Dublin (AFP) – Nine-times Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen will be out of the saddle for the forseeable future after revealing he is to undergo treatment for a tumour.
The 40-year-old — who won the ‘blue riband’ of flat racing, the Epsom Derby, on Harzand in 2016 — said his doctor had originally thought it was a gallstone problem.
Smullen, who has 11 other classic race successes to his credit, all for trainer Dermot Weld, said he would meet the new challenge in a positive frame of mind.
“Most people will have been aware that I have been in hospital in recent days undergoing tests,” Smullen said in a statement issued to The Racing Post.
“I was showing some of the symptoms associated with a gallstone problem but it was discovered that the problem was more serious.
“A tumour was discovered and consequently I won’t be riding for the foreseeable future. It’s a new challenge for me and it’s one I am fully focused on overcoming.
“I’ve got tremendous support from family and friends, both within racing and outside of racing, and I’m very positive about making a full recovery.”
Smullen received plenty of sympathy from the racing world including leading England-based Italian trainer Luca Cumani.
“The team at Bedford House *(Cumani’s stables) send their thoughts and strength to @patjsmullen wishing a good man a healthy recovery!!” tweeted Cumani.
Colin Keane, who edged out Smullen for the Irish jockeys title last year, said he was shocked to hear the news.
“We had a great battle for the championship last year and it won’t be the same not having him riding beside me in the immediate future,” said Keane.
“He’s a real pro and someone everyone looks up to,” added the 23-year-old.