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Pat Smullen: The ten best horses he partnered


Timeform look at the best horses ridden by nine-time Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen and his most memorable rides.

Grey Swallow (best Timeform rating under Smullen: 129)

Grey Swallow was, according to Timeform ratings, the best horse Smullen rode and provided him with two Group 1 victories. The first was a hugely significant success, giving Smullen a first Irish Derby in 2004 when digging deep to beat Epsom winner North Light. The second Group 1 was achieved the following season in a very competitive edition of the Tattersalls Gold Cup, which featured the Arc winner Bago as well as talented performers such as Azamour and Norse Dancer. Grey Swallow was produced to hold every chance between the couple of furlongs and responded to Smullen's urgings to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

Vinnie Roe (128)

Vinnie Roe was a remarkable racehorse who Smullen developed an excellent association with, guiding him to four successive wins in the Irish St Leger. Vinnie Roe was especially impressive when recording the historic fourth success – he became the first horse to win the same pattern race four years running – and followed that up with an excellent effort in defeat when chasing home the legendary Makybe Diva in the 2004 Melbourne Cup.

Benbaun (127)

Benbaun was at his best during 2007, a campaign in which he was partnered by Smullen on all six starts. The pair won on four occasions, with the highlight coming in the Prix de l'Abbaye, when Benbaun confirmed himself as one of the best sprinters around by beating Kingsgate Native by a length and three-quarters. Benbaun also scored three times during that campaign at the Curragh, a course where he compiled an excellent record.

Free Eagle (127)

Free Eagle needed Pat Smullen to be at his absolute best to win the 2015 Prince of Wales's Stakes. Free Eagle produced a high-class performance to win that prestigious Group 1 on just his fifth start, but he had nothing to spare at the line, holding on by a short-head having been given an exceptional ride. In contrast to runner-up The Grey Gatsby – who was short of room at a crucial stage – Free Eagle was in the perfect position to attack and could not have received any more assistance from the saddle.

Fascinating Rock (127)

Fascinating Rock had failed to make an impact in the Derby or Irish Derby but, like so many from the Weld yard, progressed well as a four-year-old and he signed off for the campaign with a Group 1 success in the Champion Stakes under Smullen, who was an ever-present in the saddle during the horse's career. The 2015 Champion Stakes was run at a strong pace on rain-softened ground, and Fascinating Rock benefited from being held up. He was unleashed with a powerful challenge down the straight and found plenty to fend off Found, who won the Breeders' Cup Turf on her next start and the Arc the following season. Fascinating Rock also won at the highest level in 2016, beating Found again in the Tattersalls Gold Cup having been ridden more prominently and well placed in a steadily run race. 

Harzand (126)

Harzand was an uncomplicated sort and a strong stayer, so was given a ride that made the most of those attributes in the 2016 Derby. Racing in mid-division off the strong early pace, Harzand was pushed along by Smullen rounding Tattenham Corner and hit the front with two furlongs to go. US Army Ranger threw down a strong challenge but Smullen knew that his mount would keep finding, and Harzand dug deep to provide his rider with a first win in the Derby. The pair followed up in the Irish Derby at the Curragh, with Harzand sensibly ridden more prominently in a race that was run at a slower tempo and, therefore, provided more of a test of speed.

Refuse To Bend (124)

Refuse To Bend gave Smullen a first British classic victory when landing the 2000 Guineas in 2003. There were a few hard-luck stories in the race but, as was so often the case, Smullen had his mount in the perfect position, settled on the heels of the leaders towards the outside, able to get a clear run when it was required. Refuse To Bend flopped in the Derby but bounced back with an authoritative display under a Group 1 penalty in the Desmond Stakes, running to a similar level as he had at Newmarket.

