THE HISTORY OF THE CENTAUR SYNDICATE
(From a very proud member)
It is a well-known phenomenon that sometimes people have a vision that is alien to those around them and the idea founders for lack of support, but other times the seed falls on fertile ground and flourishes.
Such a time occurred in 1977 when two very young, but enthusiastic young men were fired by the idea of encouraging greater participation in racehorse ownership at Borrowdale Park Racecourse and took it upon themselves to do so.
Peter Lovemore and Robin Bruss of the Rhodesia Bloodstock Agency, placed an advertisement in the local daily paper The Rhodesia Herald on February 9th, inviting interested people to attend a presentation at a local hotel to hear about the benefits of forming a racing syndicate. The event was fairly well supported and curiosity got the better of some of the attendees, and thus the first racing Syndicate evolved in this country.
Amongst the interested were Frank Gaby, Arthur Ainscow and John Smith. The net was cast further and it was considered important that within the Syndicate, someone with a knowledge of racing be included to guide the Syndicate in the right direction so successful racehorse owner Raymond Schur was brought on board. After many get social together’s and lots of debate the syndicate was named The Centaur Syndicate, after the mythical half-man and half-beast.
Founding members were Raymond Schur the nominee, Arthur Ainscow, Philip Whaley, Jack Rickards, Jim McDermott, Joan Callaghan, Frank Gaby and John Smith. And thus these excited 8, armed with sales catalogues and full of enthusiasm converged at the Harare Showgrounds to purchase their first champion racehorse. Sadly this did not come to pass, as Lunilla did not set the world on fire achieving a rather paltry 1 win and 3 places from 13 career starts. Ah well, back to the well for the intrepid and undaunted syndicate.
Their next purchase hit pay dirt and the racing “bug” was firmly entrenched. Quite early on the 1976 National Yearling Sale, a very good looking son of Quintipor (Ire) was consigned by leading breeder Geoff Armitage. Probably because he was early in the Sale, he did not command top dollar and a disappointed Geoff let him be sold for $6400.00. Named The Toff, he took every member of that Syndicate to experience the most amazing thrills and euphoria that only owning a good racehorse can evoke.
Trained by Roy Magner, The Toff was victorious in 14 races, reeling off triumph after triumph, conquering all who stood in his path. He raced until he was an eight-year-old, then retired to stud. No big race escaped him, but perhaps for his owners, their greatest thrill must have been when he won the 1981 Castle Tankard, Zimbabwe’s premier race. It is doubtful any racehorse has a poem written for him, but The Toff did, penned by Arthur “Ginger” Ainscow after The Toff’s Triple Crown campaign. (The poem appears at the end of this article.)
Sadly of the founding Syndicate, only three are still in the land of the living. Fortunately, John Smith is as enthusiastic today as he was way back then. John is the glue that keeps enthusiasm high and runners still gracing the green, green grass at Borrowdale Park.
The Syndicate has been exceptionally lucky. Horses campaigned in the famous Orange colours with the Black Maltese cross are notably Bolero Beat, Poem, Walter Wolf, Glen Monarch, Earl Of Surrey and Perfect Grace. Plus many more minor winners.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Centaur Syndicate, a lunch party was held to honour the occasion.
Now in its 43rd year, a world record, the Syndicate is still going strong. We are represented by Bugatti Blue doing us proud on the course and we have exciting times ahead with an about to race 3-year-old Divine Jet colt named Globe Master, and a Jackson two-year-old acquisition from the recent BSA Two-Year-Old Sale which has been named Magnus Maximus.
(Son of Quintipor)
I’ll tell you a racing story
Of an ‘orse that won honour and fame
At Borrowdale Park in Salisbury town
The Toff – that’s ‘is name.
You’ve heard of famous owners
Who have horses by the string
Well t’ Toff has several owners
A most unusual thing
There’s Joan and John and Jim and Jack
Just for alliteration
While Phil and Ray and Frank and Ack
Complete the Syndication
The trainer, named Roy Magner
Is a man of some renown
Said “Look ‘ere lads
That ‘orse of yours is good for‘t triple crown
Eee at this great news
They were all agog
So‘t horse was trained
To tackle the job
The trainer got down to business
He really did his stuff
The Toff hadn’t been on the course for a month
And his ear ‘oles were bunged up with fluff
But the colt and t’ trainer were undismayed
And settled their programme just grandly
They’d show everybody of what he was made
And was in fact quite handy
First leg of‘t crown was‘t Guineas
And proudly the horse did his ton
He passed every horse on that bloomin’ course
Except for the blighter that won!
But next time round was this Quintipor’s son,
A dark horse who made no mistakes
He showed up the best and flayed all the rest
In‘t coveted Spey Bridge Stakes
By now as you may guess
The Syndicate was all a flutter
But trainer Magner – clever sage
Some wise advice was ‘eard to utter
“Ah knows this horse ‘as done quite well
But don’t you get all cocky
In this ‘ere game you’ve heard it tell
A lot depends on ‘t jockey”
The Benson & Hedges Stakes tha’ knows
Is greatest jewel in‘t Crown
And country-wide all‘t three-year-olds
Will try to get him down
So‘t great day came for Benson Stakes
With jockey Reid upon his metal
The man and horse were a handsome pair
The Toff himself – in finest fettle
And when at last the gates flew open
And t’ announcer cried “They‘re off
Eight pair of eyes, you rightly guessed
Were glued upon The Toff
Around the course the pace was set
By three-year-olds a plenty
And Reid and t’ Toff just eased their way
Through field of just on twenty
Down the straight the runners came
The winner still in doubt
Eight pairs of eyes in frenzy strained
Till “It’s The Toff, came t’mighty shout”
Eight pairs of arms led winner in
To most important place
So full of praise for Reid and Toff
For that momentous race
And when the day was ended
And all the praise was said
Eight pairs of feet they staggered down
And tucked ‘in up in bed