Nine-time Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen has died at the age of just 43.
Smullen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018. He underwent treatment that was initially successful but then suffered a relapse a few months ago. He sadly passed away in Dublin’s St Vincent’s Hospital on Tuesday evening.
Smullen, a 12-time European Classic winner, enjoyed a long association with trainer Dermot Weld. Their wins together included the 2016 Derby on Harzand. Smullen was initially given a clean bill of health last year and threw his weight behind organising a racing legends race at the Curragh which raised over €2.5million (£2.3m) for a cancer charity.
As recently as July, he was working with Cancer Trials Ireland to allocate some of the funds raised by that event, announcing the grant of €100,000 to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin for the purchase of a sequencing machine to improve diagnosis in future patients.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “Pat was one of our greatest stars. He was nine-times champion jockey, but in many ways, his greatest achievements were out of the saddle.
Last September, The Pat Smullen Champions Race during the Longines Irish Champions Weekend culminated in legendary jumps jockey AP McCoy coming out of retirement to see off Ruby Walsh in the charity race at the Curragh.
Speaking to Off The Ball last year, Smullen he said, quote: “I actually never thought I was going to die. I just didn’t allow myself, whether that was a foolish thing, I don’t know. Of course, it is going to happen to us all one day, but right now I am not ready. I never allowed myself to think that.
“On occasion, you get down but it would be for about half an hour or an hour and then I’d give myself a kick up the backside and say ‘go on, get on with it’. When you see your kids, and a great wife… it’s how I dealt with it anyway, and I think that it stood me in good stead.
“I just didn’t allow negativity in. There are some people that are very well-meaning, but I didn’t like meeting. They meant good, but their whole demeanour was ‘this is terrible’. I actually tried to distance myself from that. I just wanted all positivity around me, and I think that is very important.
“If I had one piece of advice to people, it would be that. There is so much going on day-to-day as regards testing and research, that I kept telling myself that they will come up with something and that this treatment will work. That was very important to me. That is how I dealt with it.”