the three year olds prance out

the three year olds prance out, nervous under the hands
of strong silent trainers who have had many young
thoroughbreds under their calm cautious hands.

It isn't that makes a winner.
Always some scrub is coming under the wire, some gelding
with no pedigree, a day, a drawer of carts
who has nothing but heart.

The fast lose their hopes of speed in the pack of horses,
hooves pounding up to hit and gouge
and always another challenger pulling alongside.

It takes courage to keep coming on
to find dreams in dust and never slow down.
It takes memories of days of pulling carts
to gallop through a mile and a half and never give in.

It takes more than speed to win a race here.  Each one is a test
of gameness, of what makes a sprinter a classic.

The trainers drop soft blankets on sweating backs
and rub velvet-dark noses.  They know
about determination.  They have seen many young thoroughbreds
come and go.

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