Seven o’clock and the light was just emerging in the sub-zero, snow-covered Newmarket morning. Glistening intently, the snowflakes layered the surroundings a still white. A single robin, red-breasted and plump, sang cheerfully as he flew down from a large oak tree, swooping onto the railings beside the gallops. All was motionless apart from the occasional snowflake falling to meet the ground, slowly twisting, turning and swirling like a house cat. As the sun started to awaken, the sky began to show its bliss-blue complexion as the undulating hills of the east glimmered in its radiance. The robin cocked its neck as he heard the distant sound of metal hooves clunking against the icy tarmac road.
The string of horses cross by the front of the church, the clock showing ten past seven, awaiting their signal to be sent roaring up the gallops to devour the air with their relentless desire to run. These animals are like no other, their existence the product of careful selection, their near perfection the result of unfailing years yearning to create a horse of genetic invincibility, unconquerable by lesser bloodlines. They are born with talent in their blood, flowing through their veins like water to a river, surging through their bodies like salt to the sea. They know not of their brilliance, but it is evident to all.
The two leading horses now become tense as they begin to anticipate the upcoming effort. Whipping round their heads in frustration, they are released and the thundering of hooves and sharp intakes of breath through flaring nostrils sends the sweet robin flying off over the tip of the horizon. The horses’ colourful rugs fly behind them in the wind as they jostle for position, breaking the oncoming silence as they charge over the ridge of the hill. The whites of their eyes display pure determination as neither will give up their inner instinct to fall behind the other - they are born to run, bred to compete.
Amid this aggressive battle, there is a mysterious gracefulness to their gallop, the perfect four beat action of their legs, the power rippling through their muscles, driving them forwards, the unmistakable rhythm of their run. This is when these athletes are shown in their true majesty. How a sense of serenity can be felt in such a moment of vigour and determination, one will never know.
The trainer waits at the crest of the hill. He sits atop his pride and joy, the horse who ignited his training career. Like boyhood friends they reminisce, remembering the time when they would speed up these gallops together and stand side by side in the winner’s enclosure. But now they look on, like two wise old men, deciphering when and where these new dream-makers will run for glory.
Beside them stands the owner of one of the leading pair. He remembers the day the filly was born; so weak and fragile, not knowing where to place her flimsy legs. He remembers the moment she first stood up, the time she managed to canter around his field, exuberantly bucking with delight. He had reared this horse from birth and she was a child to him. Now he sees her, a full grown racehorse charging up the gallops, transformed from a delicate yearling to a mighty athlete. In two weeks’ time, she would have her first outing on a racecourse, the old family silks would be dusted off from the attic and his dear horse would carry them with pride.
And now here she is, pride and joy of owner and trainer, lowering her head as she powers up the hill, pumping her legs vigorously, consuming all energy within. From behind she can be likened to a steam train as her breath shows up clearly in the icy cold and seems to fade away behind her, swirling upwards, intertwining with that of her companions, creating a vivid contrast with the azure sky like the sweep of a painter’s brush.
Finally, they reach the end of the gallop, steadying slowly to a walk, nostrils still flaring, inhaling as much air as conceivable. The last set of horses has galloped through and silence returns again. But this time there remains a feeling of omnipresent power, a sense that makes the air tingle around you. The snow still glistens and layers the ground as far as the eye can see. The sun has now almost risen fully and the clock signals half past seven. The robin returns to its previous spot, settling quietly onto the railings. The distant sound of hooves on the road can be heard again as the thoroughbreds return home, steam rising off their bodies and their breath condensing in the morning air. Gradually the silence descends once more and the robin returns to his tuneful song.