The First Race

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They stomp at the gate,
already sweating,
lips pulled back,
keen for the start.
Eyes darting
left and right
at their competition,
they push forward
as the starter
checks his watch,
and then…
brrrinnggg…
they’re off!

Hearts pumping,
jostling for that
prime position…
There! an opening,
and one just in
from New York
darts for daylight,
pounds down the lane,
edging the one
in pink and green
who lost a shoe
at the eighth pole.

Slamming his
beer cooler
on the picnic table,
the victor exults
in winning
the first race
of the meet.
It’s 7:02 AM,
opening day
at Saratoga.

If you’ve never seen the 7:00 AM dash for prime picnic table turf at the Saratoga Race Course (which opens for its 147th meet today just north of my home), you’re missing a primal competition that rivals Saratoga’s Travers Stakes, the famed Summer Derby of American horse racing. And now, the great secret: In six decades on this earth, in this place, I’ve never once attended a day at the races. But I have a vivid imagination.

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