On this day nothing beats being out on the gallops first thing,
cold air around my ears, and sounds of snorts and hoof-beats
and the sun coming up; except, going to the winners enclosure
after momentum has slowed to a walk and the horse turns back.
It is not just the applause, but the satisfaction for its own sake.
Itís been a long time, but the old rush of the blood still happens
regularly in the head. He sits in the care home in silk pyjamas,
the walls of his small room are decorated with the mementos
of glory days he thinks are still here; when he measured himself
against the best, getting the leg up on every race-track in the land,
Newmarket, Epsom, York. The best brain in the weighing room
they said the day he out-piggotted Piggott in the Coronation Cup.
Then the training years, the winners over jumps and on the flat.
The Gimcrack, Cesarewitch, Fighting Fifth. What he misses now
is the healthy smell of horse manure, pungent as a Cuban cigar;
the adrenalin rush of race day, the feel of the reins in his hands.
Life goes at a canter mostly, but there are days he forgets
when heís off the bridle with fear,
his mouth in a grimace, his elbows taut.
At ninety one heís close to the winning post,
but, a lifeís habit,
he doesnít want to make his run too soon.
Fr. Michael McCarthy, April 2014.