Legendary flat jockey Pat Smullen was honoured jointly with Ruby Walsh at the Horse Racing Ireland Awards in Dublin last night.
Offaly native Smullen was presented with the Irish Racing Hero award.
A nine time Irish champion and winner of the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby, Smullen has been treated for pancreatic cancer.
His efforts to promote awareness of pancreatic cancer and cancer trials resulted in a fundraiser over Champions Weekend in September that helped raise €2.5 million. It concluded with a unique race at the Curragh that saw big name jockeys come out of retirement.
Pat Smullen explained how the fundraiser came about:
"We really wanted to do something to raise awareness of cancer trials and pancreatic cancer and it was actually Joe Foley that came to one day with the idea of doing something over Champions Weekend. Thankfully then Horse Racing Ireland got behind it and we came up with what we came up with. The race I think was very special. To get all the lads back and past champions, the line up was quite special."
Smullen was overwhelmed by the support he received:
"It just shows racing and our industry in a very positive light. In the time of need, when something is very important, everyone rowed in behind it. Irish racing was a winner as well as cancer trials Ireland. That was very very special."
The Champions Race, the highlight of the fundraising drive, saw famous jumps jockey AP McCoy ride Quizical to victory:
"He did a lot of hunting around to try and get the right ride. Thankfully, good supporters of mine, Sheila Lavery and her brother John who owned the horse came up with the winner for him. It was just a fitting end to the whole weekend when he won the race. He is a twenty times champion jockey and a lot of people were there to see him. It all worked out in the end."
Pat Smullen nominated his Epsom Derby win on Harzand in 2016 as his standout moment in all his years of riding:
"No question, it's the highlight of my career. The old cliche, when you are a young boy, you dream of winning the Epsom Derby. You literally can only do that when you are a kid and an apprentice is dream of winning a race like that. To make that a reality was hugely special. I am just glad it came along at the right time in my life and in my career where I really appreciated it."