Smullen’s talents deserve to be showcased on a much wider stage

At Gowran Park last Sunday, Pat Smullen rode a double to take his total of winners for the season to 100.

Smullen’s talents deserve to be showcased on a much wider stage

It was the first time, in a long and honourable career, that Smullen had hit the century mark domestically and it clearly meant a lot to him.

Brooch, in a Group 3, was the second leg and as they crossed the line the rider was clearly visible making a little gesture to signal his delight.

There is little doubt that Smullen is the best flat jockey in Ireland right now. Here at home most people put him in the Kinane-Murtagh bracket, which amounts to fair praise.

And that’s what makes it so puzzling that he has as yet basically failed to make it as a truly international rider.

Of course Smullen has enjoyed intermittent success, Royal Ascot in June being a good example.

He rode two winners on the Wednesday of Ascot, Mustajeeb in the Jersey Stakes and Anthem Alexander in the Queen Mary Stakes.

But the notion he might suddenly become flavour of the month across channel, on the back of two highly competent displays, proved wide of the mark. Essentially, very little changed.

If you look at Smullen’s major successes nearly all of them have been for Dermot Weld, for whom he has been first jockey since 1999.

Smullen took over after Michael Kinane, who also had a long association with Weld, moved to Ballydoyle.

He has ridden a lot of winners, but there continue to be major gaps in his CV. In Britain, for instance, Smullen has only ever won one classic, the 2000 Guineas aboard Refuse To Bend in 2004.

One of his few other major successes in Britain came on Rite Of Passage in the Ascot Gold Cup in 2010.

His wins in France have been few and far between, while in Ireland he has never won the Irish 2000 Guineas.

Smullen has only won the Irish Derby on a single occasion, Grey Swallow ten years ago, although four Irish Legers have come has way courtesy of Vinnie Roe.

He has twice taken the Irish 1000 Guineas. He has never, unlike Kinane and Murtagh, enjoyed success in an Epsom Derby, or a Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe.

The whole thing really is a bit of a puzzle. At home he is simply mister reliable, tactically very clever, powerful in a finish and literally always in the right place at the right time.

His relationship with Weld is a thoroughly professional marriage made in Heaven and you will never hear one of them utter a bad word about the other.

Smullen rode his first winner on a horse trained by Tommy Lacy, to whom he was apprenticed, called Vicosa at the old Dundalk on June 11, 1993.

An indication of the giant strides he then made was that he was installed as the number one at Rosewell House just six years later.

Smullen is now 37 years-of-age and, arguably, at his peak. You’d imagine he is going to have about another ten years or so at the top.

At the moment, and this has been the situation for a long time, he is still, it seems, largely unrecognised beyond these shores.

He has been champion jockey six times in Ireland and, at the end of the current campaign, it will be seven.

Those of us who would just love to see his talents showcased on a much wider stage, on a regular basis, have been waiting for a while. Hopefully, we may not have to wait too much longer.

I had to smile when hearing that the stewards inquired into the performance of Aidan O’Brien’s newcomer, Aloft, in a maiden a Gowran Park last Sunday.

O’Brien ran three in the race and on Sunday morning I was told that Aloft was the best of them, despite the fact Joseph O’Brien was riding another newcomer for the stable, Hans Holbein.

Both Hans Holbein and Aloft were friendless in the market, but the third O’Brien runner, Kilimanjaro (Colm O’Donoghue), had his supporters on the exchanges and was backed from 10-1 to 7’s on course.

Kilimanjaro finished a well-beaten sixth, while Hans Holbein performed with promise in fourth, but Aloft was definitely the one you would have liked to take home with you.

I obviously took particular note of him through the race and, quite honestly, didn’t think connections had any need to provide answers for his running. I’ve seen a lot worse this season.

Aloft had a terrible draw, 16th of 16, and Seamie Heffernan, wisely, went in behind the field, rather than attempting to race hard on the outside. Then, with just less than two furlongs to go, Aloft was hampered slightly, which stopped his momentum.

He soon recovered and finished really nicely to claim second spot, two lengths adrift of Intransive.

Anyway, whatever the merits of the stewards feeling sufficiently inspired to ask questions, pity there isn’t more of it, I’d say this son of Galileo is a fair horse.

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