Friday, December 24, 2010
'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE OPENING DAY...
‘Twas the night before Opening Day when all through the track,
Not a creature was stirring, not even Frank Stronach.
Racing silks were hung in the jockey’s room with care,
In hopes that St. Shoemaker soon would be there.
The equines were nestled all snug in their stalls,
While visions of carrots ‘n mints danced in their heads.
And stablehands in beds, guard “Jim” in a cap,
Had just settled down for a short morning’s nap.
When out on the track there arose such a clatter,
He sprang from his chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the main oval Jim flew like a flash,
Tore open the security gate which closed with a crash.
The moon on the breast of the newly laid dirt
Gave the luster of mid-day to things on the skirt.
When what to his wondering eyes should materialize,
But a sleigh and eight historic equines.
With a little old jockey, so lively and true,
He knew in a moment it must be St. Shoe.
More sturdy than sprinters his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and chirped, and called them by name!
Now Silky! now Swaps! now Tomy Lee and Ferdinand!
On ‘Bid! on John Henry! on Damascus and J.O. Tobin!
To the top of Clocker’s Corner! to the top of the ‘stands wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the track-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of purse money, and St. Shoemaker too.
And then, in a twinkling, he heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each sizeable hoof.
As he drew up his head, and was turning around,
Down the elevator shaft St. Shoe came with a bound.
He was dressed in Keck’s silks, from his cap to his boot,
And his clothes, all covered, with mud dried like soot.
A bundle of cash he had flung on his back,
And he looked like ol’ Charlie, yet another graded stakes stack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the mud on his chin was as sticky as snow.
The stump of a whip he held tight in his teeth,
And the reins they encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a gaunt face and was absent a belly,
The whole body shook when he laughed, a gaggle of bones, more like Jack Skelly!
He was skinny and fit; not Santa, more elf,
Jim laughed when he saw him, in spite of himself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave Jim to know he had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stakes purses, then turned with a jerk.
Laying his finger aside of his nose,
Giving a nod, up the elevator shaft he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Opening Day to all; Real Dirt! It only seems right!"