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The Home Straight

The journey has been long and winding, but I’m now it's on to the home straight. Since the last update, I’ve tackled five more courses, starting at Haydock Park on Saturday, June 22nd, and wrapping up at Worcester on June 26th. Here’s an account of the final legs of this incredible challenge.


Leg 55 - Haydock Park




After enduring one of the longest drives of the challenge and a record-breaking Leg 54 at Chelmsford City, it was Haydock Park’s turn to test my resilience as they hit me with more disappointment from a Jockey Club course!


Their Saturday evening meeting was always going to be a busy evening, the weather was good and racegoers were flocking into the course when I arrived 2 hours before racing to do the course walk. I had struggled in my planning to communicate with one of the premier tracks in the north. On arrival, I was told by Sophie-May in the office that no bucket collection was allowed anywhere despite no other charity in attendance.


I once again queried this only to be told that she had been given a directive from above not to allow me to collect. I will try and find out a reason further down the line but that means that out of 15 racecourses that The Jockey Club owns I could only collect at 2 of them; Exeter on the opening day and Sandown. In my opinion, this very poor of them and I will be writing to the organisation for answers.


As I had a long drive to Wales the following morning, I walked the course and left after three races to make sure I had plenty of rest before my Welsh venture.



Leg 56 - Ffos Las





I drove early on Sunday morning from Haydock down to Paul & Marcelle Chiplin's house ready for a trip to Ffos Las. I stayed with them for 2 nights and said goodbye to the little red Vauxhall they had lent me for much of the challenge. I will thank them more in the summary blog later.


Paul drove to Ffos Las, which was quite a journey, so I was grateful for the rest. Ffos Las Racecourse is settled in between Llanelli and Carmarthen and has brought racing to Wales since it opened as recently as 2009.


I was impressed with the entire layout, the beauty of the area and the staff who were so welcoming and allowed us freedom to collect, despite their local Rotary Club doing the same. The General Manager, Kevin Hire, was an absolute star and arranged an interview with me over the course PA system. We were delighted when the Rotary Club left early giving us exclusivity at the exit to collect, right beside the Abba tribute act that performed after racing.


Thanks to Paul, who was very pro-active with his bucket, the friendly racegoers donated the fantastic sum of £424.87 towards the cause for Dementia UK. We left the course after about 8 hours of racing and fundraising for the drive back to Paul & Marcelle's lovely home where a lovely home-cooked meal was waiting for us, which was greatly received before my tired body went to bed early to prepare for the next day at Chepstow.


Leg 57 - Chepstow




A staunch supporter of my challenge and someone I now regard as a good friend, Paul Chiplin, joined me again at Chepstow and once again took to the wheel to give me a rest from driving.


More positivity was received from the staff at Chepstow, another ARC-owned course. Paul and I walked the course. It was one of the tougher ones with its undulations and a home straight that reminded me of one of those bumpy fairground slides. I was interviewed by their on-course announcer, Martin, who I had seen a few times now on my travels and we managed to speak to many of the moderate crowd in attendance during the afternoon, raising an amazing £498.20.


Considering the size of the Monday crowd I was delighted with this and just proves what can be done with the enthusiasm and support of the racecourse management team. Take a bow Chepstow! We drove home, Paul was tired, 2 days of fundraising was tough for him, ha ha!


Leg 58 - Newton Abbot




Another early start was necessary because I was leaving the borrowed car at Paul's and needed another car hire for the last part of the adventure. He drove me to Bristol Airport to collect the third car of the journey (well fourth if you include the first one that caught fire). I said goodbye to Paul and thanked him for all of his help and hit the road to Devon for my day at Newton Abbot.


I was a little apprehensive as the comms between the course and myself had not been that strong in the run-up to the day but I needn't have worried. The entire team at the lovely Devon track were so supportive and accommodating of all my requests. In fact, they actually made a donation, the only one from the actual course. Fantastic!


Whilst choosing the best turned out in the third race I spoke to multiple winning Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls, who liked what I was doing and promised to donate a share of the prize money if his horse won the next race. Sadly it came about fourth but it was a great idea. I also managed to grab a word with trainer David Pipe, who again was full of praise for the challenge.


For the second time on the journey, I saw Tim Kersall, who I first met in Spain a few years ago. Tim had a fish and chip shop in our hometown of Duquesa and after moving back to Devon he has established himself as an on-course bookmaker. We had a good catch up and we recorded a video posted on Duquesa's social media pages for people who know Tim to see. An interesting change from batters to bettors, from cods to odds and haddocks to paddocks. Tim told me he is loving what he is doing and it was great to see him looking so happy and being a bookie, probably richer!


It was a lovely afternoon of racing in glorious weather and following a third consecutive day of positivity from the racecourse a fabulous £514.10 was raised for Dementia UK. I wearily drove to my resting place for the evening and endured 90 minutes of torture watching England play out a goalless draw with Slovenia in the group stages of the Euros. My head hit the pillow knowing that tomorrow was looming with the last leg of an epic challenge at Worcester.


Leg 59 - Worcester





It may come as no surprise that Worcester pulled out all of the stops for me, being an Arena Racing course, and their manager Michael Thomas was a fabulous host and even presented me with a bottle of champagne, that I promised to drink with Julie when I arrive home.


I also had the pleasure of having Adele from Dementia UK with me for much of the red-hot afternoon. I chose a best turned out horse in Race 2 and following the race was interviewed by the legendary Racing Broadcaster/Journalist Cornelius Lysaght over the public address system.


I was then invited to present the prize to winning trainer Ian Williams and then into the winning connections area for a glass of fizz with Ian, who was great company and also very complimentary about the challenge and gave a nice donation. Thanks Ian!


I found my energy levels waning in the heat but stood by the exit one last time and in total collected a further £335 for Dementia UK. Here is a photo of the very lace race on the last day of the challenge:





From there I ended the challenge in pure luxury by driving to Bristol Airport to drop the hire car off at 10.30 pm and spending my final night dozing in the airport for my 6 am flight to Gibraltar the following morning.


The Fundraising Continues


With all the courses completed, I now turn my attention to writing a final summary blog post that will encapsulate the past 80 days of this epic journey.


As of now, the total amount raised for Dementia UK stands at an incredible £14,593.44. The Just Giving page remains active, and donations continue to come in.


If you haven’t donated yet and wish to contribute, please visit www.justgiving.com/page/aroundthecourses
















Thank you for following this journey and for your unwavering support. Stay tuned for the final summary of this remarkable challenge.



Regards,

Graham Arnold

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