O’Briens on form and a fond farewell to Pat Smullen


Edward Brady

THE final classic in Ireland was the Irish St Leger, which was won by Search For A Song, trained by the legendary trainer Dermot Weld and ridden by Oisin Orr who chalked up his first Group 1 winner. Unfortunately he did so with no crowds and very little atmosphere—no cheering crowds and so on—but I’m sure he enjoyed the win.

The O’Brien brothers won the other Group 1 races with Joseph winning with Thunder Moon who was really impressive in the Goffs Vincent O’Brien Stakes. Donnacha, meanwhile, took the Moyglare Stakes win with Shale.

Not to be left out, their father Aiden won the Irish Champion Stakes with Magical, who did it the hard way kicking on at the halfway mark and holding off the Godolphin horse Ghaiyyath, who had won some good races in the UK. Magical had won the same race last year and she is expected to have an exciting autumn, possibly heading to the Quipco Stakes at Ascot.

Trainer on top
Aiden O’Brien’s Anthony Van Dyke won the Qatar Prix Foy at Longchamp recently, beating Stradivarius by a short head in a great race. He could possibly go to Australia to run in the Cox Plate race or the Melbourne Cup. He’d be the first ever Derby winner to race there.

Mogul, also trained by O’Brien, won the Grand Prix de Paris and could possibly go to France for the Arc De Triomphe next month.

Spare a thought for up-and-coming young jockey Shane Cross, who was down to race O’Brien’s Galileo Chrome in the UK St Leger, but unfortunately tested positive for Covid-19, so he had to miss the race and go into isolation.

You know your luck is really out when Galileo Chrome goes on to win the race at Doncaster. I’m sure though that he will have more opportunities like this in future because he’s going to be a top jockey.

Cause for concern
There is a real concern for horse racing in Ireland as a new six-month roadmap enforces extended restrictions. Crowds at the Irish racecourses are set to be limited to 200 for the next six months, a move that Horse Racing Ireland Chief Executive, Brian Kavanagh, described as a ‘real concern’ for the sport and tracks in particular. The 200 in attendance will also be made up mainly of owners, sponsors and members—there won’t be any members of the public there sadly.

Tribute to top jockey
While writing this column, I heard the sad news that one of Ireland’s top jockeys—Pat Smullen—had passed away at the age of 43 after having fought bravely against cancer for the past three years. He was a brilliant jockey who rode more than 1900 winners all over the world. He rode for Dermot Weld and John Oxx and many other big European trainers.

Pat (above) didn’t wallow in self-pity though and never hid his ordeal. He wanted some good to come out of his illness; he wanted others to be aware and raise funds to support the unending scientific quest to advance the unequal war on cancer. He managed to raise €2.6 million from the horse racing community and others to help fund research into pancreatic cancer and to support clinical trials. People diagnosed with cancer in Ireland will feel the benefit of that in years to come.

“Pat had everything,” Aiden O’Brien said. “He was a brilliant horseman, a great jockey, but above all an unbelievably sincere and decent man who was incredibly genuine.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Frances and his children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah. May he rest in peace.