Mirza Al Sayegh, Shareef Al Halawani and other dignitaries during the press conference at the Jebel Ali Racecourse in Dubai on Tuesday.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
Pat Smullen will be remembered at the Jebel Ali Racecourse on Friday, with the management holding a feature race in honour of Jebel Ali Stables’ former jockey and nine-time Irish champion, who passed away in September last year.
The one-mile Dhs100,000 Pat Smullen Conditions Stakes sponsored by Jebel Ali Racecourse is the fourth race on an exciting six-race card to be held on Friday, attracting a quality field of 13 runners.
Smullen was the retained jockey for Jebel Ali Stables from 2000-2002 during which time he garnered under his belt a record 32 wins in the 2001-2002 season. He also rode as a stable jockey for the racecourse’s owner and chief patron, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in Dubai during the 2004 winter season.
Mohammed Saeed Al Shehhi, Director General of Sheikh Ahmed’s Office said: “Pat (Smullen) is an icon who has left an indelible mark on the horseracing world. In Dubai, we celebrate and perpetuate his legacy, and we are proud to participate in such a laudable event that is sure to bring the international horseracing community together.
“The race will be held yearly to honour the racing icon and will be sponsored by Sheikh Ahmed.”
Smullen was well known as an advocate of cancer care having organized the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials in Ireland in 2019, which raised more than €2.5m. Smullen passed away a year after the race.
Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, was hailed as a frontrunner in supporting the initiative by contributing €500,000 to the charity in the fight against cancer.
Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of Sheikh Hamdan’s Office, lauded Sheikh Ahmed for honouring Smullen by instituting an annual race in his name.
“Sheikh Hamdan is committed to causes like battling cancer and has assured his total support to anyone suffering from the illness.
“Pat Smullen was not just a great jockey, but a wonderful human being who touched and inspired so many people through his kindness and love.”
Smullen first came to Dubai in 1993 for the winter season to join forces with trainer Erwan Charpy as an apprentice. During his career as a professional, he won the Irish 1,000 Guineas twice (Nightime and Bethrah), the Irish Oaks aboard Covert Love and the Irish St Leger four years in a row on Vinnie Roe.
He won the Derby at Epsom in 2016 on Harzand and landed the Irish Derby with Grey Swallow in 2004 and Harzand in 2016. He also had major wins in Britain, which included the 2,000 Guineas on Refuse To Bend, the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot with Rite Of Passage, and the Champion Stakes on Fascinating Rock.
Friday’s meeting will also see long-time Jebel Ali promoter and the internationally renowned racecourse Thoroughbred racing facility, Keeneland, return to sponsor one of the races on the card.
Shareef Al Halawani, Jebel Ali Racecourse manager, said: “I hope this race will provide all those who knew Pat (Smullen) or admired his achievements from afar with an opportunity to reflect on a true racing legend.
“We look forward to celebrating his outstanding career with the race named after him on Friday.”
Halawani also welcome Keenland’s return to Jebel Ali. “We are delighted to have our long-time friends from Keeneland support our race meetings. It means a lot to us and our main patron, Sheikh Ahmed, who is supportive of all our initiatives, our sponsors and race goers.
“The management of Jebel Ali Racecourse would also like to especially thank Sheikh Hamdan for his valued trust in our efforts as we strive to always do what’s best for the sport of horse racing.”
Nicholas Bachalard, Sheikh Ahmed’s resident trainer at Jebel Ali Stables, has runners in both the Pat Smullen Condition Stakes and Keeneland Conditions events.
“It is very, very good for Jebel Ali to have Keeneland sponsor a race and it is a good initiative to have a race in honour of Pat (Smullen) who was a stable jockey here for two years for Sheikh Ahmed.”
Ed Prosser, Keeneland’s European representative, said: “It’s nice to be here from afar and we at Keeneland were honoured to be sponsors at Jebel Ali last season and are happy to be returning this week.
“What makes our own sponsorship special is Keeneland has a relationship with people of Dubai which goes back many years. We are a unique company based in Kentucky whose graduates continue to do well in Dubai and have done well on Dubai World Cup night.
“We at Keeneland have enjoyed a very long-standing relationship and friendship with the Al Maktoum family in Dubai, so it’s exciting to be able to cement that relationship with this sponsorship,” he added.
Action at Jebel Ali Racecourse on Friday will send pulses racing with the seven-race card bolstered by two Listed races in the shape of the Jebel Ali Stakes and Jebel Ali Sprint. Both the races carry attractive purses of Dh500,000 each in a card that has a
Dual Listed features at Jebel Ali Racecourse on Friday and the speedsters were first up in the 1000m Jebel Ali Sprint which proved a memorable event for trainer Doug Watson who not only saddled the winner, Al Tariq, but provided runner-up Fanaar for good measure.
The Jebel Ali Racecourse will host its final meeting which promises to be one of the more exciting cards of the season with the Shadwell sponsored Conditions Jebel Ali Classic (Silver Jubilee) topping the seven races framed for Friday.
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