The Derby by Henry Birtles

Why do they come on that June afternoon

To the top of a hill, at the Capital’s edge

Why sit in traffic for half of the day

Why are they here; well they’ve gathered to pledge

An allegiance to one and for centuries they’ve come

To witness the run of the boy who’ll be king

Who’s name could be sung, for as long as men sing

Who’s proved that he holds all the aces you need

Assuming the mantle that greatness bestows

By placing himself at the head of his breed

To put to the sword the most worthy of foes

Why do the names of the victors stand tall

When a name as a name can mean nothing at all

Ask when you walk down your street or afar

Have you heard of Nijinsky, Mill Reef or Shergar

D’you know what I mean when I speak in hushed tones

D’you know what I mean when you can’t describe joy

D’you get what they get when one rises alone

Why the blood still runs fast at the mention of Troy

This is the Derby and this is the race

That the rest of the World, through its name find a place

For their own measurement, for their own litmus test

To find a Horse worthy of calling the best

And it all started here upon high Epsom Downs

Where the greatest still fight for the greatest of crowns

Where men stand as one, whether blue blood or red

Whether born of the street, or in purple are bred.

And they stand here to cheer and they stand here to call

And they stand to acclaim one who rose above all

This is the Derby and this is the race

That the rest of the World, through its name find a place

For their own measurement, for their own litmus test

To find a Horse worthy of calling the best

And it all started here upon high Epsom Downs

Where the greatest still fight for the greatest of crowns

Where men stand as one, whether blue blood or red

Whether born of the street, or in purple are bred.

And they stand here to cheer and they stand here to call

And they stand to acclaim one who rose above all

This is the Derby and this is the race

This the Kingmaker; hold tight, take your place

Poem reproduced by kind permission of Henry Birtles www.henrybirtles.co.uk

Read our interview with Henry Birtles here.

Image features extracts from the 2011 poster by Epsom Racecourse to advertise the Investec Derby Festival. 

Karen Sargeant

Karen Sargeant

Karen can usually be found glued to her computer or at the stables. Having edited several national magazines she co-founded Eclipse Magazine in 2008 after realising that many of her friends were nervous about going racing due to lack of information – what to wear, how to bet etc.

She absolutely loves her job (how many people can say that?!) and is truly grateful to all supporters of and contributors to Eclipse Magazine.

If you are reading this she would like to say THANK YOU! (And please spread the word about Eclipse...!!)
Karen Sargeant

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