In a profoundly sad turn of events, Pat Smullen has been forced to withdraw from his Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland on Longines Irish Champions Weekend on medical advice.
The multiple champion jockey had a well-publicised battle with cancer through 2018 and 2019. A battle he had apparently overcome. In a statement today, the Derby Winning jockey confirmed the news no racing fan wanted to hear.
“Unfortunately I’ve had a setback with my health and have to undergo chemotherapy. On advice from my medical team I am unable to ride in the Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland. I am bitterly disappointed not to be able to take part in this very special race – I was really looking forward to riding against such a brilliant group of champions, especially at The Curragh.
“I’ve spoken to Horse Racing Ireland who are helping me with the fundraising activity over Longines Irish Champions Weekend. I am more determined than ever that the fundraising activity goes ahead as pancreatic cancer needs more awareness now than ever before,” said the nine-time champion jockey.
Smullen took the decision to retire from the saddle earlier this year. It was feared a return to the grind and weight loss required for race-riding would pose a risk to his health. He spoke at length about his cancer battle and recovery with Joe Molloy on OTB.
The race Smullen will now miss out on was only launched at the end of July, this news has hit swiftly and unexpectedly. The race will now have an added, but hopefully unnecessary poignancy.
The Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland will take place at The Curragh on Sunday September 15. Nine champions - AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Charlie Swan, Johnny Murtagh, Richard Hughes, Paul Carberry, Joseph O’Brien, Kieren Fallon, and Ted Durcan return to the saddle.
There will also be a number of other fundraising activities happening over the weekend for Cancer Trials Ireland – the leading cancer research trials organisation.
Cancer Trials Ireland has two pancreatic trials ready to start - one is a trial on a new drug and another in radiotherapy, and all proceeds raised over Longines Irish Champions Weekend will ensure that they start as soon as possible.