John McCririck

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John McCririck
John McCririck 2 (cropped).jpg
McCririck in 2006
John Michael McCririck

(1940-04-17)17 April 1940
Surbiton, Surrey, England
Died5 July 2019(2019-07-05) (aged 79)
London, England
Occupation Horse racing pundit, journalist, presenter
Years active1978–2019
Jenny McCririck
(m. 1971;his death 2019)

John Michael McCririck [1] (17 April 1940 – 5 July 2019) was an English television horse racing pundit and journalist.

Horse racing Equestrian sport

Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, typically involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys over a set distance for competition. It is one of the most ancient of all sports, as its basic premise – to identify which of two or more horses is the fastest over a set course or distance – has been unchanged since at least classical antiquity.

A pundit is a person who offers to mass media their opinion or commentary on a particular subject area on which they are knowledgeable, or considered a scholar in said area. The term has been increasingly applied to popular media personalities. In certain cases, it may be used in a derogatory manner as well, as the political equivalent of ideologue.


McCririck began his career at The Sporting Life , where he twice won at the British Press Awards for his campaigning journalism, but he was sacked in 1984. In 1981, he joined ITV Sport's horse racing coverage which moved, during 1984 and 1985, to Channel 4 as Channel 4 Racing . In October 2012, the channel announced that he would be dropped from its team, which McCririck blamed on ageism. McCririck took the matter to an employment tribunal, but he lost.

The Sporting Life was a British newspaper published from 1859 until 1998, best known for its coverage of horse racing and greyhound racing. Latterly it has continued as a multi-sports website.

The Press Awards, formerly the British Press Awards, is an annual ceremony that celebrates the best of British journalism.

ITV Sport is a sport producer for ITV. It was formed following the merger between Granada Sport and Central Sport.

From the 1980s, he made numerous appearances on British television, including as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother , The Weakest Link , Wife Swap and After Dark .

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Early life

Born in Surbiton, Surrey, McCririck was educated at Elizabeth College, Guernsey, [1] [2] Victoria College, Jersey, [3] and Harrow School, where his fellow pupils included Julian Wilson, later a fellow racing journalist. [4] He left with three O-Levels, having also run the book on cross country races. [4]

Surbiton suburban area of south-west London within the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, England

Surbiton is a suburban neighbourhood of south-west London, within the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (RBK). It is situated next to the River Thames, 11 miles (18 km) southwest of Charing Cross. It is part of the traditional county of Surrey, but for administrative purposes has been part of Greater London since 1965, following the passing of the London Government Act 1963. Surbiton comprises four of the RBK's wards: Alexandra, Berrylands, St. Mark's, and Surbiton Hill.

Elizabeth College, Guernsey independent school in the town of St Peter Port, Guernsey

The Royal College of Elizabeth, formerly the Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School and better known as Elizabeth College, is an independent day school for boys in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey. One of the earliest members of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), it is a public school in the British sense of the term. Founded on 25 May 1563 by royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I, the school is one of the oldest public schools in the British Isles, and the oldest in the Channel Islands. Upper Canada College, in Toronto, Ontario, was founded in 1829 by Sir John Colborne, based on the school.

Victoria College, Jersey school in Jersey

Victoria College is a selective, fee-paying, state school for boys in St Helier, Jersey. Despite being a state school, the college is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) which is one of the traditional definitions of a public school. Its castellated neo-gothic architecture is a landmark overlooking the town. Victoria College Preparatory School for boys aged 7-11 is located at the bottom of the College Lawn and shares some facilities as well as the House Traditions and a similar uniform.


After failing to get into the diplomatic service, McCririck was briefly a waiter at The Dorchester hotel. [4] During the era when off-course betting was illegal in the UK, he worked for an illegal bookmaker, before becoming a bookmaker himself, at which he admitted to having failed. He then became a tic-tac man. [4]

Diplomatic service is the body of diplomats and foreign policy officers maintained by the government of a country to communicate with the governments of other countries. Diplomatic personnel enjoy diplomatic immunity when they are accredited to other countries. Diplomatic services are often part of the larger civil service and sometimes a constituent part of the foreign ministry.

