Derby-winning jockey Pat Smullen dies aged 43

Pat Smullen after riding Harzand to victory in the Derby

Pat Smullen, the legendary Irish jockey who rode 12 Classic winners in an outstanding career, has died at the age of 43.

Smullen was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and passed away in Dublin on Tuesday.

The father of three, who rode Harzand to victory in the Derby four years ago, suffered a relapse in recent months having received positive news in 2019.

Throughout his illness, Smullen raised awareness and substantial sums of money for charitable causes - including over €2.5million on Irish Champions Weekend last year, when Sir Anthony McCoy rode the winner of the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh.

Nine-times champion jockey in Ireland, Smullen forged a lengthy and prolific association with Dermot Weld. He rode his final winner in March 2018 at Dundalk before news of his diagnosis emerged.

Other big race wins included the Irish Derby twice on Grey Swallow and Harzand, four victories in the Irish St Leger aboard Vinnie Roe and the 2000 Guineas with Refuse To Bend in 2003.

He leaves wife Frances and their three children – Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.

The charity race at the Curragh came exactly a year ago and was won by Sir Anthony McCoy aboard the Sheila Lavery-trained Quizical.

Paying his tribute, McCoy said: “Devastated, there’s no words. It’s hard to believe his amazing charity race was a year ago today. Heartbreaking.

“Thinking about Fran, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah. RIP champ.”

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “Pat was one of our greatest stars. He was nine-times champion jockey, but in many ways his greatest achievements were out of the saddle.

“Since his diagnosis, he did wonderful work fund-raising for charity and he battled this disease with great heart and it’s hard to believe he has passed at such a young age. All our thoughts are with Frances and his three children, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and all his friends and colleagues in the weighing room.

“It’s a really sad day for Irish racing. Pat was one of the finest men you could hope to meet. There’s been such a reaction around Irish racing and such a degree of shock, which shows the high regard in which Pat was held.

“He was a pleasure to have anything to do with – his achievements in the saddle were one thing, but his qualities outside of it were something else.

“He was a global figure in racing, but his reaction to his diagnosis and the fund-raising he did last year in particular was really wonderful. It’s just a sad, sad day.”

READ: More tributes flooding in for Pat Smullen

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