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Legs 44 to 47 - Nottinghamshire, Somerset & Surrey

Leg 44 - Southwell

My first visit to Southwell for a National Hunt meeting as all previous visits have been for all weather racing.

Yet again a warm welcome from the staff at an ARC (Arena Racing) course and it was plain to see the amount of work that had been done since the terrible floods they had here back in October which decimated the place. Today was the first day the new weighing room had been open but still many areas were closed which really restricts the number of racegoers they can have in.

I was joined in my walk of the course by Dementia UK's Rachel Carman, who gave me more of an insight into the charity and the work they do, and an interview with her is on the home page of the website I was given a prominent position to have a display close to the bookmaker's ring. I was fortunate enough to be offered a £50 free bet by S&D Bookmakers, one of Southwell's most prominent rails bookies. I decided to ignore the favourites as I wanted to try and get a nice lump to go into the charity fund. Still, alas my EW selection at 12/1 finished fifth after being in a prominent position throughout only to tire late on. It was a fabulous gesture from them.

With there being such a small crowd it was easy to rub shoulders with some of the racing celebrities and Trainer Dan Skelton was very impressed with my challenge and kindly donated to the bucket and it was a real honor to meet the legend that is Jonjo O'Neill. Mr Waley-Cohen was also in attendance and I had to take a photo of Brian Hughes for my little pal, Teddy Wright, see previous blogs.

I was delighted to collect £241.02 from such a low attendance and can only thank Southwell for all they did to help me.

Leg 45 - Nottingham

So a short drive on to Nottingham, which turned out to be the start of a couple of days to forget. Nothing to do with the course, as I was very impressed with it and surprised for a course so close to the city with the amount of space they have there.

The walk of the course was enjoyable but as with a few other Jockey Club courses I was told I could not bucket collect due to contracts with other charity partners, which I accepted and just hovered about hoping to raise some awareness. Alas, there was not much but I had a long chat with their Chairman, who suggested I stood just outside the racecourse gates after racing to collect. This I did, which happened to be on the car park and after standing there for 5 minutes was confronted by 2 security guards who told me I could not collect. I informed them of the chat with the Chairman, but they were adamant and said yes out on the road you can collect, which was pointless as hardly anybody went there as it was a long walk from the car park.

So sadly I left Nottingham without a penny going into the bucket.

Then the fun started...I leave Nottingham Racecourse on Wednesday evening, feeling a tad under the weather. “Just tiredness,” I tell myself. So wrong! By 1am, a bug hit me like a tornado, and suddenly, my head became intimately acquainted with the toilet and spent all night vomiting along with the thing that goes well with sickness, diarrhea!! (No photos)

So Thursday’s grand plan to drive to Bath ready for Friday went out of the window faster than a horse out of the starting gate. Instead, I spent the day in Nottingham, sleeping for 20 of the next 24 hours, with constant bathroom breaks. So as you can see Nottingham was a couple of days to forget but not to be defeated I rose early on Friday morning for my drive to Somerset.

Leg 46 - Bath

By Friday morning, I felt slightly better – not 100%, but at least-not-dying better – so I dragged myself to Bath. The welcome at Bath Racecourse was as warm as my fever. A big shout-out to Giorgia, who was an absolute star!

Despite feeling like I'd been trampled by horses, I walked the mile-and-a-half course and had a little rest before the first race. My racing pal, Stuart Lewis, surprised me with his presence, providing much-needed support. Bath is the highest British racecourse above sea level and it did feel like I was up Everest as it was so cold for June.

After the second race, I was interviewed over the PA system and then roamed around with my trusty collection bucket. But Mother Nature had other plans – a bitterly cold wind in June! I even turned down a hotdog from Stuart, which says a lot about my condition.

Determined to stick it out, I kept warming up in the racing office. By the end of the last race, I was at the exit, ready to catch the departing crowd. Only half left, as the rest stayed for a Take That tribute act. I stood in the freezing cold for half an hour before retreating to my car.

Despite my best efforts, I managed to collect £161.09. Not too shabby, though I can't help but think I could have gathered more if I hadn't been battling this bug. To top it off, I pulled a muscle in my lower back while getting into bed. Seriously, you couldn't make this stuff up!

Leg 47 - Lingfield Park

So it was onto deepest Surrey on Saturday morning to attend Lingfield's evening flat fixture. Surprisingly I had not been to Lingers for about 30 years, a course I used to attend regularly when living in Surrey and so much has changed with the introduction of the all-weather track on the inside of the turf one and the building of the hotel with the grounds.

I enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of the course walk and it was clear to see why it is called Leafy Lingfield with it being totally tree-lined. I knew it was undulating and can see why the Derby and Oaks trials are run here as it has many similarities to Epsom, particularly the downhill sharp left-handed turn into the home straight, a bit like the infamous Tattenham Corner. The jets roaring overhead on their descent into Gatwick was also part of the experience.

Yet again an ARC course were very welcoming and I had a display table set up in one of the main Grandstand bars and was free to walk around with my bucket, despite another charity being there. It just shows it can be done!

I had an interview over the PA system and people were overall interested in what I was doing.

Despite still not being 100% I stayed on after racing and bucket collected until the 80's theme music finished and was delighted to have collected £430.01 from the generous people of Surrey. I now have a few days off before going to Great Yarmouth on Wednesday and today I am looking forward to meeting up with my son Ross in London as we are attending the Soccer Aid match at Stamford Bridge. Yes, no horses for a few days!!!

Online donations are still important as we march on and get close to the £10k figure and these can be made at:

Thank you

Graham Arnold

9th June 2024

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