John McCririck: Racing broadcaster dies aged 79

NEWMARKET, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: John McCririck poses at Newmarket Racecourse on April 20, 2017 in Newmarket, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
John McCririck has died aged 79 (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Horse racing broadcaster John McCririck has died aged 79, his family has announced.

McCririck was well known for his outlandish dress sense and his ebullient personality in the betting ring during his roles on TV, first for ITV and latterly for Channel 4.

Prior to that he worked for the Sporting Life newspaper and in recent years he had appeared on At The Races.

A statement released by his 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 during day one of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse. (Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images)
The former horse racing pundit appeared at Royal Ascot. (Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images)
CHICHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  John McCririck  attends the Qatar Goodwood Festival 2016 at Goodwood on July 27, 2016 in Chichester, England.  (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for The Goodwood Estate)
John McCririck at the Qatar Goodwood Festival 2016 (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for The Goodwood Estate)
ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 18:  Racing pundit n McCririck attends day one of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 18, 2013 in Ascot, England.  (Photo by Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse)
The racing pundit had 'an enduring passion and love for the sport' (Photo by Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse)

“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.”

‘An enduring passion and love for the sport’

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.”

Big Brother protest

The former racing pundit appeared on the third series of Celebrity Big Brother in 2005. During his time on the show he famously became enraged when he was denied his Diet Coke as part of the weekly shopping budget and went on a furious rant in the Diary Room, demanding his favourite fizzy drink.

He then went on a silent protest, refusing to speak to his fellow housemates. McCririck was the second contestant to be voted off the show but returned in 2010 for Ultimate Big Brother.

In 2006 he and his wife Jenny, who he refers to as The Booby, took part in Channel 4 reality show Celebrity Wife Swap with Edwina Curry. The episode saw the Tory politician forced to serve McCririck breakfast in bed during the first half of the week when she had to abide by his rules. Curry tried to get McCririck to contribute to the household duties and even removed an electrical fuse so that he couldn’t watch the Football World Cup.

McCririck once said in a radio interview: “I am a thoroughly unpleasant person. I’m not a nice person, I don’t pretend to be.”

He said of reality TV: “I only did it for the money. It’s a job, if they pay I’ll do these things.”

Press Association

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