SVI is 60 years young

Posted: 17th May 2018

On the 23rd of April, SVI celebrated 60 years since the doors of its laboratories were formally opened. The event was possible thanks to the generosity of racehorse trainer, Jack Holt. 

Jack Holt was born in Berwick, Victoria on the 14th of November, 1879, the fourth child of Michael Holt, a labourer, and his Irish-born wife, Mary. The young boy could ride almost as soon as he could walk. After leaving school at 16, Holt obtained a jockey licence and rode at Sandown, before moving on to train horses in 1902. 

He went on to become one of the most successful trainers in Australian history. In the 17 seasons between 1918 and 1934, he headed the Victorian Trainer’s Premiership 13 times, winning all the important races in Melbourne and Sydney. Throughout his career he trained more than 1000 winners and earned an estimated 500,000 pounds of stake-money for his clients. 

Holt lived his entire life together with his two sisters, Margaret and Catherine in ‘Lethe’, a small 8-roomed cottage that he had constructed in Mordialloc. His business acumen and skill as a trainer led to the development of a rather large fortune, but above all Holt was known for his good humour and generosity. The death of his beloved sister Catherine in 1945 provoked him to think about how his estate would be disposed of upon his death and he decided to bequeath the majority of his considerable assets to found a school of medical research on the campus of St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne. 

Invalided after a heart attack in 1948, Holt died of a coronary occlusion at Mercy Hospital on June 10, 1951. Holt’s will provided for his surviving sister, Margaret, various charities and friends, including his stable foreman. The remainder of his estate, valued at 200,000 pounds, was left to establish the ‘John Holt Medical Research Endowment’, which SVI still benefits from today. Margaret Holt died within a year of her brother and was buried with him at Berwick Cemetery. 

We look forward to celebrating Jack Holt’s generosity in 2018. 

Bequestors who have advised SVI of their intention to leave a bequest will be invited to join the Jack Holt Society. For a confidential chat or further information please (03) 9231 2480 or email 

Read the speech given by the Governor of Victoria, the Hon Linda Dessau at SVI's 60th Anniversary Event held at Government House on 23rd April here.