Jack Holt - "The Wizard of Mordialloc".
Born to Mary and Michael Holt in Berwick on November 14, 1879 and named Michael, although he adopted the name Jack, he became one of Victoria's most successful horse trainers. When he was sixteen he left his employment delivering mail with the postal service to train racehorses and ponies. He won his first metropolitan race with Flying Fox but was content in the early days to place his horses at meetings in the Gippsland district.
It was in the winter of 1908 that he rented stables at Epsom and subsequently made Mordialloc his permanent home, There he built "Lethe" for himself and his two sisters, Margaret and Catherine.
'Lethe' - Holt's home in 1920.
Over the years Holt employed many apprentices and strappers who lived in the outbuildings on the property. "Usually he had a dozen boys under his care. Each lad who joined his establishment was required to open a savings bank account into which he had to pay the bulk of his wages. ... If one of the lads wanted to withdraw any money, he first had to convince "The Boss" that he would not fritter the money away, and then give an undertaking that he would withdraw only the amount stated..." Cavanough (1962:16)
Jack Holt first headed the Victorian trainers' list in the 1918-1919 season and was leading trainer twelve times. Because of this success he was dubbed "The Wizard of Mordialloc". Some of his successful horses were: Eurythmic, Heroic, Mistico, Sir Ibex, Lilypond, Second Wind and Easingwold. With these horses he won most of Australia's most important races including the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, St Leger Stakes, Victorian Derby, Sydney Cup, W. S. Cox Plate the Doncaster Handicap and Newmarket Handicap. The jockeys who rode for him included Frank Dempsey, Bill Duncan, Bill Foulsham, 'Darby' Munro, Theo Lewis, Bill Williamson and 'Scobie' Breasley.
Jack Holt with jockey Bill Williamson.
Financially very successful as a trainer and investor, Jack Holt was very generous to many individuals and several institutions. The Holt family gave prizes for school achievement to the pupils of St Brigid's school Mordialloc and provided an annual picnic for all the students. On his death the Jack Holt Medical Research Endowment was established by his estate which was valued at £228,840, a considerable sum in 1951.
Eugene Gorman, a friend, described Jack Holt in the foreword of Cavanough's book as "a countryman, simple, hospitable and gay with a limited circle of friends but without social aspirations. ... respected by all who went racing and his truthful but tactful advice on his horses' chances was a joy to witness. He hated cruelty in any form and maltreatment of animals aroused him to anger."
- Cavanough, Maurice (1962) The Wizard of Mordialloc: The Life of Jack Holt. Cheshire, Melboume.
Article Cat. People
- Book courtesy of the Mordialloc Historical Society.
Article Ref. 81