Horse racing rocked by champion jockey's death at 43

Reuters
·2-min read
Jockey Pat Smullen is pictured lifting a trophy.
Iconic Irish jockey Pat Smullen has passed away aged 43, after retiring a year ago to get treatment for pancreatic cancer. (Photo By Cody Glenn/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Nine-time Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen has died aged 43, just over a year after retiring from racing as he had treatment for pancreatic cancer, British media reported on Tuesday.

He helped raise over 2.5 million euros ($2.96 million) for pancreatic cancer trials and research by organising a legends race and was hailed as “the ultimate professional” in tributes.

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Smullen, from Rhode in County Offaly, won the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby in 2016 on Harzand, trained by Dermot Weld.

He had previously won the Irish Derby with Grey Swallow in 2004, as well as the Irish 1,000 Guineas twice, the Irish Oaks and the Irish St Leger four years running.

Smullen was also a Gold Cup winner at Royal Ascot with Rite Of Passage, and won the Champion Stakes on Fascinating Rock.

"Pat Smullen was the ultimate professional," said fellow jockey Ross Coakley after news of his death.

"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," added Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh.

"Since his diagnosis he did wonderful work fundraising for charity and he battled this disease with great heart and it's hard to believe he has passed at such a young age."

Pat Smullen’s Australian exploits remembered

Smullen, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018, died at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.

He rode Vinnie Roe in three Melbourne Cups and finished second on the outstanding Irish-trained stayer in the 2004 race won by Makybe Diva.

Smullen's initial treatment had been positive, but he suffered a relapse and was forced to abandon plans to ride in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh in September last year.

Pat Smullen is pictured in 2019.
Pat Smullen smiles prior to the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland in 2019. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Born in County Offaly, on May 22, 1977, Smullen, the son of a farmer and who became involved with horses at the age of 11, went on to form a formidable alliance with Vinnie Roe's trainer Dermot Weld, taking over in 1999 from another riding great - Mick Kinane.

Among their greatest triumphs was the Derby at Epsom in 2016 with Harzand.

The pair went on to secure the Irish Derby and cement the legacy of a rider who enjoyed his first victory at Dundalk on June 11, 1993.

Smullen leaves wife Frances and their three children - Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.

With AAP