Commissions and Recitals

‘Capturing the spirit of racing through a memento has always been the exclusive preserve of the men and women with a canvass to spare and a few brushes to hand. My message to owners, trainers, racing executives and lovers of the sport in general, is use your imagination, look beyond paint and let the words help personalise your experiences in this great sport.’  Henry Birtles

Remember a moment, your friend, your champion or even your no-hoper in verse.  Henry will consider all aspects of the story you want told. 

Notable commissions and recitals include:

The Harvest

for the Harvest Festival Service at Westminster Abbey.  Read by Damian Lewis and commissioned by Love British Food for the 1st Harvest Festival Service held in the Abbey since 1966 

The Ashes

Written for Shane Warne and Elizabeth Hurley’s Charity Fundraising lunch to celebrate the start of the 2013 Ashes Series

The Spirit of George

Written for Martin & Caroline Frewer in memory of their son, in whose honour they annually host The George Frewer Charity Race Evening at Newbury Racecourse in July

An Irish Mare (Dawn Run)

Features in 2013 Book ‘Literary Cheltenham’

The Contender

Features in Highclere Racing’s 20th Anniversary Book

Arkle's Battlefield

Commissioned by Cheltenham Racecourse and recorded by Channel 4 Racing for their 2009 Gold Cup Day coverage

The Day After

Commissioned by Gulf News, this tribute to the Dubai World Cup was the Sports section’s leader in the Middle East’s most prominent English speaking newspaper.

Best Mate

Commissioned by the Queen’s Master of the Horse, Lord Vestey for his sister-in-law Henrietta Knight, who trained the Great Horse.  Recited annually on Gold Cup day at the Best Mate Stature, an event described by Grand National winning Jockey Marcus Armytage in the Daily Telegraph as ‘the non-racing highlight of the Cheltenham Festival’. 

In Years to Come

Commissioned by Epsom Racecourse to commemorate Frankie Dettori’s Derby victory on Authorised.

The Derby

Commissioned by Epsom and voiced by Brian Blessed, the poem played out across Epsom Downs during the Derby Parade, minutes before Dettori recorded a only Blue Ribband victory on Authorised.

Ouija Board

Written for Lord Derby and Ed Dunlop, the poem features in Lord Derby’s book on the Earl’s great mare 

The Tears of O'Sullevan

Written in honour of Sir Peter O’Sullevan and recited (with Richard Philips Sir Peter impersonations) at a lunch in the Royal Box during the Cheltenham Festival to celebrate the great man’s 90th birthday

The Ascot Bell

Commission by Ascot Racecourse and recited at a Dinner in the Jockey Club Rooms, Newmarket

The Derby

A recital of the poem at the Jockey Club lunch on Derby Day 


A commission by Jono Spence to commemorate Celeric’s Ascot Gold Cup victory, as a present to his father Christopher, the then Senior Steward of the Jockey Club

The Goffs Million

Commission by Goffs to write a poem to promote The Goffs Million

The Derby and Ouiji Board

A recital of both at the 2007 Derby Party hosted by Elizabeth Hurley and the Derby Festival Magazine

The Egg

Written in honour of Racing broadcaster Rishi Persad

Desert Orchid's Gold

at Cheltenham Racecourse.  Murphy’s Gold Cup lunch.


Ouija Board, The Derby, The Ascot Bell – Poems featured in racecards on Oaks Day, Derby Day and King George Day