Pat Smullen Memorial Handicap | Listed | 1m | 4yo+ | RTV
The first running of the Pat Smullen Memorial Handicap (2.45) is the prelude to the main event on the opening day of the bet365 Craven meeting and is named in honour of Ireland's nine-time champion jockey who died last September aged 43.
The Class 2 contest for four-year-olds and upwards, which has attracted a field of nine runners, is staged over the same distance as the 2,000 Guineas, in which Smullen recorded his first British Classic victory on Refuse To Bend in 2003.
Smullen's close friend and Newmarket resident Ted Durcan is behind the naming of the race, having been one of nine retired stars of the weighing room to have ridden in the Pat Smullen Champions Race at the Curragh in 2019 which helped raise more than €2.5 million for Cancer Trials Ireland.
Durcan said: “There were a lot of people in England at the time of Pat's funeral who weren't able to pay their respects with all the Covid restrictions. I know many of us would have liked to have been able to hold a memorial service, which we weren't able to do, and this is just hopefully a nice way to remember Pat. The Craven meeting is always a very exciting time and Pat had huge success over the years at the Rowley Mile. “
Durcan's sponsorship of the race in Smullen’s name also ensures each member of stable staff leading up for the race will receive a bonus of £25.
He explained: “Rather than have a best-turned-out prize we decided that everyone who leads up will get £25 rather than just one person getting £50. Pat was always very well liked by racing staff, and we all respect how much effort from the staff goes into getting the horses to the racecourse.”
Champion jockey Oisin Murphy rides Rhythmic Intent in the race and said: “Pat Smullen was an idol for all young jockeys and it will be an honour to ride in the race. He was a gentleman and an outstanding rider and it’s fantastic his passing has been marked in this way and it would be great to win it.
“Rhythmic Intent is dropping back in trip. He’s not short of pace and should be in the mix.”
Fellow Irishman John Egan rides the David Elsworth-trained Dogged, whom he has been riding out at home. He said: “Pat was a great man and a very good friend and it’s great to be riding in his race. I’ve ridden Dogged at home lately and he should run a nice race as he’s won at the track before.”