Sir Peter O'Sullevan has died aged 97

Sir Peter O’Sullevan, known to many as simply the ‘Voice of Racing’, has died at the age of 97.

O’Sullevan was a commentator for the BBC for 50 years, a tenure stretching from 1947 until his retirement in 1997.

Known for his sharp mind, even well into his later life, he had a delivery like no other and his description of the 1977 Grand National, which was Red Rum’s famous third success, and Desert Orchid’s popular Cheltenham Gold Cup victory in 1989 will never be forgotten.


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He was awarded a knighthood before his 50th and final Grand National commentary and even until very recently was still a regular visitor to the Cheltenham Festival.

Nigel Payne, chief executive of the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, said: “Sir Peter died earlier this afternoon, very peacefully, at home.

“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.”

O’Sullevan began his career in racing in print journalism, working for the Press Association before joining the Daily Express.

Known as one of the shrewdest punters in the game, he was still beating the bookies in his later years.

Be Friendly won the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot and the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp as well as two Haydock Sprint Cups, and perhaps most famously of all his Attivo won the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in 1974, a race O’Sullevan later described as the hardest to call in his life.

Former jockey Jimmy Lindley, who later worked with O’Sullevan for the BBC, said: “He was a great friend and I’m so sorry.

“He doesn’t just compare with the great people in racing, but in life in general.

“He always liked to give the underdog a blow up on TV to make them feel better. If they felt up against it he just had a knack of saying the right thing.

“When I first started in TV he gave me all the confidence in the world and I couldn’t say enough about him.


“As a commentator no one else could give you the same feeling watching a race, he made it feel as if you were riding in it, you felt like you were on the horse yourself.

“He had a little black book with all his contacts and form lines and basically the history of racing was in it. It made him fortunes and I’d love to see it, he must have won a fortune.

“I’m so sorry to hear the news.”

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