The news that Pat Smullen had retired at the age of 41 on medical advice was no surprise, although it was sad. Doctors advised Smullen that having successfully finished the treatment for pancreatic cancer that his body and immune system could not withstand the rigours of race riding at the highest level. Not that fans of the sport should be too upset – it seems that Smullen is set to triumph in his biggest battle.
It is a quirk of his career that both Pat Smullen’s first and last winner came at Dundalk, although the track where he rode that all-weather stalwart Togoville in March last year was very different to the Louth course where Vicosa won for Tom Lacy in June 1993 when P J Smullen had yet to have his 16th birthday.
Success came quickly for the man from the aptly-named Rhode in County Offaly, the champion apprentice titles of 1995 and 1996 preceding a first Group One win on Tarascon in the Moyglare Stud Stakes of 1997. By 1999 he was stable jockey to Dermot Weld and he was on his way to a glittering career.
Nine times Smullen was the Irish champion between 2000 and 2016. Perhaps his best year was that last summer of 2016 when he won his final Irish jockeys’ title, set his best haul of 115 winners (the third time he had reached the century) and also won the Epsom Derby on Harzand, the same horse also claiming the Irish equivalent.
Ireland (9): Irish Derby (Grey Swallow, 2004; Harzand, 2016), Irish Oaks (Covert Love, 2015), Irish 1,000 Guineas (Nightime, 2006; Bethrah, 2010), Irish St Leger (Vinnie Roe, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
England (2): Derby (Harzand, 2016), 2000 Guineas (Refuse To Bend, 2003)