Famous Name (124)

Smullen forged an excellent association with Famous Name, riding the horse on all bar one of his 38 starts. The pair registered a remarkable 13 Group wins together, with Famous Name continuing to hit the heights even as a seven-year-old, winning his last five starts and running up to his best on ratings. Surprisingly, Famous Name only won once at Group 2 level – a six-and-a-half-length success in the Royal Whip Stakes in his final season – but he was only narrowly touched off in the French Derby in 2008.

Rite of Passage (124)

Rite of Passage certainly took an unusual route to the Gold Cup, heading to Royal Ascot via a third-place finish in the Neptune Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He was a revelation at Royal Ascot, however, on just his third start on the Flat, staying on powerfully under Smullen in a strongly-run race that ensured stamina was fully tested. Rite of Passage only made it to the course on another two occasions, but he won the Long Distance Cup more than two years after his Gold Cup triumph, benefiting from being held up in a race in which the field pressed for home too soon on testing ground.

Snow Sky (124)

The first time Pat Smullen rode Snow Sky he conjured a career-best performance to win the 2015 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Smullen gave Snow Sky a masterful ride to beat talented rivals such as Eagle Top and Postponed, dictating the fractions and kicking clear on entering the straight.


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Free Daily Race Pass (Result)


Friday 25 September
1. KAMEKO (USA) 1st
Oisin Murphy silk Oisin Murphy
Andrew Balding
Ryan Moore silk Ryan Moore
Sir Michael Stoute
Go to full race



1st Rob Hornby silk 2. BREATH CAUGHT 4/15
2nd Sean Levey silk 3. MARRONNIER (IRE) 4/15
J: Rob Hornby  
7 ran. NRs: 1  7 


1st C. T. Keane silk 10. AHYOKA (IRE) 15/28.5
2nd R. P. Whelan silk 2. TOO HARD TO HOLD (IRE) 11/43.75
3rd C. D. Hayes silk 8. SESTRIERE (IRE) 15/82.87f
J: C. T. Keane  
13 ran. NRs: 16  17  5  6 


1st Rossa Ryan silk 6. PRINCE ALEX 3/14f
2nd Jason Watson silk 5. DANCING HARRY (IRE) 15/28.5
3rd Kieran Shoemark silk hd 3. KING'S CHARISMA (IRE) 15/28.5
J: Rossa Ryan  
8 ran. NRs: 4 


1st Rachael Blackmore silk 2. MINELLA TIMES (IRE) 7/18
2nd D. J. McInerney silk ½ 5. BEYOND THE LAW (IRE) 14/115
3rd M. P. Walsh silk ¾ 3. BAY HILL (IRE) 13/27.5
10 ran. NRs: 1 


1st Sean Houlihan silk 15. COTTON END (IRE) 16/117
2nd Jack Tudor silk hd 14. ROB ROYAL (FR) 4/15f
3rd Richard Patrick silk ½ 8. ROCK ON TIGER (FR) 9/25.5
T: Sheila Lewis  
15 ran. NRs: 16 


1st Daniel Tudhope silk 3. GOLDEN HIND 11/43.75f
2nd Connor Beasley silk 5. BELLATRIXSA (IRE) 5/16
3rd Megan Nicholls silk 8. MIRACLE EAGLE (IRE) 16/117
8 ran. NRs: 2 


1st James Doyle silk 4. WALTON STREET 6/17
2nd Harry Bentley silk 5. ALOE VERA 9/25.5
J: James Doyle  
All 6 ran.


1st Stefano Cherchi silk 1. ATALIS BAY 5/16
2nd Paul Hanagan silk ½ 3. BLIND BEGGAR (IRE) 5/16
J: Stefano Cherchi (5)  
T: Marco Botti  
All 7 ran.


1st J. P. O'Sullivan silk 9. BITVIEW COLIN (IRE) 14/115
2nd Mr P. Power silk 1. MEMORY TREE (IRE) 5/23.5f
3rd D. J. O'Keeffe silk 10. DIFFERENT SPOT (IRE) 11/26.5
J: J. P. O'Sullivan (7)  
10 ran. NRs: 2  5 
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