Dermot Weld highlighted Pat Smullen’s loyalty and integrity in paying tribute to the man who was his stable jockey for the best part of 20 years.
The pair enjoyed untold success all over the world, winning the 2016 Derby at Epsom with Harzand, teaming up for several major Royal Ascot winners and having several fruitful trips to America.
Following his retirement, Smullen, who died on Tuesday evening at the age of 43 after a long battle against pancreatic cancer, arranged a legends race with the aim of raising money for cancer research.
Names such as Sir Anthony McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Charlie Swan and Kieren Fallon were involved, as over €2.5 million was raised.
“Pat Smullen was just a very, very special man, with regards to the sport of horse racing and indeed to me personally. He was unique,” said Weld, speaking on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.
“In this day and age I would have to say his loyalty and his integrity stood out. He was my stable jockey for 20 years and was just the professionals’ professional.
“His detail and his determination were major factors, as was his bravery. He was a very principled man, he was a family man and his loyalty and integrity were an example to anybody within the sport.
“I only had two retained jockeys, Michael Kinane for about 13 years and Pat for about 20. We just built together, but he was simply an excellent jockey.”
Highlighting some of their biggest successes together Weld went on: “You saw in England wonderful rides like on Rite Of Passage, two spectacular rides at Ascot.
“It is worth noting, from the limited chances he got at Ascot, rides like winning the Gold Cup on Rite Of Passage when he set the track record, Fascinating Rock in the Champion Stakes, Free Eagle in the Prince of Wales’s and on a horse called In Time’s Eye when he got the better of a great duel with Pat Eddery going way back to the early days (Wolferton, 2003).
He won the English 2000 Guineas on Refuse To Bend and I think that typified the man. Right to the end when he was fighting pancreatic cancer he had this will to win, this belief, determination and he was able to impart that to the horses he rode.
“After he won the Epsom Derby (on Harzand in 2016) – and he so deserved to ride the winner of an Epsom Derby – the amount of public support, I can even use the word love at his achievement, was amazing. People not even connected to the sport sent him congratulations.
“It was the same right around the world. He won the Matriarch Stakes (Dress To Thrill 2002) one day for me and the respect the American jockeys had for him was very special. He was a leader in his own profession. He led by example, I think that is the best way I can describe him.”
Sir Anthony McCoy struggled to control his emotions when paying tribute to Smullen on Sky Sports Racing.
It was exactly a year ago that Smullen persuaded McCoy to come out of retirement to ride in a charity race at the Curragh.
“He was a wonderful man. It’s very hard, it’s very hard on the family. It’s just a tragic time, it’s heartbreaking,” McCoy said.
“We served our apprenticeships around a similar time. His was a lot more successful than mine was, so I’d known him a long time.
“Paying a compliment to him as a rider, he took over from as good a rider as I have ever seen in Mick Kinane (at Dermot Weld’s) and you wouldn’t have known. That is how good Pat Smullen was. You can try to think about races he maybe should have won – there aren’t any.
“It’s just horrifically sad. I spent a long time crying last night.”
Smullen convinced McCoy to take part in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials in Ireland last September, and he rose to the task when making all the running on Quizical at the Curragh.
The 20-times champion jumps jockey beat other legends of the turf such as Ruby Walsh and Johnny Murtagh, on a day that helped Smullen raise over €2.5million for charity.
“It was very special,” said McCoy. “I know he said that some of us were harder to persuade to ride than others, and it did take me a bit of time to think about it because I was a bit unfit at the time and worried about making a show of myself.
“But because it was for Pat Smullen and for such a special cause – there is no doubt it is one of the memories that will last forever in my mind. The Curragh was very special because of how the day went, the success and what he made of it. He raised the best part of three million in a very short space of time.
“It was a very memorable day and I know that he, having organised that, will have made a difference to people. It was a very special day.
“He served his apprenticeship riding against Mick Kinane and Christy Roche. He rode with the best of them and learnt from the best. It showed what a world-class jockey he became.
“I looked at a picture this morning of a lunch in Leopardstown in February 2018. It was not long after that he was diagnosed with cancer.”