The ZimFun Racing Club Ltd is gathering steam so who are these people behind this innovative venture? They need no introduction to regular attendees at Borrowdale Park but are hoping to cast the net far wider than that. Those investing some hard-earned cash need to see some credentials.
Regular columnist and economic and political analyst,The Centaurian, aka C. John Smith MBE, came up with the idea and he will serve as Chairman of the unpaid Board of Directors. Spencer Murray is the Director of Purses, and Sandra Mehlomakhulu the Director of Celebrations.
John Smith is a successful businessman with farming (and extensive racing) interests both in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. He has a B.Sc. in agriculture and an M.Sc. Marketing. He is a citizen of Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom and currently on an extended assignment in Zimbabwe.
From Yorkshire farming stock he worked for the Agricultural Marketing Authority years ago, was a Director of Zimplugs (Pvt) Ltd – a horticultural company in Zimbabwe from 1997 to 2001 when the farm was taken over, and was Financial Director of the Mushroom Bureau UK for 13 years.
During the 1980’s Mr Smith was General Manager of Metal Box Central Africa Ltd, and Managing Director of Chubb Union Security Ltd, based in Harare. He set up two companies in the UK – Greyfriars (UK) Ltd in 1989 and Northern Produce Ltd the following year. These supplied fresh produce to major supermarket groups across Europe – growing into a multi-million-pound corporation. In 2006 he was awarded Fresh Produce Packer of the Year at the Industry Oscars – then sold out his interest in 2012.
He was awarded an MBE in the 1995 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for work and contributions to the Disability Discrimination Act promulgated in that year. A polio victim, John survived a bad car accident in 1981 which left him “with a gammy leg”.
Finally, we come to John’s racing interests. A former Chairman of the Mashonaland Owners & Trainers Association, he has raced in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Zimbabwe and had about 170 winners – some people have all the luck. He is a Founder Member and Chairman of the Centaur Syndicate which has existed for 40 years. Initially Earl Of Surrey raced in John’s colours when this great horse made his name, winning the Group 1 Golden Horse Casino, RSA, carrying top weight.
John Smith describes himself as “outspoken, opinionated, driven, professional, a grafter, pain in the arse, fearless, a jester and general piss taker”. That apart I would say he is reliable and very efficient.
Lisa Harris has known John since way back when and says “I met John many years ago when I used to accompany my parents to the races as a schoolgirl. John used to be the “gate guard” at the Members Bar and we used to sit and study the form together as I was not permitted into the bar! So, my friendship with him has spanned many, many years.
“He joined my stable when Noelene left for Durban and the Centaur horses came to me for training. I was soon to learn that John was one of the owners that every trainer sought! Aside from his success as a businessman, he is a genuine, extremely kind and honest person, amusing, strong in times of adversity, but above all a loyal and trustworthy friend who always remains true to his word”.
(For the latest update from THE CENTAURIAN on the ZimFun Racing Club go to https://zimracing.wordpress.com/the-centaurian-takes-aim/ )
Photograph: C John Smith with the late Dubbles Draper at the National Yearling Sales in Harare, back in the day