|When Jack Holt
was inducted as one of the first five trainers into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame it
was no real surprise. A trainer who'd won most of the country's big races on multiple
occasions deserves a great deal of recognition.
an illustrious career Holt won the big four races in Victoria - the Melbourne Cup,
Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Victoria Derby. But it's the Cox Plate that Holt is best
recognised as winning.
Holt saddled up runners in fourteen Cox Plates during a
period from 1922 until 1947 and he won six of them. He also trained five placegetters and
two of his team managed to run fourth.
The remarkable record in the big race came at just the
second ever running. Had the Cox Plate began earlier than in 1922 Holt could have won
more. The former jockey dominated Victorian racing in the early years.
In the inaugural Plate on October 28, 1922, Holt saddled up
two runners in the race worth 1,000 pounds. Tangalooma, one of his runners, was sent out
the 6/4 favourite. But the six-year-old gelding could only finish sixth - a placing that
Holt's horses would never finish further back than. His other runner the 10/1 pop David
was a handy fourth behind the Bryans trained Voiloncello.
Holt didn't have to wait long to taste race in the
weight-for-age event. Twelve months after Voiloncello beat his two reps, Holt's only
runner in 1923 got the chocolates. Carring the red and purple colours, the classy entire
Easingwold scored a comprehensive one a half length win.
Lilypond, a four-year-old gelding, couldn't add to Holt's
tally in 1924 when in from of 27,450 people the James Scobie trained The Night Patrol
proved too good. Lilypond finished fifth in the field of seven at 4/1.
Nothing was meant to get near the McCalman trained Manfred
and the Scobie entire The Night Patrol in the 1925 Cox Plate, and nothing did. While
Manfred, the odds-on favourite, and The Night Patrol hit the line locked together (Manfred
won by a couple of inches) the Holt gelding Royal Charter (20/1) ran a handy fourth.
No horse had been able to dominate a Cox Plate in the way
the Holt galloper Heroic did in 1926. At a tick after 3pm on October 23, the five-year-old
stallion (4/5 fav) walked in by three lengths. Heroic's stablemate Metellus ran third,
split by the classy three-year-old Limerick.
Metellus was to run in the Cox Plate the next year, but the
now six-year-old struggled home in sixth place behind the top class performer Amounis.
During the late 20s Holt found another top class performer
in the shape of the Highfield gelding Highland. He was seven when he won the Cox Plate in
1928 in a thrilling finish with Billy Duncan riding hard.
Twelve months down the track as a spritely eight-year-old
Highland was again saddled up by Holt in the eighth running of the Valley feature. In a
titanic struggle Duncan couldn't quite lift the gelding home and the 5/4 favourite
Nightmarch toughed it out to win.
Interestingly Holt never had a runner in the Cox Plate in
either 1930 or 1931. Probably a good idea in hindsight as a chestnut gelding by the name
of Phar Lap made both races a one act affair. The big red won in the 1930 event at sevens
on by four lengths and then came back a year later at 14s on to canter in by nearly three
Holt's next runner in the Cox Plate came in the form of the
the four-year-old Hall Mark in 1934. But the 9/4 second pick was no match for the winner
Chatham. A son of Windbag, Chatham won by two and a half lengths.
Hall Mark was back a year later, as a five-year-old with a
new jockey Harold Skidmore in the saddle, but the result was still the same. This time as
a 2/1 favourite he found the three-year-old colt Garrio was too good on race day.
Skidmore was again recruited by Holt when he lined up the
four-year-old horse Young Idea in the 1936 edition of the Cox Plate. This time the duo
were not going to get beaten. Skidmore got plenty from Young Idea as the pair flashed to
the post a head in front of Mala. Shakespeare was a mere half head away in third place in
one of the most hotly contested Cox Plates on history.
It was back to back Plates for Young Idea and Holt and new
jockey, the legendary Darby Munro, in 1937. In front of 30,000 screaming fans Young Idea,
a son of Constant Son, again got home in driving finish. This time the entire was a head
too good for Courtcraft. The only other chance in the betting Charles Fox was third.
Now a six-year-old in 1938 Young Idea was back to try and
make history by winning the Cox Plate for the third year running. With "Demon
Darb" (Darby Munro) again in the saddle the 10/1 pop tried hard but he was no match
for the twos on fave Ajax. Showing his customary fight Young Idea, giving weight to all
but two of his rivals, finished third, just a head from second place. On that day Young
Idea beat home the handy performers The Trump, Spear Chief and Catalogue - all winners at
the highest level.
After a break without a runner for nine years it was
fitting that Holt's final runner in the Cox Plate would be a winner. A three-year-old
colt, Chanak was given a good chance of giving Holt Cox Plate win number six, but many
felt he didn't have the class of the 7/4 favourite Royal Gem. Royal Gem didn't even turn
out to be a threat to Chanak as the colt was able to score in a photo finish over the
Holt, who died in 1951, was so dominant in Victoria he
ended up winning no less than 13 training premierships. As well as his wins in the
Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and VRC Derby, Holt aso won the Memsie Stakes
eleven times and both the Caulfield Stakes and Standish Handicaps on eight occasions.
Taking up training in 1902 after a short career as a
jockey, Holt was given Australian racing's highest honour when he was one of five trainers
to join as inaugual members of the Hall of Fame. He had esteemed company with the other
four trainers being Bart Cummings, Colin (CS) Hayes, Tommy (TJ) Smith and his former great
rival James Scobie.