Legendary racing commentator John McCririck has passed away, aged 79
Journalist and broadcaster John McCririck has died at the age of 79.
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.
McCririck is survived his wife of 48 years, Jenny.
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.
"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."
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."
Jim McGrath, a long-time colleague of McCririck's at Channel 4, told Sky Sports Racing: "John was a legend, one of few people who transcended racing.
"If you went anywhere in racing in the 1980s and spoke to people with no interest in racing, they would always ask if you knew him. A lot outside racing knew him but nothing about racing, he was larger than life.
"He was a very good journalist for the Sporting Life. In the later years of his career, he very much went down the media route, but that gets away from the fact that John had expert knowledge and was a very hard worker. He was one of the first in the press room with his figures and stats, which he adored.
"We had very differing opinions, but he cared about the ordinary punter and he did stand up for them."