Tuesday 25 October 2016

Smullen stands the test of time

Pat Smullen celebrates winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Harzand at the Curragh. Picture credit: Sportsfile
Pat Smullen celebrates winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Harzand at the Curragh. Picture credit: Sportsfile

I'm not convinced that Time Test will win the Coral Eclipse at Sandown tomorrow - but he is one of the market leaders and certainly isn't without his chance if handling the ground conditions.

He'd also be something of an aptly named winner for his jockey, Pat Smullen.

Smullen really has served the test of time, but now he is reaping the rewards.

Just minutes after landing the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh last Saturday, Dermot Weld was quick to pay a glowing tribute to his stable jockey.

"Pat Smullen has been a world class jockey for many, many years now," Weld stressed.

"He won the Matriarch Stakes for me (Dress To Thrill, 2002) in California and totally outrode the top jockeys over there."

It was a bit of nostalgia that wasn't overly relevant to the Irish Derby or the ride that Smullen had just given Harzand.

But it was relevant in terms of just how highly Weld regards his stable jockey and how, while many others may have overlooked Smullen when spare rides were going in big races, Weld has been fully aware of his capabilities for some time now.

Given that Weld has produced over 4,000 winners and had an incredibly low turnover of stable jockeys, you'd have thought trainers would have tried to copy him a bit sooner.

Tomorrow, Time Test will be the latest opportunity for Smullen to showcase his talents, but his art of producing on the big stage no longer needs proving to the outside world.


Indeed, the proud Offaly native now looks to be in a position to become racing's new 'go to' jockey.

Racing can be a cruel game at times as it often revolves around those that are booting in winners more regularly than they're having hot dinners.

But it can often be a world of opportunity. The appointment of Ryan Moore to ride for Coolmore on a regular basis saw Prince Khalid Abdullah turn to Smullen.

When not required in Ireland by Weld, Smullen is almost guaranteed to be busy. If it's not for Abdullah, Hugo Palmer is a regular contact and the likes of David O'Meara and Kevin Ryan will book him up when convenient.

While he is not as readily available as Johnny Murtagh was in his freelance days, Smullen appears to becoming the Murtagh or Mick Kinane of his time - top of the list when there is a spare ride going.

In making the trip to Sandown tomorrow, Smullen will ride five horses for five different trainers and he will be hopeful of getting a winner up.

No month will ever top June 2016 for Smullen. Winning an Epsom Derby was the pinnacle and then doing the double at the Curragh was the icing on the cake. He even got honoured by his old primary school in between.

Should Time Test manage to win the Coral Eclipse tomorrow, it would be some way to continue this memorable season.

Smullen said of the four-year-old: "He's shown he's a really good horse and I'm looking forward to riding him again.

"When I rode him in the Juddmonte last season (fourth) the ground was slow and it didn't suit him but he's a year older and he might deal with it a bit better. He's definitely a better horse on drier ground. Finger's crossed, conditions will improve."

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