Pat Smullen – a racing great
Mike Deasy pays tribute to Pat Smullen, applauds some up and coming trainers at the Irish Champions Weekend and welcomes TV coverage in Britain
A year ago, I was at the Curragh for the second day of Irish Champions Weekend. It was a weekend when prize-money ran to hundreds of thousands of euros, but the race which mattered to most was worth €59.10 to the winner. It was the seventh on the Curragh card.
Over one mile, it was for 3yos and upwards who had raced at least three times and had a rating of less than 70. If the horses were a little low-grade, the jockeys were of the highest calibre, if not necessarily race-fit. They were:
Paul Carberry, Ted Durcan, Richard Hughes, Kieron Fallon, A P McCoy, Johnny Murtagh, Joseph O’Brien, Charlie Swan and Ruby Walsh
The race was The Pat Smullen Champion Race for Cancer Trials Ireland. Pat had hoped to take part himself, but the need to return to treatment for pancreatic cancer meant that couldn’t be the case. But, he said, “that won’t dull the excitement, and I would like to extend the warmest thanks to nine incredible champion jockeys.”
In the past 24-hours those jockeys and many more, plus trainers, owners, racing officials and racing fans have all paid tribute to Pat Smullen who lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on Tuesday, aged 43.
There was palpable warmth and affection for Pat at the Curragh. Now sadness has been added together with love and sympathy for his wife Frances and their three children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.
Racing has lost one of its greatest participants, not just for his nine Irish jockey championships, host of Classic wins including the Derby at Epsom on Harzand (pictured) and numerous other Group victories.
It has lost a brave man, a family man, a great ambassador for the sport and a man who courageously fought his pernicious cancer and raised millions for pancreatic cancer research and awareness.
To Pat, we say thanks a million and rest in peace.
♦ More on Pat Smullen’s career in The Racing Hub’s News Update http://wp.me/P8e3Dl-3WN
Success for trainers in the all-aged stakes
Whilst Leopardstown and the Curragh weren’t able to deliver the crowds at this year’s Irish Champions Weekend, the latter getting some respite from the close scrutiny of attendance figures following its recent redevelopment, the two tracks delivered the goods in terms of a memorable Irish Champions Weekend.
The O’Brien name appeared five times against a winner, but it wasn’t “the daddy” who accounted for all the victories. Sunday at the Curragh resulted in a blank for Aiden, but the boys done good.
Joseph, that up and coming dual purpose trainer, sent in Thunder Moon to win the Vincent O’Brien (no relation) National Stakes and Donnacha chalked up his first Group 1 win on home soil with Shale in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
But there was a good spread of wins outside clan O’Brien, with contrasts in training experience for two more of the Group 1 contests.
A 72, Dermot Weld again hit the right note with Search For A Song, winning for the second year as you can with Ireland’s final Classic, taking his Leger tally to nine, four courtesy of Vinnie Roe (2001-2004).
Gaining his first Group 1 win as a trainer, and I think the most pleasing result of the weekend, was Johnny Murtagh with the Matron Stakes. It was a race he’d won three times as a jockey and now he can celebrate his first win as a handler with Champers Elysees.
He followed that up with a double when Sonnyboyliston took the last, a 22-runner handicap. That took his tally to 41 wins in Ireland this year, his best so far, and adds a victory at the very top level to join seven Group 2 and 3 wins. Chances are it won’t be his last.
“We have an exciting afternoon of world-class racing” said a Tweet this weekend, “featuring seven thrilling races for you to enjoy from home”. Was it Doncaster, or Leopardstown or maybe the Curragh? Nope, it was Chelmsford City. A tad overhyped me thinks by the Essex boys.
There was the added bonus this year that viewers of free-to-view TV both sides of the Irish Sea were able to watch the Irish Champions Weekend action.
When racing is on ITV’s main channel, which goes out in Ireland, Irish racing is usually off-limits because RTE has the exclusive rights. But this year British viewers got to see two of the Group 1 races on Saturday, and more on Sunday.
Well done those who facilitated the races being shown in Britain, and not a split screen in sight.
Not so live
It was something of an anachronism, but “live” text commentary is no longer available on the Racing Post’s app, a victim of the cutbacks the Post is having to make.
But it was useful to follow the text commentary if it wasn’t possible to watch a race and I shall miss such occasional in-running comments as: “I can’t see Eyes winning from here”.