Former jockey Robert Howg, a standout at Spokane’s Playfair Race Course in the early stages of his career, died Sept. 19 in his Phoenix-area home. The Alberta, Canada, native was 70.
In 1968, Howg led Playfair’s apprentice jockeys with 31 victories while finishing second in the overall standings to regional star Richard Wright. He placed fourth in 1970 and seventh in 1971, riding 28 winners each season.
His six local stakes victories included a trio of 1983 wins astride the brilliant 3-year-old filly, Miss Mackee. In 1976, he won the Juvenile Mile aboard Mystical Fire and the Inland Empire Marathon on Kid Joey.
After spending his first few summers on western Canada’s prairie circuit, Howg became a regular at Longacres in the Seattle area and, in the 1970s, he enjoyed great success at Yakima Meadows, where he won seven riding titles. After starring in Spokane and Yakima in 1976, he was nominated for Inland Northwest professional athlete of the year.
All three Washington tracks had closed by 2001. Longacres was replaced by Emerald Downs in Auburn, which now conducts the state’s only commercial meet.
Howg rode about 1,000 winners during his career, most of them in the Northwest, before accumulated riding injuries forced him to hang up his tack in 1984. His wife, Carla, whom he met during his apprentice season in Spokane, survives, along with three sons. The Howgs would have celebrated their 50th anniversary in November.
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