Mick Kinane and Johnny Murtagh lead tributes to Pat Smullen

Thursday 17 September 2020 11:23, UK

Pat Smullen riding Shamreen to win the Blandford Stakes
Image: Pat Smullen wins the Blandford Stakes on Shamreen in September 2017

Mick Kinane hailed a "top-class professional and top-class man" as he paid tribute to his long-time weighing-room colleague Pat Smullen.

Smullen, who died on Tuesday evening at the age of 43 following a brave battle against cancer, succeeded Kinane as stable jockey to Dermot Weld at Rosewell House on the Curragh in 1999 and enjoyed huge success in the role.

Smullen went on to become Irish champion jockey nine times and was a multiple Classic winner, landing the Derby in 2016 aboard the Weld-trained Harzand.

"He was a gentleman. He came to Dermot's, things moved on and he took over my job and did a fantastic job for a long time," said Kinane.

"He was a top-class professional and a top-class man. We had some great tussles and we had some good times.

"Unfortunately he couldn't win his last battle, but he tried so hard."

'A true legend'

One of Smullen's keenest rivals throughout his career was Johnny Murtagh, who is now a successful trainer - and as recently as Saturday Smullen was still in touch with his old friend.

"The racing world mourns a true legend," said Murtagh.

"I had a big winner on Saturday (Champers Elysees in the Matron Stakes) and one of the first messages I had was from Pat saying 'well done, Johnny, brilliant win' so he was showing class right up to the end.

Pat Smullen poses at Curragh Racecourse on June 26, 2016
Image: Smullen rode 12 Classic winners during his career

"He set the standard in the weighing room in Ireland, everyone wanted to be like him - he was the champion jockey in Ireland in more ways than one.

"He leaves some legacy. We knew all about him in racing, but it wasn't until he retired the wider community got to see what he was like, raising all that money for cancer research and pulling so many people together for his charity race last year.

"In and out of the saddle he was just a really great guy and my thoughts and now with Frances (wife) and the kids and his mam, all his family. It will be a tough few days, but we look on his life and career with very fond memories."

'The professionals professional'

Dermot Weld highlighted Smullen's loyalty and integrity in paying tribute to the man who was his stable jockey for the best part of 20 years.

The pair enjoyed untold success all over the world, winning the 2016 Derby at Epsom with Harzand, teaming up for several major Royal Ascot winners and having several fruitful trips to America.

Following his retirement, Smullen, who died on Tuesday evening at the age of 43 after a long battle against pancreatic cancer, arranged a legends race with the aim of raising money for cancer research.

Names such as Sir Anthony McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Charlie Swan and Kieren Fallon were involved, as over €2.5m was raised.

"Pat Smullen was just a very, very special man, with regards to the sport of horse racing and indeed to me personally. He was unique," said Weld, speaking on Nick Luck's Daily Podcast.

"In this day and age I would have to say his loyalty and his integrity stood out. He was my stable jockey for 20 years and was just the professionals' professional.

"His detail and his determination were major factors, as was his bravery. He was a very principled man, he was a family man and his loyalty and integrity were an example to anybody within the sport.

"I only had two retained jockeys, Michael Kinane for about 13 years and Pat for about 20. We just built together, but he was simply an excellent jockey."

Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen with Harzand after his 2016 Derby success
Image: Dermot Weld and Smullen with Harzand after his 2016 Derby success

Highlighting some of their biggest successes together Weld went on: "You saw in England wonderful rides like on Rite Of Passage, two spectacular rides at Ascot.

"It is worth noting, from the limited chances he got at Ascot, rides like winning the Gold Cup on Rite Of Passage when he set the track record, Fascinating Rock in the Champion Stakes, Free Eagle in the Prince of Wales's and on a horse called In Time's Eye when he got the better of a great duel with Pat Eddery going way back to the early days (Wolferton, 2003).

"He won the English 2000 Guineas on Refuse To Bend and I think that typified the man. Right to the end when he was fighting pancreatic cancer he had this will to win, this belief, determination and he was able to impart that to the horses he rode.

"After he won the Epsom Derby (on Harzand in 2016) - and he so deserved to ride the winner of an Epsom Derby - the amount of public support, I can even use the word love at his achievement, was amazing. People not even connected to the sport sent him congratulations.

"It was the same right around the world. He won the Matriarch Stakes (Dress To Thrill 2002) one day for me and the respect the American jockeys had for him was very special. He was a leader in his own profession.

"He led by example, I think that is the best way I can describe him."

Pat Downes, general manager at the Aga Khan's Irish studs, said: "It's very sad news. We had some great days. Obviously Harzand's two Derbys were the highlight.

"A great jockey, but also a great person and he battled hard for the last two years.

"It's a terrible loss to his family - Frances, and (children) Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and it's just so sad, but I think in time we can all look back and feel lucky we have known him. He was a really great person."

'Always a star to work with'

Newmarket trainer Hugo Palmer will always be grateful for his association with Smullen.

The pair teamed up for a number of big-race victories - most significantly with Covert Love in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in 2015, as Smullen and the filly gave Palmer his first Classic success.

Palmer said: "I'm hugely saddened by the news that Pat has died. A finer jockey or finer man is impossible to imagine really.

"He was always a star to work with before and after a race, and was invariably brilliant in a race. He rode some great winners for me early on in my career.

Pat Smullen wins the 2015 Irish Oaks on Covert Love
Image: Smullen wins the 2015 Irish Oaks on Covert Love

"Short Squeeze and Gifted Master were two of the key ones, but his efforts aboard Covert Love in both the Irish Oaks, which was our first Classic, and in the Prix de l'Opera, which was a thrilling victory and an extraordinary ride, were things that I will remember forever.

"I'm just incredibly grateful not only for what Pat did for me and my career, but also to have known him. My heartfelt sympathy to his wife Frances and their three children."

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