Posted: September 24th, 2023
JOHN O’HARA, a former Sporting Life and Weekender columnist who specialised in stable reports, and was expert at spotting future equine stars of the turf, died on September 9 (2023) aged 63.
He enjoyed a long and wide-ranging career in racing journalism, which included regular contributions on The Guardian’s racing desk as well as work for Teletext and The Sportsman, a short-lived competitor to the Racing Post where O’Hara was racing editor.
The Guardian’s Greg Wood said: “John O’Hara was an excellent editor with a finely-tuned eye for details and blunders, who saved this reporter and, I suspect, plenty more, from embarrassment many times over the years.”
John continued writing his columns for Racing Post after the titles merged in 1998, and submitted his final piece shortly before suffering a stroke.
Extremely knowledgable and likeable, John was a familiar face around the racecourses of Britain, but also often ventured abroad, especially to the USA for the Breeders’ Cup.
His grandfather and father had a bookmaking business in the Boston, Lincs area and John grew up with a love of horseracing. He started out by tipping winners for his local paper, the Boston Standard, before being recruited to The Sporting Life by editor Mike Gallemore in the 1990s.
John worked closely with Sir Henry Cecil and Kieren Fallon on their regular columns for The Weekender.
Former Sporting Life assistant editor, Jeremy Chapman, described John as “impossible not to like”, adding: “John was a top man who found his niche doing stable tours, just what he wanted as a lover of horseracing, and he was most adept at getting trainers to pass over priceless information, just what we wanted to hear and read about.” Chief reporter on the Life, Geoff Lester, described him as a ‘thorough professional’.”
John leaves wife, Bridget, and sons Edward and George. Bridget summed it up by saying: “John was taken too early, only 63 and in fantastic health.”
R.I.P John, a true professional and lovely bloke who never had a bad word to say about anyone. Paul Duffett