Broadcaster Peter O’Sullevan whose dulcet tones and well chosen words earned him the moniker the ‘Voice of Racing’ has died aged 97.
Still widely regarded as Britain’s greatest racing commentator, although Australian Jim McGrath is sometimes mentioned almost in the same breath, the Irishman was also a successful racing owner and a fine tipster.
O’Sullevan, who began his career with the Press Association and the Daily Express – commentated for the BBC for 50 years from 1947.
“Sir Peter died earlier this afternoon (Thursday am AEST), very peacefully, at home,” Nigel Payne, chief executive of the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, said.
“Sir Peter was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. Only last week he was talking about what he wanted me to do for the trust in the future. He was still very alert. It’s a sad day.”
McGrath, who succeeded O’Sullevan as the BBC racing commentator, said he was a great man.
“At the age of 97, it’s a great knock, but at the same time he was razor-sharp in his mind right to the very end, although he did say to me recently ‘I don’t think the body’s designed to last 100 years’!”McGrath told At The Races.
“He was a great, great man. He had a complete understanding and appreciation of exactly what was happening on the racecourse.
“His name lives on with his charities and the amount of money he’s raised has been quite incredible. It is a mark of the man.”
Former Liverpool, Real Madrid and England striker Michael Owen, now a successful owner and breeder of racehorses paid a handsome tribute.
“He is one of the voices you associate the sport with and as soon as you hear that voice you think of him,” Owen told the Daily Mail.
O’Sullevan, who was still defying the years and driving from England to France for the Arc de Triomphe weekend every October, produced many great commentaries.
Among the pick were Red Rum getting up to beat longtime leader, Australian horse Crisp, in the 1973 Grand National.
Four years later O’Sullevan called Red Rum’s epic third National success under top weight.
O’Sullevan, admitted his most difficult call was when his own horse Attivo won the prestigious Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 1974.
The news of O’Sullevan’s death came while many racing figures were at the Goodwood festival.
Spectators included five-time champion jockey Willie Carson, a former colleague of O’Sullevan, who told Channel 4 Racing he remembered him fondly.
“I always remember in the days when racing was on the evening news, they’d show the last furlong of the Classics,” Mullins said.
“You’d switch the TV on and it would be Peter giving the commentary. You’d be listening to Sir Peter’s dulcet, velvet tones giving the commentary. It was lovely. He was ‘Mr Horseracing’.”