The Old Jockey and his Mount: Or Turf Tattle [poem by Kenneth Mackay]

[Editor: This poem by Kenneth Mackay was published in Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes (1887).]

The Old Jockey and his Mount:


Turf Tattle.

So you’ve come for a pat and a rub, old man,
And I daresay for something sweet?
Well, then, poke your nose in my coat, if you can,
But hang it — look out for my feet!

You have hundreds of burrs in your mane, I see,
And the gloss has gone from your skin;
There is but one difference ’twixt you and me —
I grow fat, while you’re getting thin.

We are only a pair of old duffers now, —
Hardly worth the food we may eat,
You have scarcely pace enough left for a plough,
I — strength for a cabman’s seat.

Still to-day we may both call to mind, old man,
When your coat gleamed bright in the sun,
As from start to finish you jumped in the van, —
The day our last Steeple was won.

Not a rap do they care for us now, my boy,
For we are both placed on the shelf,
Little use to remember the worn-out toy
That no more may win them their pelf.

Yet what heroes they made of us each, that day,
How they raved of my hands and head;
When, between you and me, we got right away
From a field that was “poor or dead.”

Ah, if something had come with a rush at the end —
For a run from the furlong post,
’Twould with both I fear have been “bellows to mend,”
In the stead of “eggs upon toast.”

You remember they said that Fred was a fool
Or a cur to ride such a race;
We know had he not been both plucky and cool
He could not have run in a place.

But the backers all swore he threw up his chance,
By letting me off with the lead,
Had he come at us then, we know what a dance
He’d have had on his half-trained weed.

Recall, too, the day when the favourite struck,
And Tommy was pitched on his head.
We heard the rail rattle way back in the ruck,
But the public, who did not, said

He got a cool hundred to slip off his horse,
That his mount never hit at all,
That it paid him a great deal better of course
A hatful to win by a fall.

No matter to them that he’d ridden for years,
And had won them race after race, —
For his victories they gave him — but empty cheers,
For defeat — a slap in the face.

I can picture them now as they rush about —
A terror to trainer and jock,
Half wild with excitement, attempting to “tout”
For those tips which the “Ring” must knock.

Which gained, then they vanish — of layers in chase, —
A fiver to plunge on a prad,
And should he be beaten by riding or pace,
They swear by the gods they’ve been “had.”

For nothing that carries their money must fail,
Or failing is “pulled” in their eyes,
Since though they may not know his head from his tail,
At least they are well up in lies.

We have heard how the jocks are all bought by the “Ring,”
And many more wonderful tales;
But those, who this doctrine persistently sing,
Should remember horsemen like Hales;—

Yes, and most of the rest, for you know, old horse,
When you only went for a “run,”
’Twas not in the Paddock, nor yet on the Course,
But at home the “stopping” was done.

For riders can talk, and few men are such fools
As to trust a fallible hand,
Or to cut themselves playing with sharp-edged tools,
When safer are at their command.

All trainers are terrible rogues at the best,
So at least say backers who pay;
Still I wonder, supposing owners confessed,
If the public the same would say.

You have heard queerish things in your box, old chap,
When your owner explained a plan,
By the working of which he hoped “to go nap;”
Well — he did not next time you ran.

The public would never be guilty, not they!
Of trying to buy those who ride,
Yet I think you may still bear in mind the day
When a backer stood at your side,

And laid me a hundred to nothing about
A horse we just managed to beat;
’Twas purely from friendship, he said. No doubt!
As a hint to me it seemed neat.

We know how the innocents bluster and rave,
Should a favourite chance to go wrong;
How they call the owner a rogue and a knave,
And harp on the worn-out old song,

That a man should run for the fun of the thing,
Yes, and ruin a horse for aye,
Forsooth, that a harvest of coin he may bring
To men with no trainers to pay.

Of course, we are hardly the fools to suppose
That “scratching” is always quite fair,
Or, in fact, that in every starter who “goes”
Backers get a run “on the square.”

Still, we also know, if the Turf must be swept
Of dirt — all the brooms should be clean;
And racing will never grow moral except
The public much alter, I ween.

That the Racecourse is not what they’d like to see —
Is a fact all sportsmen deplore,
But I fear the end of the “stiff ’uns” will be
The end of the world — not before.

But why should we talk of the days that are past;
Of the races we won or lost;
Both our dice from the box are forever cast,
And aside we have both been tossed.

’Tis time that we went, for Lone Hand is away,
By backers and fielders unknown;
How they petted and cheered him that glorious day,
When he carried the top weight ‘home!’

Great Sussex no more may Tom Corrigan bear
To the front in spite of his load,
The strongest and swiftest to do and to dare
That ever man handled or rode.

Old Student now sleeps on the field where he fell, —
Running game and true in the van;
While brave Kangaroo takes an unending spell
Not far from the brown beaten “ Tan.”

Never more may McLeod recover his seat
Amid shouts of wonder and fear;
While loud must, alas! be the thunder of feet
That the gallant Jack Cray can hear.

All the friends of our youth have finished the “course,”
While a sterner than Ashworth waits,
Till again on your back I will ride, old horse,
Through the endless paddock gates.

Kenneth Mackay, Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes, Sydney: Edwards, Dunlop & Co., 1887, pages 78-83

Editor’s notes:
aye = always, forever

backer = someone who places a bet on a competitor in a race or contest, e.g. someone who “backs” a horse to win a race

forsooth = in truth, indeed (“forsooth” is sometimes used ironically, to imply the opposite of what is being said)

had = cheated; duped, fooled; outwitted; victimized; used in the phrase “You’ve been had!”

jock = an abbreviation of “jockey”

pelf = wealth or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired; from the Old French term “pelfre” for booty (related to “pilfer”)

prad = horse

spell = rest, or a period of rest (“spell” refers to a period of time, but was also used to refer to a period of rest, due to the common phrase “to rest for a spell” and variations thereof)

’twixt = between (can be given either with or without an apostrophe)

van = an abbreviation of “vanguard”: in the lead, at the front; the advance unit of a military force; the forefront in an area, field, movement, profession, or science; the leaders of a cultural, intellectual, political, or social movement

ween = believe, suppose, think

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