John Oxx and Johnny Murtagh pay tribute as racing mourns a unique talent
Pat Smullen's sad passing has sent shockwaves across the sport of horseracing that extend to the general Irish population. Mark Boylan speaks to leading racing figures from both sides of the Irish Sea for their memories of the much-missed nine-time champion jockey.
John Oxx, who employed Smullen as second rider in the late 1990s
He was one of the top jockeys in Europe, but what put him apart from other people was that he was such a decent human being. He was a very straightforward, honourable person to deal with, an example and inspiration to other jockeys, particularly young riders.
He was always very diligent and hard-working right from the early days. He was second jockey to me behind Johnny Murtagh in 1997 and 1998 and everyone could see then that he would be a champion jockey of the future.
It's just such a shame that having worked so hard and moved himself up the ladder to the point where he was one of the most sought-after jockeys in Europe that he's been struck down like this, when his career would have been at its height.
Eva-Maria Bucher-Haefner, Moyglare Stud owner
I first got to know Pat when I took over Moyglare from my father. For me, he was not just our number one rider, he became a friend.
He was loyal, reliable, ambitious, humorous, courageous and inspiring. A thoroughly good person, husband, father, friend, and a great jockey.
Ted Durcan, former jockey and close friend
Pat and I became very close from our early years in the weighing room. We had some great fun times over the years on our travels.
Like all of Pat’s legion of friends, we loved spending time with him. He was the most loyal friend. Pat led his life with the utmost professionalism both on the racecourse and in his personal life. This was never more evident than in his battle to fight his illness.
Pat and Fran made a wonderful team. Pat truly cherished Fran and the children, and they cherished him. Pat was our dear friend. My wife Sue and I are devastated and will miss him dreadfully.
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Khalid Abdullah
He was a highly talented jockey to say the very least, but whatever he was as a jockey, he was different class as a man.
He rode Famous Name to every single one of his 21 victories, including 20 at Pattern level, which is remarkable in its own right, and we had many marvellous days with him.
The thoughts of everyone at Juddmonte are with Frances and Pat's entire family. He was a rare breed.
Johnny Murtagh, friend and trainer who rode with Smullen as part of the John Oxx team
It's very sad news and the world of racing really has lost one of the true legends of the game. You can see the esteem he was held in by people across the world in their tributes to him – he's one of those special people.
After our big win on Saturday at Leopardstown [with Champers Elysees] he texted me to say well done, he was a class act. Everyone in the weighing room wanted to be like Pat Smullen.
We knew what he was like in racing but through his fundraising efforts in recent times, I think the wider public got to see the man he was. Determined, mentally and physically strong. You couldn't intimidate him on the track. He had a great will to win, and that was every day.
Dermot Cantillon, chairman of Naas racecourse and racing manager to Michael Smurfit
We've had lots of brilliant memories together and it stood out to me straight away from the first time we spoke properly in Melbourne that he was an extremely decent and well-balanced human being.
My wife Meta and I were on the same flight as him over to England on the morning of Harzand's Derby win and you could see how determined he was. He was totally in the zone and wanted no distractions because he knew the horse had an outstanding chance and the small fractions of concentration were so important.
It stood out as an example of his professionalism. He was a fantastic person.
Declan McDonogh, leading rider and close friend
We were as thick as thieves. I'm godfather to his son Paddy and the news has really hit home to us all.
We shared car journeys to the races for many years and had great times. I'll miss him, he was like the brother I never had.
There have been such great tributes to him and I'm feeling for Frances, his children, mother Mary and brothers. It's a very tough time.
Willie Mullins, Ireland's champion jumps trainer
Pat was a proper man who will be dearly missed. He was a pleasure to work with and was a thorough professional throughout.
Angus Gold, racing manager to Hamdan Al Maktoum
I know Sheikh Hamdan always held him in the highest regard both as a jockey and as a man.
He was delighted to contribute to his very worthy cause last year and was devastated to learn of Pat's passing.
We've had many special days together, he was a very special talent. A brilliant jockey and an even better person, which takes some doing.
Fran Berry, former rider and close friend to Smullen
We all know what a good jockey he was but he was extremely helpful to younger riders. He wouldn't give them an inch on the track but he gave them his time off it.
He was a great friend. Pat, Kevin Manning, Declan McDonogh and I used to travel to the races together every day. We'd try to beat each other on the track and laugh about it on the way home. It was a great friendship and support network that I look back very fondly on.
What he's done over the past two and a half years is incredible and his legacy will live on, as was shown last year for his Champions Race at the Curragh.
Social media tributes
Hannah Smullen, daughter of the world-renowned jockey, paid a touching tribute on social media.
My hero. pic.twitter.com/aUT0VPvfxb— Hannah Smullen (@hannah_smullen) September 16, 2020
Cancer Trials Ireland remembered a great friend and benefactor of the leading research organisation.
God rest you. What you meant to the people most close to you and the people of Ireland. Not to mind the rest of the world. A truly fitting statement. Thoughts with your family and friends. https://t.co/gVOqNr016f— Oisín Murphy (@oismurphy) September 15, 2020
Neil Callan, Jessica Harrington and Kevin Blake highlighted what a class act Smullen was in and out of the saddle.
I have not felt this sad in a very long time ! Sleep well my good friend. There is too many words to describe how good a man u are, you will never be forgotten. #Pat #Champion #Legend #inspiration pic.twitter.com/idAo3huEXx— Neil Callan (@neilcallan78) September 16, 2020
Rest in peace Pat a true gentleman and an inspirational person sleep well. Thoughts and prayers with the whole family and friends. pic.twitter.com/PUzeweZfu6— Jessica Harrington (@Jessica_Racing) September 15, 2020
Floored by this. A world-class jockey, but more importantly a world-class man. The selflessness and bravery he showed during his illness was remarkable and inspired so many. So sorry for Frances, his children Hannah, Paddy, Sarah and all his family/friends. RIP Pat. https://t.co/rZrqYKGb6F— Kevin Blake (@kevinblake2011) September 15, 2020
The president of Ireland extended his condolences to Smullen's family.
President Higgins has expressed his deep sadness at the untimely death of champion jockey Pat Smullen, saying his remarkable performances at home and abroad brought joy to so many.— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) September 15, 2020
The President conveys his sincere condolences to his family, wife and children.
Gordon Elliott paid tribute to Smullen's talent and personality.
So sad to hear of Pats passing. One of the greatest jockeys we’ve ever seen and above all a true gentleman who I was fortunate enough to know. Condolences to Frances,Hannah,Paddy,Sarah and all his family. May he rest in peace pic.twitter.com/Zypol3kP55— Gordon Elliott (@gelliott_racing) September 15, 2020
Truly heartbreaking news about Pat Smullen. He was great jockey and even better man. My thoughts are with his family at this time.— Jonjo O'Neill (@JonjoONeill) September 15, 2020
Former England footballer Michael Owen extended his condolences, as did trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam and jockey Andrea Atzeni.
RIP Pat. A true gentleman. https://t.co/EeDBHWiPj5— michael owen (@themichaelowen) September 16, 2020
Heartbroken to hear the passing of Pat Smullen,he was a gent,we had fun together especially on Sundays in Hong Kong,of to Stanley for the day what a laugh. My condolences to Frances and their family,I couldn’t be a brave or as strong as Pat, see you pal— Peter Chapple-Hyam (@ChappleHyam) September 16, 2020
R.I.P Champ https://t.co/4P2qvPkfUF— Andrea Atzeni (@Atzenijockey) September 15, 2020