Derby Day by Caroline Baldock

The blazing sun with ne’r a frown
Shone down from dawn to dusk on Derby Day.
Buses, cars, tents of every hue, cover the ‘Downs’
New shapes, new view.
The hum of traffic, people chatting, rushing, walking,
Late or early, busy stokers,
Finding friends or fellow workers.
Where’re the horses, where’re the races?
Now the jockeys dress below,
Now the trainers scratch a brow
And look again to see how?
Owners too, anxious, waiting, looking, drinking,
Chatting, trying hard to look composed.
On the nose,
Punters too, wishing, hoping, watching
Bookies’ prices,
Hands wave out with eager teners,
Bell is rung, into the saddle jockeys swung,
The final circuit is begun,
Down to the start, with eager heart
They canter past the die is cast,
The punters from their money part.

Onto the course they canter now,
With easy limbs, and gleaming hides,
And nodding heads and widest eye,
The best of bloodstock face the call
The challenge – they must rise and fall
Across the rolling downs.

The gates are open in a flash
They dash – the race is on!
They thunder by –
A blur between the grass and sky –
Flying hooves and nostrils flared,
the horses trying jockeys dared
To close a gap around the turn –
The famous corner – down they come.
The final furlong battle long.

And cheering crowds of long ago
The downs will know.
Centuries pass before the post:
Barham, Bend Or and Cicero,
St Paddy and Amato,
The Flying Dutchman, Ormonde too,
Gladiator, Hyperion, Mill Reef, flew
Past the post, and Dancing Brave……
The list is long.

All is lost and won in minutes gone,
And all the while the world is fighting
Wars and dropping bombs
And politicians rankle at the bar
And famine sweeps both near and far.
June’s first weekend is Derby day;
Should Londoners no more come to see
The best of bloodstock vie for England’s’ prize,
Then I will turn into a stone and race no more
For loss will be our lot on Epsom’s Downs.

For I am a thoroughbred of metal great,
And heart profound and limbs of steel,
And I will gallop into history’s fate
And all that make these Downs.
And all that makes them great.

Caroline Baldock © 2006

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