Former BBC Grand National commentator John Hanmer dies aged 82 | Horse racing news

Edward Whitaker (

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John Hanmer pictured with Frankie Dettori celebrating the 20th anniversary of the jockey's Magnificent Seven

John Hanmer pictured with Frankie Dettori celebrating the 20th anniversary of the jockey’s Magnificent Seven

Edward Whitaker (

John Hanmer, a stalwart of BBC racing coverage best known for his integral work on the Grand National, died on Sunday aged 82.

Hanmer was a highly respected figure in racing for his long-standing role in the BBC television Grand National commentary team from 1972 to 2003 and also as BBC commentary assistant to Sir Peter O’Sullevan from 1971 to 1997.

In his most public role, he commented for the BBC at the Grand National alongside the likes of O’Sullevan, Julian Wilson and Jim McGrath, taking the lead as the runners crossed Melling Road.

Hanmer mainly acted for the BBC as a “spotter” for O’Sullevan and later McGrath, but took the microphone after the live races were shown on the grandstand, most memorably when he called the last three races of Frankie Dettori’s Magnificent Seven at Ascot in 1996.

He also performed as paddock commentator for the BBC alongside Jimmy Lindley.

McGrath said: “It’s very sad – he was a great friend and colleague. It was a fixture in the press box for over 45 years and a great operator who was hugely popular.

“I spoke to him last week and he was in good form and although his health wasn’t great he was still into racing and betting. Racing was his life until the end.

“I think he called 32 Grand Nationals, including Red Rum’s win in 1973, and he was great.

“His best time in the BBC Grand Nationals was Red Marauder in 2001 when the power went down on Becher just before the race. Tony O’Hehir, Becher’s commentator, was down due to the power cut, so John had to do his own thing. legs and also Tony’s so he basically called most of the race which was a heroic performance.

“It was a very difficult comment to make and he did it in great style, he wasn’t flustered and remained calm in what was one of the most packed national events ever.”

Hanmer began working in racing in 1960 as a racing reader for Raceform. In addition to being a commentator, he was also a jockey’s agent, mainly for Steve Cauthen and Cash Asmussen. He was honored with the President’s Award at last year’s HWPA Awards.

Commentator Ian Bartlett, who worked with Hanmer for a decade at the BBC, said: “He was an extremely polite man with a fantastic sense of humour. I had lunch with him two weeks ago and we reminisced about things going back to the 50’s. it was fantastic and still sharp.

“I only worked with him a few times when I was a commentator and he was a race reader, but he knew instinctively what you missed. He knew exactly what was going on and he was solid – he didn’t make a fuss about it, but he was very good.”

Hanmer, a keen cricket follower who traveled to Australia several times to watch The Ashes, had many racing friends including former coaches Barry Hills and David Gandolfo.

He lived in East Challow, near Wantage, for more than 30 years and is survived by his wife, Gillie.

FIRST PUBLISHED 11:08, 28 NOV 2022

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