Voice of equestrian sport to retire from BBC TV commentary

  • Mike Tucker at Horse of the Year Show 2015. Credit Peter Nixon.

    The voice of equestrian sport is to retire from BBC television commentary.

    Long-standing commentator and former top event rider Mike Tucker will stand down from the role after this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials next month (3-7 May).

    He plans to continue with some public address duties outside the BBC.

    “I’ve had such a great time and with Nick [Skelton at Rio 2016] it was a great high to finish on,” he told H&H.

    “When I started commentating I always wanted to call an Olympic gold for Britain.

    “London was so special, not just one but three gold medals — that was a lifelong ambition.”

    Badminton dreams

    At Pony Club, Mike was taught by eventing legend Frank Weldon, who was “a great inspiration”.

    “With Badminton there is a lot of history — my grandfather farmed there and my mother was born there,” he said.

    “Since I was at Pony Club, it was my aim to ride there.”

    Later he trained with Bertie Hill, who encouraged him to help out at big events like Burghley Horse Trials as a groom.

    “It was a great learning curve,” said Mike. “I went to the Mexico Games in 1968 with Richard Meade.

    “It was a fantastic experience and I still remember getting goose pimples when I was holding Cornishman when the national anthem was played. It was so special.”

    Mike’s Badminton dream became a reality and in 1983 he was placed second at the four-star event riding General Bugle, a horse he bred at his farm.

    “It was particularly special because that was one of the last Badmintons that The Queen visited and she was accompanied down the line-up by the 10th Duke of Beaufort,” Mike said.

    “I hunted with him and he took a great interest — he told The Queen all about the horse. That will always be a riding career highlight.”

    Continued below…

    Plans for the future

    Mike said it “felt like the right time” to leave the BBC position, citing the long hours associated with covering events like the Olympics.

    “There are three disciplines so it’s a lot of work to do,” he said. “My tie with BBC has been on a four-year period in the build-up to the Games — I feel in four years’ time I’ll be a real old goat and I think it might be too many.”

    However, as well as continuing to provide commentary at events, Mike plans to focus on his farming.

    “There’s a lot going on at home— I have wagyu cattle and I’m building up a business with that,” he said.

    Mike launched the “Badminton Burger” at the 2015 event — made from beef from his own wagyu cattle

    He added that he is looking forward to this year’s Badminton.

    “Badminton is one of the classiest fields,” he said. “This year looks like a very good field with a new course-designer.”

    A spokesman for the horse trials paid tribute to Mike’s work.

    “Mike had the big boots of Dorian Williams and Raymond Brooks-Ward to fill,” he said.

    “He brought to the role a competitor’s knowledge and what has always set him apart from many contemporaries is his enormous enthusiasm which permeated his commentary.

    “The task is much harder than it may seem as both event director Hugh Thomas and media director Julian Seaman have experienced and Mike has been a great man to share the booth.”

    Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport said: “After 40 years with us at the BBC we are sad to say goodbye to Mike, he will be missed by his BBC Sport colleagues and audiences alike.

    “Mike has been the voice of equestrianism in this country and he has captured so many historic moments in the sport throughout his wonderful career.

    “His wise words and brilliant critique have been a great addition to our equestrian commentary and we wish him well in his retirement.”

    Look out for more tributes to this legend of the commentary box in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 27 April

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