The sport of kings is united in sadness as it mourns the death of Pat Smullen at the age of 43.
The father of three, who rode Harzand to victory in the Derby four years ago, the last of his 12 Classic victories, was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018.
But rather than dwell on the implications, Smullen channelled his energies into fundraising and increasing awareness.
More than €2.5million was raised on Irish Champions Weekend last year, when Sir Anthony McCoy rode the winner of the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at The Curragh.
Watch how Smullen and Harzand won the Derby in 2016
Smullen had hoped to ride in the race himself until his condition took a turn for the worse in the weeks beforehand, but was at The Curragh to support all of those taking part and help with the fundraising campaign.
As recently as a few weeks ago, he was still working with Cancer Trials Ireland to allocate some of the funds raised by that event, announcing the grant of €100,000 to St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin for the purchase of a sequencing machine to improve diagnosis and outcomes for future patients.
Smullen, who died in the same hospital on Tuesday, leaves wife Frances and their three children – Hannah, Paddy and Sarah.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “Pat was one of our greatest stars. He was nine-times champion jockey, but in many ways his greatest achievements were out of the saddle.
What racing meant to Pat, and what Pat meant to racing: Smullen was honoured at the Cartier Awards last year
“Since his diagnosis, he did wonderful work fund-raising for charity and he battled this disease with great heart and it’s hard to believe he has passed at such a young age. All our thoughts are with Frances and his three children, and all his friends and colleagues in the weighing room.
“It’s a really sad day for Irish racing. Pat was one of the finest men you could hope to meet. There’s been such a reaction around Irish racing and such a degree of shock, which shows the high regard in which Pat was held.
“He was a pleasure to have anything to do with – his achievements in the saddle were one thing, but his qualities outside of it were something else.
“He was a global figure in racing, but his reaction to his diagnosis and the fund-raising he did last year in particular was really wonderful. It’s just a sad, sad day.”
Smullen spoke to Nick Luck after the running of his Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at The Curragh
Paying his own tribute, McCoy said: “Devastated, there’s no words. It’s hard to believe his amazing charity race was a year ago today. Heartbreaking. Thinking about Fran, Hannah, Paddy and Sarah. RIP Champ.”
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