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

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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker