Legendary racing pundit John McCririck, who for many years was the face of British horse racing, has died at a London hospital on Friday aged 79.
McCririck made his career as the face of Channel 4’s racing coverage, famous for his loud, eccentric style and his signature deerstalker hat.
He also appeared on reality TV shows such as Celebrity Big Brother, Celebrity Wife Swap and Celebrity Coach Trip.
He is survived by his wife Jenny.
His family said he had been ill in recent months but continued to make several TV and radio appearances.
Tributes are being paid to John by figures from the worlds of racing and entertainment.
“Very sad to hear the news of John McCririck’s passing – one of the most recognisable faces from the world of horse racing and a great at promoting our sport,” tweeted20-time champion jockey AP McCoy.
The British Horseracing Authority also paid tribute, saying: “Throughout a lengthy & colourful career one thing was always clear – his enduring passion & love for the sport of horseracing. He was a recognisable figure and resonated with the wider public.”
Ascot Racecourse tweeted: “He was an unmistakable presence in racing, and one of the most impactful broadcasters of his generation.”
Broadcaster Nick Luck, a former Channel 4 colleague, added: “Life without John McCririck will be far less interesting – he was a magnificent journalist first and a great showman. So often very kind to me and many, many others.”
- Who was John McCririck?
‘One of the most familiar faces on British television’
Cornelius Lysaght, BBC horse racing correspondent
With a trademark deerstalker hat, his side whiskers and his waving arms plus a booming voice, McCririck became one of the most familiar faces on British television.
A former bookmaker and award-wining journalist, his career took off as the betting specialist on Channel 4 Racing from the mid-1980s.
He brought to wider audiences the secret ‘tic-tac’ communication system of the racecourse betting ring, with its unique terms including ‘Burlington Bertie 100 to 30’ and ‘Double Carpet 33 to 1’.
With controversial views – particularly what was seen as a sexist attitude towards women including his wife Jenny, ‘The Booby’ – McCririck was dropped by Channel 4 in 2012.
Latterly, he made only occasional TV and media appearances but lost none of his flamboyance.