Mustajeeb and Pat Smullen winning for trainer Dermot Weld. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Jebel Ali Racecourse will pay tribute to Pat Smullen, a former stable jockey and nine-time Irish champion who passed away in September last year, by holding a race in his honour this weekend.

The one-mile Dh100,000 Pat Smullen Conditions Stakes Sponsored By Jebel Ali Racecourse is the fourth race on an exciting six-race card to be held on Friday. It has attracted a quality field of 13 runners.

Smullen was the retained jockey for Jebel Ali Stables from 2000-2002 during which time he compiled a record 32 wins in the 2001-2002 season. He also rode as a stable jockey for the racecourse’s owner and chief patron, Major General Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security, in Dubai during the 2004 winter season.

Mohammed Saeed Al-Shehhi, Director General of Sheikh Ahmed’s Office said in a press release: “Pat Smullen is an icon who has left an indelible mark on the horseracing world. In Dubai, we celebrate and perpetuate his legacy, and we are proud to participate in such a laudable event that is sure to bring the international horseracing community together.

“The race will be held yearly to honour the racing icon and will be sponsored by Sheikh Ahmed.”

Smullen was well known as an advocate of cancer care having organised the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials in Ireland in 2019, which raised more than €2.5m. Smullen passed away a year after the race.

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, was described as a front-runner in supporting the initiative by contributed €500,000 to the charity in the fight against cancer.

Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of Sheikh Hamdan’s Office, lauded Sheikh Ahmed for honouring Smullen by instituting an annual race in his name and said during Tuesday’s virtual press conference, “Sheikh Hamdan is committed to causes that battle issues like cancer and has assured his total support to anyone suffering from the illness.

“Pat Smullen, was not just a great jockey, but a wonderful human being who touched and inspired so many people through his kindness and love.”

Friday’s meeting will also see long-time Jebel Ali promoter and the internationally renowned racecourse Thoroughbred racing facility, Keeneland, return to sponsor one of the races on the card.

Nicholas Bachalard, Sheikh Ahmed’s resident trainer at Jebel Ali Stables, has runners in both the Pat Smullen Condition Stakes and Keeneland Conditions events, and said: “It is very, very good for Jebel Ali to have Keeneland sponsor a race and it is a good initiative to have a race in honour of Pat Smullen who was a stable jockey here for two years for HH Sheikh Ahmed.”

Ed Prosser, Keeneland’s European representative, said via Zoom from Lexington, Kentucky: “It’s nice to be here from afar and we at Keeneland were honoured to be sponsors at Jebel Ali last season and are happy to be returning this week.

“We are enormously looking forward to race day on Friday

“What makes our own sponsorship special is Keeneland has a relationship with people of Dubai which goes back many years. We are a unique company based in Kentucky whose graduates continue to do well in Dubai and have done well on Dubai World Cup night.”

Shareef Al Halawani, welcome Keenland’s return to Jebel Ali and commented: “We are delighted to have our long-time friends from Keeneland support out race meetings. It means a lot to us and our main patron, Sheikh Ahmed, who is supportive of all our initiatives, our sponsors and racegoers.

“The management of JA racecourse would also like to especially thank Sheikh Hamdan for his valued trust in our efforts as we strive to always do what’s best for the sport of horse racing.”