Dubai The racing world was morning the loss of a wonderful jockey and tremendous ambassador of the sport following the passing of nine-time Irish champion, Pat Smullen, 43, on Tuesday.
Smullen, who was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018 and retired from racing last year, passed away at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. He is survived by his wife and trainer Frances (nee Crowley) and their children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.
During his illustrious career, he spent two years as stable jockey with the Jebel Ali Stables in Dubai between the 2000-2002 seasons.
Wayne Mason, one of the longest-serving stable hands in the UAE, fondly remembers Smullen as a ‘total professional and gentleman to the core’.
“Throughout my career, I have been privileged to work with many great jockeys but it was an absolute honour to have known Pat, who stood out from the rest,” said Mason. “His work ethics were impeccable but more importantly, he was a great judge of horses who he rode in races or at work. The feedback he provided was invaluable as he had the ability to differentiate their abilities and detail their strengths, or weaknesses.
“He truly understood horses.”
Outside of work, Mason said Smullen was enthusiastic, cordial, likeable and a good-natured gentleman who was always ready to share a laugh. “He had an infectious personality,” Mason recalls. “He was a good and trusting person and my thoughts go out to his wife Frances, and his three lovely children.”
Mason said a memory that will live with him forever was Smullen riding Market Rally to win the Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday in 2016.
“There was something so special about his ride that day,” Mason said, “Market Rally was not an easy horse to ride he was highly strung and often fractious.
“Even though it was the first time that he was sitting on him, Pat handled him beautifully. He settled him into race and made all the running to win easily. It was as simple as that, and all Pat Smullen.”
Smullen first came to Dubai in 1993 for the winter season to join forces with trainer Erwan Charpy as an apprentice. During his career as a professional, he won the Irish 1,000 Guineas twice (Nightime and Bethrah), the Irish Oaks aboard Covert Love and the Irish St Leger four years in a row on Vinnie Roe.
He won the Derby at Epsom in 2016 on Harzand and also landed the Irish Derby with Grey Swallow in 2004 and Harzand in 2016. He also had major wins in Britain which included the 2,000 Guineas on Refuse To Bend, the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot with Rite Of Passage, and the Champion Stakes on Fascinating Rock.
Smullen rode his first winner in June 1993 at Dundalk on Vicosa.
He first came to Dubai the same year to work with trainer Erwan Charpy.
In 1997, Smullen rode his first Group 1 winner when he won the Moyglare Stud Stakes aboard Tarascon.
In 2000, Smullen clinched his first Irish jockeys’ championship.
Smullen retained his Irish championship, with 81 wins from 541 rides in 2001.
Vinnie Roe gave Smullen two Group 1 wins, in the Irish St. Leger and the Prix Royal Oak, its French equivalent.
In the winter of 2001-2002, Smullen rode in Dubai, and finished third in the UAE jockeys table with 32 wins.
In 2003, Refuse to Bend gave Smullen his first English classic triumph when winning the Group 1 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.