Journalist and broadcaster John McCririck has died aged 79, his family has announced.
McCririck is survived by his wife of 48 years, Jenny.
The flamboyant racing pundit last year complained that he felt he had “no purpose in life” after his regular television work came to an end.
A fixture on Channel 4’s horse racing coverage since the 1980s, McCririck took legal action against the broadcaster in 2013 when they decided against including him on the broadcasting team.
He accused bosses of ageism, although a tribunal found against him, ruling that it was because his “pantomime persona” had become “unpalatable” to a wide audience.
Nicknamed “Big Mac”, Surrey-born McCririck became a household name during the 1980s with his regular appearances on ITV’s racing coverage, which later moved to Channel 4.
His colourful image, backed up by his trademark cigar, sideburns, deerstalker hat, multi-coloured clothes and gold jewellery made him instantly recognisable.
Everyone at Ascot is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of John McCririck.
He was an unmistakable presence in racing, and one of the most impactful broadcasters of his generation. pic.twitter.com/ANyInvlhcC
— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) July 5, 2019
But last year he shocked viewers when he appeared on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side looking extremely thin and gaunt. He explained his weight loss was in order to better cope with ageing, although he suffered a serious flu infection at the end of last year.
A regular attendee at Cheltenham, he revealed that the Alexandra Palace race course remains dear to his heart, even though it no longer exists.
He told a paper that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered where the furlong pole once stood.