Legendary racing icon, journalist and broadcaster, and larger than life personality, John McCririck, has died in hospital at the age of 79. Overcoming sepsis, he had been secretly battling with lung cancer, which finally killed him. For many years the face of British horse racing, John McCririck was a unique media personality. Famously bejewelled, wearing a tweed deerstalker hat, and usually chomping on a large cigar, the racing pundit was a household name since his TV debut in the 1980s.
He and his loyal supportive wife Jenny, who he married in 1971, were always in the Press Room at Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, hugely knowledgeable, and arriving early to study the form. He ran passionate campaigns, investigating the rights of racehorses and ordinary punters. John worked tirelessly at his beloved horse-racing, never missing a day’s work, never boring and was the showman who loved the limelight.
Born in Surbiton, John McCririck lived in Jersey with his successful parents. He was sent to boarding school at the age of six, and when he was fourteen, his father died of a heart attack. His interest in horse-racing began during his teenage years at Harrow School, where he became the school’s bookmaker. After a short stint as a trainee at The Dorchester, he wanted to open a chain of betting shops, but suffered financial setbacks. However, he did have an encyclopaedic memory, and started in racing journalism on Formindex, a tipping sheet known as The Golden Guide. He went on to become a journalist for the Sporting Life, and won British Press Awards, Specialist Writer of the Year, and Campaigning Journalist of the Year. His exposure of book-keeping irregularities at the state-owned Tote led to an investigation by the Home Secretary.
John joined ITV in 1981 to cover Shergar’s Derby, and became part of the legendary Channel 4 racing team when they took over coverage of the sport in 1984. He continued with Channel 4 Racing until 2013, together with the programme At The Races.
Jenny and the family have been inundated with tributes. John McCririck will be greatly missed.