Mick Kinane leads tributes to Pat Smullen in retirement

‘He can be very proud of the career he’s had’

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Following Pat Smullen’s retirement from the saddle, leading figures from the sport have paid tribute to the nine-times champion jockey:

Mick Kinane, 13-times Irish champion Flat jockey

“Pat has come through a tough time and it’s good to see he’s got his health back, which is obviously the main thing.

“He’s been a very good jockey and can be very proud of the career he’s had.

“We had some good scraps and some great times, on and off the track. Hopefully they’ll continue.”

Aidan O’Brien, multiple champion trainer

“Pat was second to none, both as a jockey and a horseman. As a human being he has inspired people all over the world, especially with the way he has dealt with and spoken about his illness.

“We, like everybody else, look forward to reading his articles and hearing his interviews as his knowledge, experience and wisdom will be an invaluable contribution to everyone.”

Joseph O’Brien, dual Irish champion Flat jockey

“Pat is someone I looked up to both before I started riding and after I started riding – he was an idol of mine.

“I was lucky enough to be able to ride against him for a number of years. We were tough competitors, but he was always an absolute gentleman and we had some great times together on and off the track.

“He’s a great man and a great jockey and I wish him all the best in whichever road he chooses to go down in the future.”

Kevin O’Ryan, Smullen’s agent and brother-in-law

“I first met Pat when we were both working in Dermot Weld’s and he gave me the opening I was looking for when he asked me to be his agent.

“He’s now my brother-in-law and a great friend.

“For me, Pat Smullen epitomises the word professionalism – he’s got an unbelievable work ethic and determination and he’s someone all young jockeys should aspire to.

“It really is the end of an era with Pat and Ruby (Walsh) retiring in the last week, but as one chapter closes another one opens and I’m sure Pat will go on to be a huge success in whatever he decides to do going forward.”

Fran Berry, leading jockey who recently retired due to injury

Berry told sportinglife.com: “I’ve known Pat from day one when it comes to my riding days and we’ve gradually become very good friends. Myself, Pat, Declan McDonogh and a few others have been really close for years and he’s a great man.

“He’s been a fantastic rider throughout his career but the last year has really been the measure of the man.

“Thankfully he’s come out the right side of that after the cancer diagnosis and while it’s sad that he’s retiring from riding, he’s got the whole rest of his life ahead of him.

“In terms of his quality in the saddle, he’s right up there with the likes of Mick Kinane and Johnny Murtagh as top Irish riders, he’s an ultra professional and it made no different whether it was Ballinrobe on a Tuesday or the Curragh on a big Saturday.”

Declan McDonogh, former Irish champion Flat jockey

“We’ve become very close over the years – I’m actually godfather to one of Pat’s sons, Paddy.

“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster over the last year or so and it’s great that he’s got over that big hurdle now, which is the main thing.

“Career-wise he’s had a fantastic time. We had plenty of battles on the track and he’s been a phenomenal jockey, a brilliant professional and a fantastic role model for any young jockeys coming through.

“I started three or four years after Pat and we’ve soldiered on together. It’s a bit surreal now that he’s retired and Fran Berry has recently retired as well – the older crew is getting smaller!

“It’s unbelievable that Pat Smullen, Fran Berry and Ruby Walsh have all retired in the space of a month or so, but at least they’re all getting out in one piece.”

Johnny Murtagh, five-times Irish champion Flat jockey

“Myself and Pat had many a battle over many a year. He was a great jockey, very professional and always a hard man to beat – it was never over until it was over when Pat was involved.

“I’m pleased he’s in good health now and as he has said himself, it’s on to the next chapter now.

“It’s always sad to see someone retire and I’m sure he had a few more years riding in him, but his health is the most important thing and he has a young family.

“He’s a huge asset to the racing world and I’m sure he won’t be idle.”

Colin Keane, Irish champion Flat jockey in 2017 after titanic tussle with Smullen

“People like Pat and Johnny Murtagh were an inspiration to me growing up and to get the chance to ride against them.

“The battle we had in 2017 was hard work at the time, but I was very lucky to be in that position.

“Pat is a true gentleman and a great sportsman and I wish him all the best for the future.”

Hugo Palmer, trainer of Covert Love, whom Smullen steered to win the Irish Oaks and the Prix de l’Opera in 2015

“I was incredibly lucky to be able to use Pat at a very early stage of my training career really.

“A great mutual friend recommended him and I think his first winner for me was on Short Squeeze in the big Clipper Logistics sprint at York (2014). He delivered him to lead right on the line and it was one of those nerves of steel rides in what was my third season training.

“After that came those great days with Covert Love and Pat also had a great relationship with Gifted Master.

“It was an honour and a privilege to be able to work with one of the greats of the game.”

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