O’Sullevan was named the “Voice of Racing” for his ability to coolly and expertly add commentary to the fast-paced sport of horse racing. Sir Peter was able to enjoy a long career as one of the world’s top narrators of sports not only because of that trademark tone, but also because of his dedicated commitment to studying the equestrian sport.
According to BBC Sport, O’Sullevan made his first encounter with horse racing as a young child, when he bet and won at the horse track in 1928. In 1947, Sir Peter began his career as a horse race commentator on the radio — he would stick with it until 1997, despite several changes in the format of horse track commentary.
O’Sullevan himself was a player in the sport of horse racing, sometimes providing commentary for events where Sir Peter himself held a stake. In addition to several wins for his horse, Be Friendly, O’Sullevan’s Attivo won the 1974 Cheltenham Triumph Hurdle in what he said was “one of hardest races to call in his life,” reported the Guardian.
Sir Peter was also well known in British high society for his dazzling wit. In fact, he was the first sports commentator to receive the honor of knighthood. While updating his autobiography last year, O’Sullevan told a reporter from the Telegraph about a time he had asked The Queen for a personal favor at a dinner party — getting his friend Lester Piggott back his Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire distinction after he lost it due to tax evasion charges.
“I was sitting next to the Queen at Windsor once and was looking for an opportunity. Lester had just come out of prison [after a tax evasion conviction]. The one thing that really hurt him was his OBE being taken away. He felt it was wrong. So I thought this was an opportune moment, and launched into my Lester spiel to Her Majesty… she put down her knife and fork, as I say, and said: ‘I Iike the way you put it, but he was rather naughty you know. He was not only rather naughty, but he was very stupid, because he paid it [his tax bill] on a bank that hadn’t come up in the case, and hadn’t been investigated.’ “
What do you think Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s most memorable moment as “The Voice of Racing” was?
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