Guineas Festival 2016: This year Newmarket and its Racecourses celebrate the landmark of 350 years of making history; an anniversary which highlights the development of the internationally acclaimed Home of Horseracing since 1666.
The official launch of this very important birthday will take place over the QIPCO Guineas Festival and will include the 350 Opening Ceremony on Saturday, the first day of the two day Festival, from 1pm in the Parade Ring.
Opening with a Spitfire Flypast, concentration will then switch to the Parade Ring where a specially commissioned poem will be recited by Henry Birtles, author of the masterwork as well as an independent sports business innovator in a number of fields.
Alongside his thriving sports media rights company, Henry’s poetry skills have proven more than popular in and out of horseracing with recent highlights including: in 2013 “The Harvest” commissioned by Westminster Abbey and read by Damien Lewis as part of the Harvest Festival celebrations; the 2014 World Cup Poem “That Time Again” as seen on BBC Worldwide with contributors Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Hurley, Damien Lewis, Nathaniel Parker and Rishi Persad; and the 2014 Royal Ascot poem read by Joanna Lumley and Tom Conti.
Henry Birtles, Managing Director of Henry Birtles Associates (HBA) and poet, said: “As a diehard fan of the turf, to be asked to write a poem marking the 350th anniversary of Racing at Newmarket by The Jockey Club was both a challenge and a huge honour. The challenge was to condense 350 years of history into two minutes and a few lines. The honour speaks for itself. I hope I got it right.”
The poem ‘Newmarket’
The Merry Monarch called a tune which soon became a masterpiece
And anthems sprung and songs were sung of heroes, villains, victories won
Of heartbreak, scandal, fortunes lost…and deals done
Of blessed hooves on blessed turf; where thunder isn’t thunder
But a symphony on earth
And here on Suffolk’s vast expanse lies Newmarket, The Citadel; this chosen site Where back in 1666 our glorious sport took wing, and shone a light for Horse and Man Yes, this is where it all began
From matches out on Racecourse Side, the message spread like rampant fire
And fuelled a primal urge to race; this somewhat unassuming place had launched a trend A sport, a way of life; a neverend that feeds the dreams of dreamers still
And reaps the souls of those who thrive
On noble elegance and power; The Game, the thrill
Who make their way in hopeful Spring to Headquarters for Guineas week
To once again find comfort in familiar sights, familiar speak
The Rowley Mile, The Bushes and The Dip, The Rising Ground
The Brigadier, the wall of sound, the yesteryear
As diehards make comparisons with greats of yore
New Champions will stake their claims to join that pantheon of names
And we will pause to breathe it in, to feel its pulse once more
©Henry F Birtles