John McCririck: Despite his buffoonery, he was nobody’s fool – he knew the game inside out | Racing | Sport
Loud, brash opinionated and unmistakable with his trade-mark deer stalker, sideburns and always with a large Cuban cigar hanging out of his mouth – McCririck brought racing to the masses.
Affectionately know as ‘Big Mac” and never faraway was his adored wife Jenny, of 48 years, known affectionately as the ‘The Booby.
He had nicknames for all that worked with him, not all complimentary.
John Oaksey was The Noble Lord and John Francome became The Greatest Jockey. Alice Plunkett and Emma Spencer were known as Saucy Minx and Pouting Heiress.
Jim McGrath, a long-time colleague of McCririck's at Channel 4, said: “John was a legend, one of few people who transcended racing.
“If you went anywhere in racing in the 1980s and spoke to people with no interest in racing, they would always ask if you knew him.
“A lot outside racing knew him but nothing about racing, he was larger than life.
“He was a very good journalist for the Sporting Life. In the later years of his career, he very much went down the media route, but that gets away from the fact that John had expert knowledge and was a very hard worker. He was one of the first in the press room with his figures and stats, which he adored.
“We had very differing opinions, but he cared about the ordinary punter and he did stand up for them.”
John Francome, the former champion jump jockey and part of the Channel 4 team, had huge respect for his former colleague.
“He was eccentric, incredibly generous – he was brilliant at his job. He was great company and I loved him.
“I feel very sorry for Jenny as they were a great team.
“He reached outside the sport – the two names that were mentioned by people outside racing were Frankie Dettori and Big Mac.
“He had a persona for TV, he was nothing like what you saw on screen, he was a lovely man.
“You'd never want to get into an argument with him because he wouldn't argue with you unless he's researched it to the nth degree!”
McCririck appeared in numerous other mainstream programmes, including The Weakest Link, Celebrity Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother in 2005 and 2010.
He acrimoniously left Channel 4 Racing in 2012, subsequently losing an age discrimination case made against the station and production company IMG Media Limited.
Despite his buffoonery, McCririck was nobody’s fool. He knew the racing game inside out.
He often admitted he was just a failed bookmaker and a terrible punter who was in debt to the bookmakers, but he was respected.
While writing for the Sporting Life he won British Press Awards, ‘Specialist Writer of the Year' and ‘Campaigning Journalist of the Year'.
But the great man will always be remembered for playing the fool, but he clearly was not, and making his audience laugh.
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