Smullen loses can­cer bat­tle

Pop­u­lar nine-time Ir­ish cham­pion jockey and Derby win­ner dies at 43 – two years af­ter his fi­nal vic­tory on Flat

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Mar­cus Army­tage Rac­ing Cor­re­spon­dent

Pat Smullen, the nine-time Ir­ish Cham­pion jockey who rode Harzand to suc­cess for the Aga Khan in the 2016 Derby at Ep­som, has died af­ter a long fight against pan­cre­atic can­cer. He was 43.

Smullen, who was not only one of the most suc­cess­ful but also one of the most pop­u­lar Flat jock­eys in Ire­land in re­cent times, rode his last win­ner in March 2018 shortly be­fore his diagnosis was made pub­lic.

He ap­peared to have gone into re­mis­sion last year and was given a clean bill of health, but suf­fered a re­lapse ear­lier this sum­mer and he died in St Vin­cent’s Hos­pi­tal in Dublin yes­ter­day.

Once re­tired, he fo­cused not only on try­ing to re­cover but also on rais­ing aware­ness for pan­cre­atic can­cer and a “leg­ends” race at The Cur­ragh a year ago, con­tested by all the great jock­eys of re­cent times who were still able to ride, raised €2.5m (£2.3mil­lion) for Can­cer Tri­als Ire­land. It was won by Sir Tony McCoy.

Born in Of­faly and mar­ried to Ai­dan O’Brien’s sis­ter-in-law Frances, with whom he had three chil­dren, Han­nah, Paddy and Sarah, Smullen spent most of his ca­reer with trainer Der­mot Weld.

He was cham­pion ap­pren­tice in 1995 and 1996 and rode his first Group One win­ner a year later, when he won the Moyglare Stud Stakes on Tarac­son. Soon af­ter, when Mick Ki­nane went to Bal­ly­doyle, Smullen took over as first jockey to Weld and re­mained with him un­til he re­tired.

The high­light of their time to­gether was Harzand’s vic­tory in the Derby at Ep­som.

Re­turn­ing home af­ter­wards, the Ir­ish pho­tog­ra­pher Pat Healy, with whom he was trav­el­ling, sug­gested they would be lucky to make the flight in time. “Don’t care,” said Smullen. “I’ll float home.”

De­pend­able and with a cool head for the big oc­ca­sion, there were nu­mer­ous other big-race suc­cesses. He won the Ir­ish Derby twice, on Grey Swal­low in 2004 and Harzand. He won the As­cot Gold Cup on Rite Of Pas­sage and four Ir­ish St Legers on Vin­nie Roe. He also won the 2,000 Guineas at New­mar­ket in 2003 on Refuse To Bend.

Glo­ri­ous day: Pat Smullen ac­knowl­edges the crowd as he re­turns to the win­ner’s en­clo­sure af­ter vic­tory in the 2016 Derby on Harzand

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