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Horse racing TV pundit John McCririck has died aged 79

Racing commentator John McCririck
(Image credit: PA Archive/PA Images)

John's wife, Jenny, has said "it's the end of an era"

Tributes have started pouring in for horse racing pundit John McCririck who has died aged 79.

McCririck, nicknamed “Big Mac”, became a racing icon during his time working on the sport for both ITV and Channel 4.

Sir Cliff Richard and Cilla Black are interviewd by John McCririck (left) during Day Five of the 2011 Royal Ascot Meeting.

John McCririck interviewing Cliff Richard and Cilla Black during Royal Ascot in 2011 (picture: PA Archive/PA Images)

He was known for his outlandish clothes and his lively reports from the betting ring as he told viewers all about what horses were being backed for the next race

McCririck, who is survived by Jenny, his wife of 48 years, also turned up on reality shows Celebrity Big Brother and Wife Swap. He also made appearances on The Weakest Link and Question Time.

Jenny McCririck told The Racing Post: "We knew it was going to happen but it's still just awful. For me it's like the light has gone out. It's the end of an era.

"John's life was racing and once he couldn't go racing it became so much harder for him. He lived and breathed racing. When he worked on Channel 4 racing he felt like he was part of a family. We were all one family."

Jenny also thanked staff working at London's Princess Grace Hospital where her husband died and added: "They all loved him. The catering lady here is in tears."

BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght was among those paying tribute. He said: “John McCririck has died; racing pundit, TV personality, award-winning investigative journalist, ‘failed’ (his word) bookmaker, showman, rent-a gob, ‘marmite’ character, the list goes on & on… unquestionably a one-off.”

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ITV racing pundit Matt Chapman added that John McCririck was a “Class journalist in his day and without doubt the best betting ring commentator there has ever been on TV”.

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McCririck started his TV racing career on ITV in 1981 before achieving national fame when he joined Channel 4 Racing’s team when they starting televising the sport in 1984. His family said in a statement that his funeral would be private.

Main picture of John McCririck: PA Archive/PA Images