AP McCoy leads tributes to ‘special’ Pat Smullen following death of legendary Irish jockey
- Smullen retired in May 2019 after completing treatment for pancreatic cancer
- Smullen was initially given a clean bill of health but recently suffered a relapse
- His death was announced a year after a legends race he organised raised £2.3m
Sir Anthony McCoy said that the star line-up assembled by Pat Smullen for last year’s race at the Curragh which raised more than €2.5million (£2.3m) for cancer trials highlighted the affection in which he was held.
Racing was on Wednesday coming to terms with the death of Ireland’s nine-time champion jockey Smullen, who passed away this week from pancreatic cancer at the age of 43.
McCoy, who said he was ‘heartbroken’ by Smullen’s death, had vowed never to race again after taking part in a charity event at Doncaster four years earlier.
Pat Smullen with Sir Anthony McCoy atlin a charity race in aid of cancer trials at the Curragh
But he willingly answered Smullen’s call to join a line-up of Irish legends including Paul Carberry, Kieren Fallon, Richard Hughes, Johnny Murtagh, Joseph O’Brien, Charlie Swan and Ruby Walsh.
Smullen’s death came a year to the day after a race which electrified the Curragh. McCoy said: ‘It showed what a special person Pat Smullen was. I had genuinely said at Doncaster when I rode four years earlier that I was not riding in a race again. I meant it. But it wasn’t an option to say no because it was for Pat Smullen. Those memories from that day will last for ever.
‘Our paths crossed quite a lot over the last 30 years. We had a very similar circle of friends. It is hard to lose such a young, talented man who gave it his all. If you had a young jockey just coming in you would show him Pat and say, “Be like him”. He was class. You can’t describe how sad it is.’
Jockey Smullen won the Derby at Epsom in 2016 on Harzand, trained by Dermot Weld
Irish champion jockey-turned-trainer Murtagh said: ‘He was showing class right up to the end. He set the standard in the weighing room in Ireland. Everyone wanted to be like him. He was the champion jockey in Ireland in more ways than one.’
Racecourses in Britain and Ireland held a minute’s silence in Smullen’s honour yesterday and jockeys wore black armbands.