Journalist and broadcaster John McCririck, also known as ‘Big Mac’, passed away at 79 as his family announced recently.
McCririck contributed a ton in the racing world – he was a resident face on Channel 4’s coverage for so many years now, that featured his fruitful four decades career in the industry.
The broadcaster was married to Jenny since 1971. He was a familiar character, with his iconic appearance – the sideburns, deerstalker hat, and cigar, who thrived at the center of the “betting jungle” ever since his first stint.
He became a part of the ITV Sport’s horse racing coverage in 1981, then, he transferred to Channel 4 that served as the start of his 25 years in a familiar spot for the betting ring.
McCririck was a mainstay in different mainstream programs like the Celebrity Big Brother prior to departing ways with Channel 4 Racing in 2012 which made him lose an age discrimination case filed by the station and production company, IMG Media Limited.
His family released a statement and elaborated that “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.”
They also added that the interest of John in horse racing and the betting started at Harrow when he was still a school bookie. As he left, he became a part of an illegal street bookmaker then legally on-course where he realized the art of tic-tac, making a book and clerking bets.
John experienced cutting his teeth for racing journalism on ‘Formindex’, a tipping sheet otherwise labeled as ‘The Golden Guide’. He took off to write for the Sporting Life that gave him the chance to win British Press Awards, ‘Campaigning Journalist of the Year’, and ‘Specialist Writer of the Year.’
The broadcaster was a part of the ITV in 1981 for Shergar’s Derby then suddenly turned out as a household name because of his exposure on Channel 4 Racing team as they took charge of the 1984 sports coverage.
The appeal of McCririck was credited for his flamboyant style which came from his heart for the betting ring the proved to be popular for racing fans and beyond. He persevered to work for Channel 4 Racing until 2023, and even satellite channel all for the At The Races.
“In this time he transcended the world of racing, appearing on numerous mainstream TV news and light entertainment programs including Question Time, The Weakest Link, Celebrity Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother in 2005 and 2010.”
For the recent months, he suffered from ill-health which allowed him to continue making various TV and radio appearances. They decided that his funeral will be private.
The Chief Executive of Sky Sports Racing and At The Races, Matthew Imi expressed in an interview that they are extremely saddened to hear about the death of John and that they send their sincere condolences to Jenny and the family.
John was still in the height of his powers when he joined ATR way back in 2004 and since then, he was dubbed as one of their much-loved members.
His charm originated from his eloquence in airing opinions about issues that matter; he was not shy to answer tough questions and he held a unique position in sports broadcasting which was considered a huge racing asset.
“Charismatic, articulate and knowledgeable he helped expose the sport to a wider audience,” the chief added elaborating how he was kind, generous and renowned from his colleagues for being both magnanimous and supportive.
They are certain that they will miss him sorely.
Even the British Horseracing Authority paid homage to McCririck by tweeting that they are saddened to hear of McCririck’s death.
His lengthy and colorful career made it all clear – he has an enduring passion and love for the horse racing sport. After all, he was a recognizable figure in the industry and he has a resonating appeal with the wider public. The community sent their condolences to the family.
John Francome, former champion jockey, and a long-time colleague emphasized that McCririck was eccentric and just incredibly generous – he was brilliant at his job and he was perceived as a great company and everybody loves him.
They are quite aware that he has been ill for a while. They feel sorry for Jenny because they can see that they both form a great team. The reach of the broadcaster was almost outside and beyond the sport mentioning two important names too such as Big Mac and Frankie Dettori.
After all, he had a persona for TV, so he was nothing like what people saw on screen, claiming that he was an adorable and lovely man.
“You’d never want to get into an argument with him because he wouldn’t argue with you unless he’s researched it to the nth degree!”
Jim McGrath who was also included in the Channel 4 team shared to Sky Sports Racing that “John was a legend, one of the few people who transcended racing.”
McGrath fondly reminisced the racing scene in the 1980s and how people who didn’t have any interest with the sports would always know the broadcaster because he is larger than life.
John was a good journalist for Sporting Life. During the latter years of his career, he stood down the media route, but that runs away from the fact that John had extensive knowledge with what he did and he was a hard worker too. He was one of the first press figures who was passionate about stats, and they admired him for that.
To conclude the interview, he wrapped up the interview by commenting that “We had very differing opinions, but he cared about the ordinary punter and he did stand up for them.”