'He could have been a character in a spy film' - tributes paid to David Conolly-Smith, the Racing Post's man in Germany

David Conolly-Smith, who dies in Munich on Sunday at the age of 83
David Conolly-Smith, who died in Munich on Sunday at the age of 83

David Conolly-Smith, the English-language face and voice of German racing for more than 40 years, has died at the age of 83.

Conolly-Smith represented the International Racing Bureau from his base in Munich right up until the last few months, and was also the Racing Post's Germany correspondent from the paper's inception in 1986 until 2017.

Through his work with the IRB, Conolly-Smith did much to popularise Germany as a racing destination with British trainers, while also providing an invaluable guide to the chances of horses travelling from his patch to the big international meetings.

For many years Conolly-Smith owned and ran the Anglia English-language bookshop in Munich, though racing remained his overriding passion, with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe an annual pilgrimage.

He was also a relentless and talented punter with a great affinity for large multiple bets and headed a syndicate of friends, the Munich 8, which won £917,021 on the Scoop 6 in January 2000. Having cracked the initial bet, Conolly-Smith and the entire syndicate flew to Britain the following Saturday before chartering a coach to Warwick as they went in search of the £1 million bonus in the National Chase.

David Conolly-Smith (second left) with the Munich 8 syndicate at Warwick racecourse
David Conolly-Smith (second left) with the Munich 8 syndicate at Warwick racecourseCredit: Edward Whitaker

While the bonus went unclaimed after the JP McManus-owned Slideofhill trailed in a distant seventh of nine behind Choisty, the Munich 8 enjoyed a fine day out, spending the coach journey from Heathrow to Warwick punting on racing at Neuss.

Sir Mark Prescott has made Germany a happy hunting ground over the years, from Albanova's trio of Group 1 successes in 2004 right up until her granddaughter Alpinista's similar feat in 2021.

"David's great moment was winning the Tote jackpot in its very early days, which changed his life," said Prescott. "He ran a very esoteric bookshop in Germany and was just a lovely, old-fashioned person. He could almost have been a character in a spy film.

"He was a great help and would do the form for you in the days when you couldn't see all the races for yourself. He would then back yours accordingly but then swear he hadn't.

"I think he did the same for lots of other people. In return for all his kindness I would send him the latest Timeform black book, conveyed by means of the travelling head lad."

Prescott added: "Terry Hellier rode me a couple of Group 1 winners and I would never have had him without David's guidance. He was a lovely man, who loved the game and liked punting."

Conolly-Smith was seen as a go-to authority by the media in his adopted homeland, contributing to a Sport-Welt DVD on the history of German racing between 1990 and 2020 alongside Arc-winning jockey Andrasch Starke and official handicapper Harald Siemen.

In reporting news of his death, GaloppOnline said: "German racing mourns the loss of a great personality and one of its most important international ambassadors."

David Conolly Smith with jockey Lester Piggot at Berlin's Hoppegarten
David Conolly-Smith with jockey Lester Piggot at Berlin's HoppegartenCredit: Frank Sorge

The Racing Post's managing editor Tony Smurthwaite said: "David will be fondly remembered as one of the original reporters for the Racing Post from its first edition in 1986 and for keeping readers up to date with news of German racing for more than 30 years. He was rightly proud of the achievement.

"He had the ear of every owner, breeder, trainer, jockey and racing official of importance in Germany and once recalled taking Brough Scott to Hoppegarten races in Berlin just before the Wall came down. He used to delight in reminding the news desk that German horses have won the Arc, the King George (twice) and the Melbourne Cup, Breeders' Cup Turf, Japan Cup and Arlington Million. We're very sorry to hear of his passing."

The International Racing Bureau's managing director Alastair Donald added: "I joined the IRB in 1984 and he was already there. He was an extraordinary guy in so many ways.

"David was a fantastically enthusiastic friend and colleague, who loved his racing and was hugely respected in Germany. It's just a very sad day."

Conolly-Smith had been undergoing radiotherapy treatment before being transferred to a nursing home, and is survived by his partner of many years, Hildi.

Scott BurtonFrance correspondent

Published on 10 July 2023inGermany

Last updated 16:00, 10 July 2023