'One of greatest jockeys ever' - nation mourns gentleman Pat

Pat’s wife Frances and the couple’s children receive a bouquet of flowers

Luke Byrne

Champion jockey Pat Smullen has been remembered as a gentleman and a serious generational talent as tributes flooded in following his death.

Smullen (43), from Rhode, Co Offaly, a nine-time Irish champion flat jockey, died surrounded by his family on Tuesday in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.

He had been diagnosed in 2018 with pancreatic cancer and took a step back from riding last year.

Fellow jockey and friend Ruby Walsh was among those to speak of hi determined character.

"He led by example," Walsh said on RTÉs Morning Ireland.

"I knew it was coming for the last while. If there was a horse ever named for Pat Smullen to ride it was Refuse to Bend, because he refused to bend as a jockey and he refused to bend all through his illness.

"From that day forward both himself and his wife Frances got stuck in to try and figure out how you're going to deal with it and cope with it.

"And ultimately aim to make it better, but nobody was ever under the illusion other than that it was going to be a very big battle."

President Michael D Higgins expressed his "deep sadness" at Smullen's death and conveyed his sincere condolences to his family, wife and children.

"His remarkable performances at home and abroad brought joy to so many," he said.

Trainer Gordon Elliot spoke of Smullen as a gentleman and said he was one of the best the world had seen.

"So sad to hear of Pat's passing. One of the greatest jockeys we've ever seen and above all a true gentleman who I was fortunate enough to know," he said.


"Condolences to Frances, Hannah, Paddy, Sarah and all his family. May he rest in peace."

There were also condolences from figures in other disciplines.

Smullen was active in raising funds for cancer charities.

Cancer Trials Ireland yesterday revealed in a letter to his family how he had raised €2.6m for pancreatic cancer clinical trials.

"People diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Ireland will feel the benefit of it for years, if not decades, to come," a statement said.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport a year ago, Smullen said: "Sure, life is full of setbacks, you just have to deal with it.

"You have to face it, what else do you do? Lie down and give up? You can't do that."