'A finer jockey or finer man is impossible to imagine': Tributes paid to Pat Smullen

The nine-time Irish Champion jockey in Dublin on Tuesday after a long fight against pancreatic cancer

Smullen was described as 'a very special man'
Smullen was described as 'a very special man'  Credit: AFP

Dermot Weld highlighted the loyalty and integrity of Pat Smullen, who lost his fight against cancer aged 43, as he paid tribute to the man who was his stable jockey for the best part of 20 years.

The pair enjoyed success all over the world, winning the 2016 Derby at Epsom with Harzand, teaming up for several major Royal Ascot winners and making fruitful trips to the United States. Smullen was Irish champion jockey nine times.

“Pat Smullen was a very special man, with regards to the sport of horse racing and to me personally. He was unique,” Weld said.

“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.”

Jockeys and Trainers observe a minutes silence on Wednesday in respect of Smullen Credit: PA

Highlighting some of their biggest successes, Weld told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “You saw in England wonderful rides like winning the Gold Cup on Rite Of Passage; spectacular rides at Ascot.

“He won the English 2,000 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. He led by example, I think that is the best way I can describe him.”

Kinane said of Smullen: “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.

“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.”

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.

“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 in my career.”

One of Smullen’s most remarkable associations was with the Weld-trained Famous Name in the Juddmonte silks of Khalid Abdullah. Teddy Grimthorpe, Abdullah’s racing manager, said: “Famous Name won 21 races, and 20 of them were at Listed or Group Three level. Pat rode him to win every single one. You can’t imagine that has happened many times

“He was an incredibly talented jockey, but an even better human being. I know Prince Khalid was incredibly fond of him as well, both as a rider and a person.

“He was a rare breed of a man, as he showed with his work for charity. His life may not have had great quantity, but it had fantastic quality.”