PAT HEALY: In his blog this week, Pat Healy takes a moment to pay tribute to Derby winner and legendary Irish jockey Pat Smullen, who passed away during the week.
It was obviously a hugely upsetting day when the news broke about Pat Smullen’s death. It was a tragic day and he deserves all the plaudits and more for what a brilliant jockey and man he was. My deepest condolences go out to his wife Frances, his three children, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, as well as his mother Mary and the rest of Pat’s family.
I could tell you numerous stories about Pat, but there are two that really come to mind. When he was just out of his apprenticeship and was riding for John Oxx, he came up to me one day at the races telling me the Dermot Weld job was up for grabs and that he had a chance of getting it. I replied asking whether he thought he was ready for it, given the fact he was still very new on the block having just come out of his apprenticeship. He replied: “Not am I only ready for it, I’ll kick it out of the park!” And the proof was in the pudding as he and Dermot had the best part of 20 years of worldwide success together, so he was right, that’s for sure!
In my time, Mick Kinane raised the bar and brought Irish jockeys onto the world stage and Pat and Johnny Murtagh were the next two to repeat the feat. Pat was just about as good as they came in terms of jockeyship and one of his great successes came when he won the Derby at Epsom aboard Harzand. I shared a taxi back with him to Heathrow that evening and what really struck me was that he had time for everybody who wanted to speak to him after the race. From Sky News to the local radio station in Epsom, everyone wanted an interview with him and he gave every person the exact same attention as he gave the last.
We were under a bit of time pressure to get on the flight back home and I said to him: “Pat, we’ll be lucky to make this flight.” He replied to me: “If we don’t make it, I’ll float home anyway.” He was just on cloud-nine after winning the Derby and like every other jockey, it was his dream to win the race. Jockeys from all across the world were texting him ‘congratulations’ and I think it meant an awful lot to him to have them acknowledge the achievement.
His loss will leave a huge hole in our lives and he’ll be sorely missed.
We’ve already had a great couple of days at Listowel for the Harvest Festival and I’m really looking forward to the feature race of the entire meeting, the Kerry National, on Wednesday. It’s fiercely competitive as usual, but I’ll tip up Plan Of Attack for Robbie Power and Henry De Bromhead. We should get a nice bit of rain on Tuesday evening, which should make it perfect jumping ground, and hopefully ‘Puppy’ can steer him home in front!