Is time up for McGrath as Hotspur at Telegraph?

By Steven Downes

It has been reported that the sixth departee in the latest cull of experienced sports journalists by the Telegraph’s sports department is horse racing correspondent, JA McGrath.

Australian-born Jim McGrath has carried the paper’s “Hotspur” racing correspondent’s title with distinction for three decades.

JA McGrath: another departee from the Telegraph
JA McGrath: reported as another departee from the Telegraph’s sports desk

The departure of McGrath from the Telegraph, if confirmed, will see another high-profile sports journalist heading for the exit at their Victoria offices, along with Ian Chadband, Simon Hughes, Kate Laven, Graham Clutton and Simon Hart, as we reported last week. 

This news comes barely a year since McGrath had the disappointment of the BBC abandoning its coverage of his sport – he had been the Corporation’s lead race caller since 1997, following the retirement of Sir Peter O’Sullevan, who anointed him as successor by saying, “Jim is brilliant, the best I have heard”.

JA McGrath (who has been bylined with the initials as a means of distinguishing him from the “other” horse racing journalist with the same name; the “A” in JA stands for Aloysius) was 60 last year and announced his retirement from race-calling (he undertook the work for various race tracks and the betting industry’s in-house broadcasters) last September.

He recently recalled how he’d taken over from the “Voice of Racing”: “For me, the Beeb years were special. When Sir Peter stepped down after his 50th Grand National, I inherited the famous binoculars, that huge pair of glasses, supposedly snapped up off a German ship during the war. If that account had been accurate, there must have been a few vessels without much idea of what was on the horizon because I came across at least three sets of the ‘bins’ during by time at the BBC.

“There were so many enjoyable days – Derbys, Royal Ascots, King Georges, Hennessys at Newbury, Glorious Goodwoods, and trips to Longchamp for the Arc. The coverage, in my view, remained balanced as well as entertaining. But, unquestionably, the highlight every year was the Grand National.”

  • In a separate development, Tim Jotischky, the Daily Mail’s former head of sport, is another senior journalist to be leaving the Telegraph. Jotischky left last week after five years as head of business and deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph.