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Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 07:58 GMT
Broadcast legend reaches milestone

By Paul Birch

Legendary horse racing commentator Sir Peter O'Sullevan turns the grand old age of 90 on Monday, 3 March.

Peter O'Sullevan
O'Sullevan was knighted in 1997

One of the most respected sports broadcasters in history, O'Sullevan retired in 1997 after 50 years behind the microphone.

His commentaries on horse racing's biggest events, such as the Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, led him to be called the "voice of racing".

After his retirement he has remained actively involved in the sport and runs a charity helping injured horses.

BBC Sport caught up with him to hear his thoughts on his birthday and his favourite memories of a lifetime in racing.

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO CELEBRATE YOUR 90TH BIRTHDAY?

A gang of the usual suspects, not only from racing, but also from the worlds of the arts and gastronomy, are going for dinner in the cellars of the wine merchants, Berry Brothers, on St James's Street in London.

The cellars are 300 years old, so they are virtually as old as me.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO TURN 90?

It is absolutely staggering. It hasn't sunk in yet and to have got this far is amazing.

I can't quite believe it.

HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME THESE DAYS? ARE YOU STILL ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN RACING?

I still go to racing a lot. I was at Kempton last week and I will be at the Cheltenham Festival.

Ray Johnstone and Peter O'Sullevan
O'Sullevan was close friends with jockey Ray Johnstone

I'm principally involved in the six charities that the Peter O'Sullevan Charitable Trust support, which are Brook Hospital for Animals, the Blue Cross, the International League for the Protection of Horses, the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre, Compassion in World Farming and Racing Welfare.

I host a lunch each year to help raise money and the Trust has so far been able to distribute over 2m.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CHELTENHAM NAMING A RACE AFTER YOU?

They have very generously attached my name to a race, the National Hunt Chase on the Wednesday of this year's Festival, which is lovely and very kind of them.

It's very appropriate as it's the oldest race of the meeting, so it's very well chosen for this old geriatric.

It's such a generous and happy thought on their part and it's enormously appreciated.

DO YOU MISS BEING BEHIND THE MIC?

No, not at all. I love going racing now and getting all the adrenaline without the anxiety, which is wonderful.

WHAT WAS THE BEST HORSE YOU EVER SAW?

On the flat I would say Ribot, who won Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe twice and the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the 1950's and also the 1965 Derby winner Sea Bird II, who was an outstanding horse.

As for jumping, I would never consider putting a name ahead of the legendary Arkle.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT IN HORSE RACING?

I'd say probably calling my horse Attivo home in the Daily Express Triumph Hurdle.

I was fortunate enough to breed him as well as owning him and I worked for the Express for 35 years, so it was nice to win some of their money.

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE JOCKEY?

I have had lots of favourite jockeys because I had so many good friends amongst them, like Lester Piggott and Ray Johnstone. I admire them all enormously.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEETING AND WHY?

I have had the good fortune to go to the Melbourne Cup and several top races in the USA, and of course the likes of Ascot, Newmarket and Goodwood.

Champion race horse Arkle and jockey Pat Taaffe
The legendary Arkle is O'Sullevan's favourite jump horse

But I would have to say, if I was told you can only go to one race meeting before you quit this mortal coil, I'd plump for the National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham.

It unquestionably unites the best jumping horses in the world with the best jockeys in the world. And of course the partisanship between the Irish and the English gives it a very special atmosphere.

WHO IS GOING TO WIN THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP - KAUTO STAR OR DENMAN?

It's a wonderful prospect between two very good horses.

If somebody forced me to bet 1,000 on who it is going to be, it would have to be the horse that has done it before, Kauto.

I wouldn't be surprised if Denman found him out as he is one hell of a horse, but Kauto would be my inclination.

It will be a wonderful achievement for Paul Nicholls, who is obviously an outstanding trainer, to get them there in peak shape as you cannot underestimate the fragility of a racehorse.



SEE ALSO
Paul Nicholls Q&A
26 Feb 08 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham honour for Sir Peter
22 Jan 08 |  Horse Racing
O'Sullevan's Ascot memories
16 Jun 02 |  Royal Ascot 2002


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