O'Sullevan draws curtain on 50 years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 November, 1997, 12:00am

Sir Peter O'Sullevan, the doyen of the British press room, brought the curtain down on a 50-year career in broadcasting when he commentated on the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury last night (Hong Kong time).

Sir Peter, 79, knighted earlier this year for his services to racing, has been the number one racing commentator for BBC television for as long as most racing people can remember and ends his days behind the microphone with his reputation for finding winners and accurately identifying them still intact.

Newbury planned a party to celebrate Sir Peter's career after his final commentary, the featured Hennessy, which was carried over the public address system on the course.

'I have been very fortunate to have been able to do something which I have thoroughly enjoyed for so many years and I am very thankful for having got this far,' Sir Peter said on the eve of his last day in the box.

For the majority of racing viewers, Sir Peter's retirement will be another chance for a trip down memory lane as the BBC have planned a lengthy tribute to the great commentator, who ranks among the greats of sports broadcasting.

His voice was the one that declared steeplechasing great Arkle 'the best we've seen for a long, long time' and called home Nijinsky and Sir Ivor as winners of the Derby for the Vincent O'Brien-Lester Piggott combination.

It was expected to be an emotional day at Newbury when 'The Voice' was heard for the final time.

Martha's Son left Huntingdon racecourse in a horse ambulance, his career hanging in the balance, after being seriously injured in Tuesday's Peterborough Chase. X-rays were ordered but no breaks were detected.

The unfortunate injury to the Tim Forster-trained two-mile champion chaser occurred jumping the fourth; he took four strides after the fence before being pulled up by jockey Rodney Farrant, leaving the race at the mercy of One Man, who raced to a comfortable win by nine lengths from Viking Flagship, with a gap of 12 lengths back to Camitrov in third.

The big Huntingdon showdown fizzled out at the fourth fence when Martha's Son touched down tenderly and was pulled up. There was an GBP18,000 first prize at stake but even after One Man had seen off his chief remaining rival Viking Flagship, the feeling was that little had been learned.

Owner John Hales and trainer Gordon Richards had been hoping for an emphatic victory over a competitive Martha's Son to convince all concerned that the two-mile Champion Chase was the right Cheltenham target.