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Cambridge trainer Kevin Holmes died at Waikato Hospital on Monday, October 12. Holmes had been there for treatment to severe facial gunshot wounds and it was felt by members of his family he had made tremendous progress, so naturally his death came as a great shock.

Holmes, 38, was a son of Yaldhurst trainer Allan Holmes, a nephew of 'The Maestro' Maurice Holmes and a grandson of the legendary 'Old' Free Holmes. Kevin, then aged 18, emulated his grand-father when he drove his first winner at Ashburton. In getting Implore home first in a division of the Tinwald Handicap on June 3, 1961, Kevin turned back the clock to 1884 when Free Holmes rode his first winner, a galloper named Our John, when just 13.

Kevin won a trot with Ahumai, later the same day as Implore while other winners in those early days were scored behind Hancove, Dame Margot and Gildirect. The latter gave him his first winning drive at Addington (April 14, 1962), winning the Williams Handicap and beating his uncle Maurice (Master Alan) and his boss Ces Donald (Dandy Briar)

While working for Donald, Kevin continued to rack up the winners. He took the Nelson Caltex Gold Cup in 1962 with Congo Boy, then began his association with the Jim Wilson-trained trotter Flaming Way. Behind this talented son of Stormyway, Kevin won the 1963 Canterbury Park Trotters Cup and a notable double at the 1964 New Zealand Cup meeting when he scored in the Worthy Queen and Dominion Handicaps.

In April, 1965, Holmes appeared as the trainer-driver of Rannack Song, who won at Addington. He next cropped up training and driving a two-year-old filly named Brilliant Rose at Alexandra Park in May the same year. Later he drove Captain Hal and Persistent for R J Kemble. In the 1970's Kevin trained in partnership at Cambridge with Colin Butler and, at the time of his death, was training with his brother Colin Holmes.

The pinnacle of his career came in 1978 when he won the World Drivers Championship contested in North America against high class opposition. The following year he defended his title in New Zealand and Australia, finishing second.

Apart from those already mentioned, Holmes was associated with some top horses during his career. Two of the best were speedy mare Ripper's Delight and the outstanding juvenile Testing Times. Ripper's Delight beat some classy colts in the 1975 Great Northern Derby and later added the North Island Oaks. She eventually reached New Zealand Cup class, providing Kevin with his only drive in that race when unplaced in 1976.

Testing Times was the top two-year-old of the 1976-77 season, posting a national juvenile race record of 2:01.6 and winning 14 races in New Zealand and Australia (unbeaten in four starts). Taken to America in July of 1977 for the $280,000 Woodrow Wilson Pace at The Meadowlands, Testing Times ran second for Holmes in a $20,000 heat to No No Yankee, clocking 1:58.4, but finishing 11th in the final to the same horse.

Tonton Macoute, the 1973 New Zealand Messenger winner, was another fine winner for Holmes. In the provincial Cups in the North Island Holmes fashioned a fine record, winning three Hawera Cups - Scottish Crusader (1972), General Gyrone (1973) and Waiata Nui (1975) - two Rotorua Cups - Marshall Hanover (1975) and Vanavara (1976) - a Taranaki Cup with Hanover Scottish (1979) and the Masterton Cup with Chet Hanover (1979). As well he won the McMillan Trotters Mile at Cambridge twice - Uteena (1970) and Flagon Wagon (1975) - and picked up the 1973 Cardigan Bay Stakes at Hutt Park with Lordy Boy.

Holmes, who also drove winners in America, Europe, Australia and Macau, won approximately 500 races in New Zealand and trained about 300.

Credit: 1982 DB Trotting Annual

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