Spokane horse racing, its history dimmed by the passage of time, lost another of its prominent figures recently with the death of trainer Fred Hepton.
A lifelong Spokane resident, Hepton, 84, died Aug. 19. A memorial service has been scheduled for Sept. 8 at St. John Vianney Catholic Church.
Hepton not only made his mark as a Playfair Race Course standout, he was a coach, a scratch golfer and, for a quarter century, a college basketball official. At Playfair, Hepton saddled almost 500 winners over the course of four decades, occupying an almost permanent spot among the track’s leading conditioners.
Although he never won a training title, he finished second twice, third five times and placed among the 10 leaders 20 times in 25 years.
Equibase, which maintains the sport’s official records that start in 1976, show him with 516 career victories with a fine 17 percent win percentage. By 1976, Hepton had saddled several dozen additional Playfair winners, dating to the late 1960s.
In 1993, his most profitable year, he sent out 40 winners that earned $122,494. That fall, he was the trainer of record for Ron Crockett’s 2-year-old Fiery Skies, which won the $44,465 Spokane Futurity and the $22,679 Juvenile His Stakes.
The next year, he had a career-high 41 winners. In both cases, Hepton supplemented his Spokane wins with a handful of victories at either Portland Meadows or Emerald Downs.
Hepton is survived by his wife, Shelby, two daughters and a son.
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