O'Sullevan was regarded as one of racing's finest commentators. PA Wire/PA Images

'The epitome of class' - Tributes pour in after Irish-born 'Voice of Racing' passes away

Legendary BBC commentator Peter O’Sullevan has died aged 97.

PETER O’SULLEVAN, WHOSE dulcet tones and well-chosen words earned him the monniker the ‘Voice of Racing’, died aged 97 earlier today.

Still widely regarded as the greatest racing commentator, the Irishman, who was born in Kerry, was also a successful racing owner and a fine tipster.

O’Sullevan — who also worked for the Daily Express — commentated for the BBC for 50 years (1947-97) and just prior to his 50th and final Grand National he was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.

Nigel Payne, chief executive of the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, said: “Sir Peter died earlier this afternoon (Wednesday), 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.”

If his mother had had her way O’Sullevan’s career would have taken a very different turn after she was left less than impressed following one of his early efforts albeit in the days of black and white television.

Darling, I saw you on television yesterday and you looked absolutely ghastly. I do hope you’re never going to do that again,” she remarked to her stunned son.

O’Sullevan, who was still defying the years and driving over from England for the Arc de Triomphe weekend every October accompanied by his faithful dog and was hauled over by the French police for speeding three years ago but was allowed to proceed after playing on their fondness for ‘man’s best friend’, produced many great commentaries.

Among the pick were Red Rum getting up to beat longtime leader Crisp in the 1973 Grand National: “He’s beginning to lose concentration – he’s been out there on his own for so long.”

Four years later O’Sullevan — whose voice was described by one admirer as “perhaps the only hectic drawl in captivity” — called Red Rum’s epic third National success under top weight.

“He’s coming up to the line to win it like a fresh horse in great style. It’s hats off and a tremendous reception… you’ve never heard one like it at Liverpool… Red Rum wins the Grand National,” said O’Sullevan.

Horse Racing - Peter O'Sullevan File Photo O'Sullevan in 2000. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

O’Sullevan, who always hung a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on his hotel room door the eve of the National so he could study in total tranquility the 40 or more runners and their colours for the world’s greatest steeplechase, admitted the most difficult commentary he ever had to make was when his own horse Attivo won the prestigious Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 1974.

“And it’s first Attivo, trained by Cyril Mitchell, ridden by Robert Hughes, owned by Peter O’Sullevan,” said O’Sullevan in as matter a fact tone as he used for giving out the details of the winners after they crossed the line.

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Tributes have been paid by many involved involved in racing and the sporting world:

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