rowley Mile. The team at Newmarket Racecourses were extremely helpful and only too happy to stage a race in Pat's name.”
Durcan's sponsorship also ensures that each member of staff leading up a horse for the Pat Smullen Memorial H. will receive a bonus of £25.
He added, “Rather than have a best-turned-out prize we decided that everyone who leads up will get £25 rather than just one person getting £50. Pat was always very well liked and respected by racing staff, and we all respect how much effort from the staff goes into getting the horses to the racecourse. It isn't a large sum but it is just a token of our appreciation.”
Sophie Able, the general manager at Newmarket Racecourses, said, “We're greatly looking forward to The Pat Smullen Memorial H. on the opening day of the bet365 Craven Meeting and our 2021 season. Pat was no stranger to big-race success here at Newmarket and we hope the race can mark his achievements both in and out of the saddle and bring back some happy memories for his family and many friends across the British and Irish racing industries.”