Howard race caller from Sydney
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
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
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'.
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
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
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.
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