The Dorchester hotel on Park Lane and Deanery Street, London

The Dorchester is a Brunei-owned five-star luxury hotel on Park Lane and Deanery Street in London, to the east of Hyde Park. It is one of the world's most prestigious and expensive hotels. The Dorchester opened on 18 April 1931, and it still retains its 1930s furnishings and ambiance despite being modernised.

Bookmaker organization or person that takes bets on sporting events

A bookmaker, bookie, or turf accountant is an organization or a person that accepts and pays off bets on sporting and other events at agreed-upon odds.

He began his career in journalism at The Sporting Life , where he twice won at the British Press Awards for his campaigning journalism; he was sacked in 1984. [4] He joined the Daily Star , but was later sacked by the newspaper after allegations emerged that he was in debt to his bookmaker; he later successfully sued the paper at an employment tribunal. [4]

<i>Daily Star</i> (United Kingdom) British daily tabloid newspaper published by Reach plc.

The Daily Star is a daily tabloid newspaper published from Monday to Saturday in the United Kingdom since 2 November 1978. On 15 September 2002 a sister Sunday edition, was launched with a separate staff. On 31 October 2009, the Daily Star published its 10,000th issue.

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Having previously become a results sub-editor on the BBC's Grandstand , from 1981 he joined ITV Sport's horse racing coverage; he had previously appeared in a debate about fox hunting on the ITV children's programme Saturday Banana in 1978. During 1984 and 1985, horse racing moved from ITV to Channel 4 as Channel 4 Racing , where his role was expanded and he reported from the betting ring. [4] His signature flamboyant attire of a large deerstalker hat, sideburns, and brightly coloured matching suits and trousers, coupled with huge cigars, became a recognisable personal style. [5]

McCririck (far right), with trademark cigar, on Channel 4's After Dark on 9 April 1988 After Dark 9th April 1988.jpg
McCririck (far right), with trademark cigar, on Channel 4's After Dark on 9 April 1988

In 1988, on the evening after the Grand National, he made an extended appearance on the After Dark topical discussion programme on Channel 4, alongside Barney Curley and the Duchess of Argyle, in an episode entitled "Horse Racing, Sport Of Kings?" [6]

In October 2012, Channel 4 announced that McCririck would not be included in the team presenting racing from January 2013, [7] which McCririck blamed on ageism, [8] taking Channel 4 to an employment tribunal. On 13 November, the tribunal ruled against McCririck [9] [10] saying, "All the evidence is that Mr McCririck's pantomime persona, as demonstrated on the celebrity television appearances, and his persona when appearing on Channel 4 Racing, together with his self-described bigoted and male chauvinist views were clearly unpalatable to a wider audience." [11] The panel was told by witnesses from the television station and IMG (the production company) that he was dropped because he was "offensive" and "disgusting". [12]

In December 2018, McCririck joined the editorial team at The Racing Paper as a weekly columnist. [13]

Other media appearances

McCririck appeared on the 1991 Bullseye Christmas Special, winning the top prize for his chosen charity, the Sue Ryder Foundation. [14] He also appeared in the Celebrity Poker Club television series, reaching the Grand Finale of series one, won by Sir Clive Sinclair. [15] McCririck also appeared during ITV's snooker coverage in a betting capacity. [16]

In 1997, McCririck was tricked by two separate episodes of spoof TV show Brass Eye , once in an item about artificial insemination [17] and another in an item about Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe appearing as himself in a musical, while on day-release from prison. [18]

In January 2005, he was a contestant in the third series of Celebrity Big Brother . [19] He competed on The Weakest Link, [20] rating his appearance on the Celebrity Duos Special, with his wife Jenny, as "the most embarrassing thing he had ever done for money". [21] In April 2005, McCririck appeared on an episode of Hell's Kitchen (season 3, episode 8) in which Head Chef Marco Pierre White refused to serve him after McCririck told him that his consommé was 'greasy', in spite of being informed that it contained foie gras and truffle oil. White commented after the sequence, "I know John. He's awkward, he's got no taste. All you have to do is look at how he dresses." [22]

