Retired trainer Peter Howe, one of just four people to train an American champion over jumps and on the flat, and the father of Colonial Downs vice president of racing Jill Byrne, died Thursday night in Charlottesville, Va. He was 83.
Howe was born in Hartford, Conn., and became an accomplished rider of show horses – competing at Madison Square Garden, the Washington International Horse Show and other top venues – before transitioning to racehorses. There, he made a mark.
Training mainly for Marion du Pont Scott’s Montpelier Stable – based at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course or private training facilities in Virginia and Camden, S.C. depending on the season – Howe conditioned a small but quality stable of flat and steeplechase horses.
Soothsayer won an Eclipse Award as champion steeplechaser in 1972. Bred in Virginia by Scott, the son of Mystic II won twice over hurdles as a 3-year-old in 1970 and added major scores in the Broad Hollow and New York Turf Writers Cup in 1971 before finishing second (beaten a neck by Inkslinger) in the Colonial Cup. In 1972, Soothsayer started late in the season but dominated the Temple Gwathmey at Rolling Rock in October and won the Colonial Cup (over Inkslinger). Beaten a nose in the 1973 Colonial Cup, Soothsayer ran in England the next two seasons – winning the 1974 Catchart Cup at Cheltenham and finishing second in the 1975 Cheltenham Gold Cup for trainer Fred Winter – before returning to the United States and Howe. Soothsayer won the 1975 Noel Laing and finished third in another Colonial Cup. He finished with 13 wins and 13 seconds in 36 lifetime starts.
In 1976, Howe sent out Montpelier’s Proud Delta to victories in the Affectionately, Rare Treat, Top Flight-G1, Shuvee, Hempstead-G2 and Beldame-G1 en route to the older filly/mare divisional championship. The daughter of Delta Judge won six of 14 starts that season, earning $270,127. Proud Delta went on to leave a mark as a broodmare. The daughter of Delta Judge produced Lyphard’s Delta, a Group 2 winner whose daughter Delta Princes won six stakes and produced Hall of Famer and champion Royal Delta among others.
Soothsayer and Proud Delta put Howe in rare company – with Jonathan Sheppard, Sidney Watters Jr. and Jim Ryan – as the only trainers to prepare American champions on the flat and over jumps.
In addition to his champions, Howe trained international jumping star Tingle Creek during his American career. Bred in Virginia by Helen Whittaker, the flashy chestnut made his debut with a second over hurdles at Belmont Park as a 3-year-old in June 1969. A week later, Tingle Creek won – leading at every call and scoring by 6 lengths – but he began a path to stardom in 1970. The 10-start campaign included a 141-1 upset in Delaware Park’s Tom Roby Stakes, a win in Delaware’s Indian River and the Broad Hollow at Belmont Park. Fifth in the 1971 Colonial Cup behind champions Inkslinger, Soothsayer, Top Bid and Shadow Brook, Tingle Creek went to England and became something a legend. He won 23 races over fences in England, specializing in 2-mile chases and a front-running style. Tingle Creek won the Sandown Pattern Chase three times (in six tries) and the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup – now called the Tingle Creek in his honor – in 1973. He raced through age 12, winning his final start at Sandown in 1978 to massive applause from the crowd.
Howe also won graded stakes with Alias Smith and Piling, and retired as a trainer in 1993. He shared the 1971 National Steeplechase Association training championship with Sidney Watters Jr. when each won 22 races. Howe, inducted into the Virginia Steeplechase Hall of Fame this year, led the NSA earnings list in 1972.
Howe, whose father Walter was an American diplomat and the U.S. Ambassador to Chile under President Dwight Eisenhower, lived at Red Horse Farm near the Montpelier property in Barboursville, Va. Survivors include Byrne (whose previous racing jobs included positions with the Breeders’ Cup, Churchill Downs and others), son Jeffrey Howe and his wife Christy, daughter Debby Howe and grandchildren Devon Byrne, William Vanderlinde and Emma and Owen Howe.