There are some pundits who are synonymous with a specific sport. And for horse racing, it was John McCririck. Known for his over the top mannerisms and flamboyant sense of style, McCririck was the face of racing in the UK and even used it as a platform to dabble in some reality tv shows along the way.
Ever the divisive figure, McCririck was sacked by Channel 4 in 2013 as he was deemed ‘unpalatable’. And while his onscreen persona may have had its critics, there is no doubt that his knowledge of the sport, and the betting ring, was unsurpassed by few. He was an award-winning journalist and broadcaster whose flustered demeanor on screen belied his meticulous preparation off it.
The news of his death last week at the age of 79 led to numerous public tributes from the great and the good of the horse racing world.
Trainer Nicky Henderson, pundits Matt Chapman and Cornelious Lysaght and jockey AP McCoy had nothing but praise for the great character.
Very sad to hear the news about John McCririck. pic.twitter.com/6qtqb0kAlo
— Nicky Henderson (@sevenbarrows) July 5, 2019
McCririck’s health had been in decline for some time. His wife of nearly 50 years, Jenny, cited the sacking from Channel 4 as the beginning of his ill health. Speaking to The Sun she said:
“When they decided that they didn’t want John his life kind of fell apart. It was how they did it.
“He was in America and they didn’t tell him until a few minutes before they put out a press release.
“John was devastated. He told me he couldn’t live without it. I think that was when the downfall began. He felt he’d been destroyed.”
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. Our thoughts are with Jenny
— AP McCoy (@AP_McCoy) July 5, 2019
In January 2018 McCririck was treated for sepsis and it was then that a tumour was discovered. Unfortunately, the sepsis left him too weak to overcome the cancer.
Jenny McCririck added: “The cancer was small and you would normally have an op to remove it, but because he was so ill he couldn’t do it.
“They said they would have killed him if they had done an operation.
“The cancer spread and whenever he had immunotherapy it left him weaker and weaker and then you get an infection.
“That’s how he died. But we had the best doctors. They did all they could.”
There is no doubting that John McCririck was outspoken and often controversial in his statements. While he had plenty of fans who loved to watch his antics, he had just as many detractors. But love him or loathe him, he was a character and a showman and the world of racing is a little bit duller without him.