In 2006, he appeared in the episode Drama on the show Still Game , playing himself on Channel 4 Racing telling Winston Ingram which horse to back. [23] McCririck was a housemate in Ultimate Big Brother in August 2010. [24]

In 2011, he was featured in the fourth episode of the British version of Celebrity Ghost Stories recounting his experiences of a haunted passageway at Harrow School. [25]

On 26 June 2015, on the sixteenth series of Big Brother , it was announced that McCririck would be returning to Big Brother, taking part in Big Brother's Hotel from Hell the following week, where he would be staying in the house and other ex-housemates would join him on Monday 29 June. [26] [27]

Personal life

McCririck married Jennifer Barnes in 1970 and referred to her as "The Booby". He was accused of frequent misogyny. [28] In 2006, the couple took part in Wife Swap alongside Edwina Currie and her husband. [29] McCririck was also a well-known supporter of Newcastle United F.C. [30]

In early 2018, McCririck contracted influenza which resulted in a chest infection. The illness caused him to suffer dramatic weight loss. [31]

McCririck died at a London hospital on 5 July 2019, after a short illness with lung cancer; [32] he was aged 79. [33] [34]

Writing in The Guardian on the day McCririck died, racing correspondent Chris Cook said: "He was outrageous, in both speech and appearance, because what he wanted most of all was a reaction and so he enlivened many a broadcast or social occasion that might otherwise have fallen rather flat... While McCririck thrived on the attention his persona brought him, the buffoon act sold him short. He was a skilled journalist whose investigations uncovered a couple of betting-related scandals in the 70s. The producers of Channel 4 Racing almost invariably turned to McCririck when there was a serious interview to be done." [35] On 12 July McCririck was featured in the BBC Radio 4 obituary programme Last Word. [36]

See also

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  1. 1 2 Wilson, Julian (5 July 2019). "John McCririck obituary". The Guardian.
  2. Elizabeth College Register, Volume IV (1940–1975), student number 4720, p. 182, compiled by Keith Bichard, published 2000 in Guernsey
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  6. "After Dark: with the Duchess of Argyll, Christine Keeler, Harry Belafonte".
  7. "John McCririck sacked from Channel 4 racing team". The Daily Telegraph. 25 October 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  8. "John McCririck accuses Channel 4 of ageism after racing veterans axed". The Guardian. 25 October 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  9. "No age discrimination by C4 in John McCririck claim". Shoosmiths.
  10. Cook, Chris (13 November 2013). "John McCririck loses age discrimination case against Channel 4" via
  11. "McCririck loses discrimination case". 13 November 2013 via
  12. Claire Duffin "'Unpalatable' John McCririck loses his age discrimination case against Channel 4", The Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2013
  13. Paper, The Racing (7 December 2018). "Big Mac is back in The Racing Paper – out Saturday!".
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  19. "Programmes – Most Popular – All 4".
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  23. "Still Game, Series 5, Episode 1 – Drama". BBC. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  24. "Big Brother news and gossip – Unreality TV". Archived from the original on 5 October 2013.
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  27. "Big Brother 2015: 5 strange requests from guest John McCririck in the 'hotel from hell' task". OK! Magazine. 30 June 2015.
  28. "The Big Interview: John McCririck". The Times . London. 13 March 2005. Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  29. "Celebrity Wife Swap – Episode Guide – All 4".
  30. Hutchinson, Lisa (5 July 2019). "Horse racing pundit and Newcastle United fan John McCririck dies". nechronicle.
  31. Mitchell, Bea (5 October 2018). "John McCririck shocks Big Brother's Bit on the Side viewers with huge weight loss". Digital Spy . (Hearst Magazines UK). Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  32. "John McCririck's wife reveals he died after battle with lung cancer". Evening Standard. 6 July 2019.
  33. "John McCririck: Legendary racing pundit dies aged 79". BBC News. 5 July 2019. Archived from the original on 5 July 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  34. "Celebrity Big Brother and racing star John McCririck dies aged 79". Metro. Archived from the original on 5 July 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  35. Cook, Chris (5 July 2019). "John McCririck's buffoon act sold a seriously skilled journalist short". The Guardian.
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