Graham Rock, founding editor of the Racing Post, racing correspondent for The Observer and expert analyst for the BBC, died on 13 November after losing his four-year battle against cancer. He was 56.
Next month Rock was due to receive the George Ennor Trophy for a lifetime’s achievement in racing at the Horserace Writers & Photographers Association 2001 Derby Awards ceremony.
Rock started his journalistic career in the early Seventies on the staff at Timeform, where he stayed for three years before he moved on to the Sporting Chronicle.
When the Chronicle closed in the summer of 1983, Rock went to Hong Kong.
He took a job as a local Jockey Club stipendiary steward and later as an official handicapper.
While Rock was in Hong Kong the future of the Sporting Life, at that time the racing bible, was uncertain in the control of Robert Maxwell.
Sheikh Mohammed agreed, after discussions with journalist and broadcaster Brough Scott and Nick Clarke, of the International Racing Bureau, to launch the Racing Post.
In 1985, Rock moved back to England to become editor of the new Post.
Much of the paper’s success was due to Rock’s diligence. Rock said just before his death: "When you start something, you give 100 per cent of your ideas and try to develop them. You don’t hold anything back." After Rock left the paper in 1988, three people were appointed to replace him – an editor, an assistant editor, and an editorial director.
Rock was born in Dagenham, East London, and attended Whitgift School, Croydon, from 1956 to 1964, before taking a degree in psychology and sociology at Bradford University.
Throughout Rock’s illness he never complained. Scott said: "He was brave.
Brave in work, brave in play and, finally, unbelievably brave until death itself.
"Graham Rock has left a legacy. For all of us, his life should be an inspiration."
Carl Hicks, BBC editor of general sport, said: "We’ll miss his knowledge and understanding of the racing industry, and on a personal basis, his sharp perception and racing tips."
Brian Oliver, Observer sports editor, said: "The way Graham coped with, and prepared for his own death after hearing that he was, in his own words, ‘100-1 against being around at Christmas’, is something I will never forget. He was a great professional. The amended version of his memoirs, which he wrote recently, arrived on my desk on the day he died." The Observer published his account of his life last Sunday.
Rock is survived by his widow, Joan, and two daughters, Catherine and Madeline, from his first wife, Ingrid, who also survives him.