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Julian Wilson: the face of BBC's racing coverage dies at 73

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (  

Former BBC racing host Julian Wilson dies at 73

JULIAN WILSON, who headed the BBC's coverage as its TV racing correspondent for 32 years, died on Sunday night from cancer at the age of 73.

Wilson was the face of BBC racing and for much of that time the corporation had a near-monopoly of the top races. He was one of the race commentators for the Grand National from 1969 to 1991 and had editorial control over the BBC's mid-week broadcasts.

He was involved in racehorse ownership for many years and struck lucky with Tumbledownwind, who was bought for him by his long-term trainer Bruce Hobbs for only 4,800gns as a yearling.

Tumbledownwind, who ran in Wilson's colours although he owned only a half share, was a high-class two-year-old in 1977, winning at Glorious Goodwood. Wilson's other winners included Midnight Cowboy in an Ascot nursery in 1970 and the Lady Herries-trained Tykeyvor in the Bessborough Handicap at Royal Ascot in 1996.

Wilson also had success as a racing manager, including for Sir Clement Freud and Italian restaurateur Walter Mariti. The latter won the Royal Hunt Cup with 50-1 shot Pontenuovo in 1990.

Derby-winning trainer William Haggas led the tributes to Wilson, saying: "He was a star and a great man.

"We had a lot of fun and laughs on and off the racecourse and the cricket field.

"It's very sad and we'll all miss him terribly. My first-ever interview on television was with him on the BBC at Ascot. He was a top-class broadcaster and a very good private handicapper and punter. He always had time to enjoy his life outside of racing too."

Haggas's fellow Newmarket trainer, David Elsworth, recalled fun and good humour when offering his own tribute.

"We had a Sunday night ritual of always having a pint in Newmarket," said Elsworth, trainer of the mighty Desert Orchid.

"He's always been a big help to me and I always relied on him when we had runners as he was a great judge of the book.

"I rode for him in the 1960s as he had horses with Neville Dent and it seems like I've known him for ever. The most wonderful time we had was when he was managing Walter's [Mariti] horses and Pontenuovo won the Royal Hunt Cup. It was a big coup and was tremendous fun and we used to recall it, as you do with the good days.

"He was a good friend and I'll miss him a lot, everybody will."

Wilson married his first wife, Carolyn Michael, in 1970 and they had a son, Thomas. After their divorce he married Alison Ramsay in 1981.

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