Derby Day

The blazing sun with ne’er 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 tenners,

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