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Ken Howard race caller from Sydney

Ken Howard race caller Ken Howard was born on 2 December 1913 at Waverley in Sydney.

As a schoolboy, Ken studied racing colours, breeding and records and became a cadet journalist, probably on Truth, before joining radio station 2SM as a messenger-boy; in 1936 he made his first race broadcast from Moorefield as understudy to Reg McKenzie. A few years later Howard moved to radio 2KY.

At the district registrar's office, Paddington, on 4 September 1939 he married Iris Adelaide, a hairdresser and daughter of the horse-trainer Joe Cook. In that year he replaced Melbourne radio station 3XY's racecaller Harry Solomons, jailed for his role in a scheme to defraud starting-price bookmakers.

Back in Sydney in 1941, Howard joined radio 2UE. He also called trotting and greyhound races, and commentated on boxing and wrestling matches.

Until 1952 neither the Australian Jockey Club nor the Sydney Turf Club allowed commercial radio stations to describe races from their courses.

Howard had to use precarious, off-course vantage points: at Rosehill he broadcast from a tower on an oil-storage tank, at Canterbury from another tower on top of a chook pen and at Randwick from the roof of a block of flats. An official threatened him with a shotgun for broadcasting from a tree adjacent to the Pakenham racecourse.

For the next meeting the club erected a hessian screen to block his view, but Howard foiled this move by using a hot-air balloon.

Early Australian broadcasters described races in a calm and carefully modulated manner. In contrast, Howard's rising tone of excitement could turn even 'a maiden handicap of hacks into a HOMEric struggle'.

He was known for such colourful phrases as 'lunging for the wire' and 'London to a brick' (first used during the Blitz).

Howard was an extremely accurate caller, naming the position of each horse in the race once every furlong, rather than focussing only on the front-runners.

In 1959 he moved to radio 2GB, where he remained. Howard presented Australia's first television turf programmes, including 'Racing Review', on TCN-9 in December 1956.

With faith in his own judgement, he earned the nickname 'Magic Eye' for his accuracy in calling the first-placed horse immediately a race had finished.

He was not always right, however: in 1968, after he incorrectly called Royal Account as winner of the A.J.C. Derby and Joking as winner of the Epsom, the Victoria Amateur Turf Club replaced him as its broadcaster of the Sydney races relayed to Caulfield.

He called 32 Melbourne Cups and is credited with many race calling sayings like "travelling via The Cape", "pilling the persuader" and "salutes the judge".

Howard had been appointed M.B.E. in 1967. He described his last Sydney race at Randwick on 31 December 1973. In retirement, he still called the Bowraville races, but devoted most of his time to fishing, lawn bowls and gardening. Survived by his wife, he died of coronary vascular disease and cirrhosis of the liver on 21 October 1976 at his Nambucca Heads home.

Ken Howard






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