John McCririck dead: Legendary horse racing broadcaster dead at 79 | Racing | Sport
McCririck, who had been ill for some time, was an integral part of racing coverage on British television for decades.
He was known for his work on ITV and then Channel 4 Racing, as their betting guru and also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother.
The horse racing broadcaster was one of the most recognisable faces in all of the sport.
He was awarded for his work in the 1970s with coveted awards for investigative journalism before earning fame by appearing on TV shows such as Celebrity Big Brother.
John McCririck has died at the age of 79
McCririck – known as ‘Big Mac' to many in the racing world – was a familiar face on Channel 4's coverage of the sport for many years, with his career on television spanning four decades.
Married to Jenny in 1971, McCririck was an unmissable character with his deerstalker hat, sideburns and cigar, and thrived at the heart of what he called the “betting jungle”.
In 1981, he joined ITV Sport's horse racing coverage, which then moved to Channel 4, where he would spend more than 25 years at his familiar spot in the betting ring.
Roger Easterby, a close friend of McCririck for more than 40 years, said: “John was often referred to as being like Marmite, but I believe people genuinely liked him. He was kind, generous and knew his subject inside out.”
McCririck attended Harrow School and became a star of sports broadcasting in the 1940s.
He was known as an eccentric and outlandish character but was hugely respected for the work he did.
John McCririck is a legend in the horse racing world
The British Horseracing Authority paid tribute to McCririck, tweeting: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of John McCririck.
“Throughout a lengthy and colourful career, one thing was always clear – his enduring passion and love for the sport of horseracing.
“He was a recognisable figure and resonated with the wider public. Our condolences go to his family.”
McCririck was most known for his career on Channel 4 which came to an end in 2012 as the broadcaster axed him.
He later tried to take the channel to an employment tribunal for age discrimination, which ruled against him, but John said the stress of his departure has left his life without meaning.
“Life is empty. I don't expect to be alive this time next year. It's a question of slipping away,” he told the Daily Mail.
“‘Racing was my life but now when I go I think: ‘What am I doing here?' I feel like a dinosaur. You're a lost soul wandering around an environment you're no longer part of,” he added.
78-year-old John revealed he has even prepared his wife Jenny, who he refers to as ‘the Booby' for his passing.
“When I'm gone she knows exactly what to do and she'll be fine,” he added.
John stunned fans with his ‘gaunt and frail' appearance when he appeared as a panelist on Big Brother's Bit on the Side.
One viewer said: “Shocking to see such a transformation.” Another posted that McCririck was “literally a shadow of his former self”.
John revealed he'd battled severe flu at Christmas, that left him unable to speak for three months and caused him to lose three stone in weight.
John McCririck has died aged 79
“I'm not well. When you're 78 you're never going to fully recover. I don't expect to,” he told hosts Holly and Phil.
“I say to everybody, set yourself a target. If you're not well, you're ill, set yourself a target that you will reach in 3-6 months time.”
A statement released by John McCririck's family said: “Award-winning journalist, broadcaster and for many years the face of British horse racing, John McCririck, passed away at a London hospital on Friday, July 5 aged 79.
“John's interest in horse racing and betting began at Harrow where he was the school bookie. On leaving he worked for an illegal street bookmaker then legally on-course where he learned the art of tic-tac, clerking bets and making a book.
“John cut his teeth in racing journalism on ‘Formindex', a tipping sheet otherwise known as ‘The Golden Guide'. He went on to write for the Sporting Life where he won British Press Awards, ‘Specialist Writer of the Year' and ‘Campaigning Journalist of the Year'.
“John joined ITV in 1981 for Shergar's Derby then became a household name as part of the Channel 4 Racing team when they took over coverage of the sport in 1984.
John McCririck was a legend of horse racing broadcasting
“His flamboyant broadcasting style from the heart of betting ring proved extremely popular with racing fans and beyond.
“John continued to work for Channel 4 Racing until 2013, as well as satellite channel At The Races.
“In this time he transcended the world of racing, appearing on numerous mainstream TV news and light entertainment programmes including Question Time, The Weakest Link, Celebrity Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother in 2005 and 2010.
“Despite suffering ill health in recent months, John continued to make several TV and radio appearances.
“He is survived by Jenny, his wife of 48 years. His funeral will be private.”
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