OBITUARY: Jack Holt

Share
Related Topics
Jack Holt was one of a vanishing breed of racehorse trainers.

Always based some distance away from the main training centres of Newmarket and Lambourn, he operated from Tunworth Down, near Basingstoke, and established a reputation as a very shrewd placer of horses, especially sprint handicappers.

Holt's father, Len, who trained at Gatwick, in Sussex, was controversially warned off the Turf in the late Forties. Jack had assisted him from the age of 13, and rode three winners as an amateur before taking out a licence to train himself in 1949. He dined out regularly on the story of those early days. Taking a push-bike, he cycled to Petworth, and rented a field where he trained a handful of horses. He had one saddle and some pounds 40 to his name. He mucked out the inmates himself and rode them in all their exercise. His first winner, King Rebel, came at the now defunct Wye racecourse in May 1950.

From then on he progressed slowly, never having a lot of horses in his care but always finding the right opportunities for them. For many years he concentrated on jumpers, enjoying his greatest success when Stepherion won the George Duller Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 1965-66. Holt backed him at 100-9, buying a new car and paying a year's bills with the winnings.

He abandoned National Hunt racing when a favourite hurdler belonging to his wife, Ann, was killed in action. The move to Tunworth Down came in the mid- Sixties, and Holt soon demonstrated that he was equally adept on the Flat. Most of his winners were sprinters, but in 1970 he sent out a charismatic middle- distance mare called Quortina to win five races in a row at the Windsor evening meetings. The Windsor executive named a race in her honour - it is still run today - and Quortina returned to win it in 1972.

Holt's sprinters did him proud year after year. He began with a very fast horse, Epsom Imp, and many years later came close to winning the race he prized above almost any other, the Stewards Cup at Goodwood, with both Coppermill Lad and Duplicity. The latter was backed down from 66- 1 in 1992 in the 24 hours before the event, and found only the flying filly Lochsong too good. Holt loved handicappers, but also trained the high-class two-year-olds Sweet Monday and, arguably his best horse, Argentum.

Jack Holt was an immensely likeable, straightforward man. In these days of huge strings, millionaire owners, and inaccessible trainers, Holt had no difficulty in retaining the common touch. Complete strangers would come up to him at the races and inquire about his chances that day. I have seen him stop what he was doing and answer every question in detail. He was a clever trainer, and undoubtedly the canniest of gamblers when one of his charges was "right"; but there was nothing secretive about him. In all his years in a fiercely competitive sport, where making enemies is not difficult, no one had a hard word to say about him.

Several of the wiliest trainers of the post-war era were based not far away from his Basingstoke yard - Les Hall, R.C. Sturdy, the great Bill Wightman. Holt easily stood comparison with any of them, and there is no higher praise than that.

Ian Carnaby

Leonard John Holt, racehorse trainer: born 28 September 1928; married; died 3 October 1995.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in debt to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before