Racing is no different to any other walk of life in that most of its participants are neither born great, achieve greatness, nor have greatness thrust upon them. Almost all are honest in their toil, and a proportion of them do make their mark in some way or other.
Thus it was with Walter de la Mare, poet and short story writer of the first half of the 20th century. In breeding terms, de la Mare would have the letters FR in brackets after his name, as he was descended from a family of French Huguenots. For 18 years of his adult life he worked in the statistics department for Standard Oil, and wrote in his spare time.
De la Mare was awarded a Civil List pension in 1908, effectively putting him on the Royal payroll. This was done to allow him to concentrate on his writing, and although that provided him a helpful income, the additional time he spent with his pen and ink did not increase his popularity with readers.
One poem, The Listeners, regularly crops up in anthologies, giving him his moment in the spotlight, and in notalgic rememebrances of childhood. Apart from that poem I suspect most Geegeez readers would be hard pressed to recall anything else de la Mare wrote.
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
As it was with the poet, so it is with the racehorse, although in Walter De La Mare’s case, the breeding is Irish. He’s in action for trainer Anabel Murphy to night in the final race at Wincanton. So far in his 11 attempts over hurdles Walter De La Mare appears to have shown more interest in champing the grasses than in cantering over them. He’s managed a single fourth place at Leicester back in January.
He did a little better on the flat, and his moment of (relative) achievement cam at Sligo in 2010. Then, he won two consecutive handicap races before sinking back into obscurity. There he’s remained since. He carries top weight tonight, running off a mark of 100. Frankly, it would need to drop by at least a stone if he were rise out of that condition again.