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Racing commentator O'Sullevan was hard to beat

Published 14/08/2015

Peter O'Sullevan, the BBC racing commentator and journalist, died recently aged 97. His gentlemanly, magnetic voice drew every follower of the sport to his broadcasts like bees to honey.

O'Sullevan was always a "short nose" ahead of the field. When covering a Grand National he listed the fallers in precise order, while giving a vivid description of the rider's injuries even before they hit the ground. He was truly a visionary and a legend in his lifetime.

I'll never forget the "charismatic" grey superstar Desert Orchid, winner of 34 races including the Cheltenham Gold Cup and four King Georges at Kempton. Though he died nine years ago aged 27, I have a personally-taken photograph of him still hanging in my living room.

And, of course, I felt nostalgia for other wonder horses like Arkle, Red Rum, Sea Bird, Nijinsky and Dancing Brave, whose memory - made even larger than life by the renowned commentator - will go on for ever.

The first bet O'Sullevan placed - a hint at his future career at the age of 10 - was sixpence each way on Tipperary Tim at 100-1 in the 1928 Grand National. Coincidentally, my late father told me that in his youth he, too, wagered one shilling each way at those attractive odds.

I have read Calling The Horses, O'Sullevan's best-selling autobiography. It has plenty of fun and documents all the thrills and spills of a remarkable career.

JAMES GLEESON

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Belfast Telegraph

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