Ruby Walsh and Paddy Power discussed the tragic loss of Pat Smullen on the latest episode of the From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, recalling how the leading Irish rider brought the racing world together with his hugely successful fundraising event at The Curragh last year.
Smullen, who was best known as a nine-time Irish flat racing Champion jockey and for his 2016 Epsom Derby win on Harzand, passed away last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer – aged just 43.
Tributes have poured in for one of the most well-respected men in the sport, and Ruby and Paddy have shared their fond memories of Smullen’s drive to help others through his Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland event 12 months ago.
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Speaking about the tragic loss, Ruby said: “We knew that it was always going to happen, but it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t shocking.
“Pat will forever be known for what he did for Cancer Trials Ireland and what he achieved as a jockey, but he was much, much more than that.
“He was a friend, a parent, a husband, a brother, and he will be forever sorely missed.”
Paddy added:”I met him a handful of times when he was riding our horses and I met him a few times socially, and he was always a gentleman. The one thing you notice from all the generous tributes is that I wish I knew him a bit better.
“My strongest memories of Pat Smullen are Galway-related, and with a smile on my face I’ll say that it’s probably no coincidence that the Dermot Weld dominance at Galway ended when Pat Smullen stopped riding because he was absolutely brilliant there.
“It’s just awfully sad, and at the time of that great race day that he organised – where Ruby could only finish second to AP McCoy in the Champions Race – I can’t remember a day at the races where there was that much goodwill.
“There was a feeling of common cause, and it was just great fun with everyone smiling and up for it despite it lashing it down at The Curragh that day.
“It showed the esteem in which Pat was held and reminded you what a big presence he was, even though he was very quiet. He wasn’t a very vocal jockey, but from all the tributes it seems that he was a bit of a mentor to some of the younger riders in the weighing room.
“It’s no consolation to his family but it is lovely to hear, and that respect doesn’t come cheap. It’s earned, and Pat is a big loss.”
The Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland saw nine of the sport’s most successful jockeys compete over a mile at The Curragh, with our very own Ruby losing out to AP McCoy on board Quizical.
The rest of the field for the fundraiser was made up of Johnny Murtagh, Paul Carberry, Charlie Swan, Ted Durcan, Richard Hughes, Joseph O’Brien and Kieron Fallon.
“Pat did I don’t know how many interviews in the cold and the rain, but that was a mark of the man,” said Ruby.
“We went for dinner afterwards – with everybody that had been part of the day – and the last person to leave was Pat Smullen, even though you knew he wasn’t exactly feeling well, and you knew by looking at him that he didn’t look 100 per cent.
“I know looking back that it was a miserable, wet day, but I don’t remember the weather. The day left that mark on you, that it didn’t matter.”
Our thoughts and condolences are with all of Pat’s friends and family at this time.