Peter O’Sullevan – horse racing legend

Sport has fascinated me ever since my boyhood and while my active participation is these days considerably curtailed, as age has now caught up, I continue to follow several sports, at least superficially. Of all the sports that are on offer, horse racing is one of the sports that have not especially interested me. I suppose the reasons for this include a major factor in horse racing success is down to the horse rather than the jockey and the driving force behind horse racing is gambling, not a good thing. I can’t think of horse racing without thinking of Peter O’Sullevan who, according to Wikipedia: “was the BBC’s leading horse racing commentator from 1947 to 1997, during which time he described some of the greatest moments in the history of Britain’s most popular race, the Grand National”.

Going back to my boyhood, even though not a horse racing fan even then, it was part of my sporting diet. For example the long running Saturday afternoon program Grandstand generally featured some races. One of its commentators was Peter O’Sullevan. The one race that did interest me was the Grand National (sweepstakes on the outcome sometimes featured) and it was generally Peter who did the commentating. He had a unique and compelling style. He was very knowledgeable and always gave the impression of calmness, control and unflappability, and that what he said mattered. He had a lovely voice. He was part of a golden generation of sports commentators, able to attract people like me to follow their particular sport.

Sadly, I learned today that Sir Peter O’Sullevan CBE (3 March 1918 – 29 July 2015) has just died. I can’t speak much about his character away from the sport but I know he was highly regarded and he gave back a lot through his charitable works. He is one of a select band of commentators who will be sorely missed because they could engage and enthuse. Horse racing will never be the same without him.


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