Howard (Howie) Tesher, a winner of 1,302 races, including several Grade I events, and a popular figure around the New York racetracks for decades, passed away Friday. He was 87.
According to his niece, Jodie David, Tesher passed away at the Majestic Memory Care Center in Hollywood, Florida, and had been there for about five years dealing with dementia. David said the cause of death was pneumonia.
“He was happy right up to the end,” David said. “There was no patient there like him. He was always grabbing the girls and giving them hugs. When he passed, there was a stream of employees coming by to kiss him goodbye.”
Tesher was born in 1935 in Miami and was a journalism major in college at the University of Miami. Out of college, he worked in his brothers’ dental clinic, but soon discovered that he preferred to spend his time around horses, even though he was allergic to them.
Tesher ran his first horse at the old Tropical Park in 1961 and won his first race in 1962 with Weeper’s Boy at Suffolk Downs. He trained for such prominent owners as Joseph Allen, Telly Savalas and George Steinbrenner.
“I got my assistant’s license with Howie after I left Pat Byrne,” said trainer Steve Margolis. “He treated me like a son. I went through a divorce while I worked for him and that was hard on me because I was young. He was always really helpful and was a really personable person. I worked for him for seven, eight years and it was a great job and I learned a lot from him. He was a kind man and a friend to a lot of people.”
“Howie was one of the nicest people I ever met on the track,” said former jockey agent turned lawyer Drew Mollica. “He had a great sense of humor and was a guy who knew how to train a horse. Racing and the human race will miss him. He was a great stand-up guy in a game with far too many not stand-up guys. I’m proud to say he was my good friend. Rest his soul.”
According to Equibase, Tesher had career earnings of $31,247,483. In terms of earnings, his top horse was Bolshoi Boy, who made $1,039,702 and won the GII Cornhusker H. and the GII Razorback H. in 1987. He also won the 1986 GIII Illinois Derby in 1986.
Tesher won the 1997 GI Man o’War S. and the GI Caesar’s International H. in 1997 with Influent. He won the 1986 GI Washington D.C. International with Lieutenant’s Lark and the 1993 GI Florida Derby with Bull Inthe Heather. He took over the training of 1982 GI Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol after the horse was transferred from the Ed Gregson barn. Tesher’s Champagneforashley won the 1990 Tampa Bay Derby and then finished third as the favorite in the GI Wood Memorial, which was his last career start. Champagneforashley was being pointed for the GI Preakness S., but suffered a career-ending injury two days before the race.
According to equineline.com statistics, which go back only to 1976, Tesher had 51 graded stakes winners. He started his last horse on May 2, 2014 at Gulfstream.