Kate Barrett’s Racecourse Challenge
Please help Kate to reach her fundraising target by clicking here.
The idea was born from an outing at the races with friends when we were discussing the number of racecourses in the UK. This led me to saying “I bet I could attend all the English courses I’ve not yet been to in the next 12 months.....”(and I was still sober at this stage!) Having then had a bet posed i.e. that I couldn’t achieve the challenge, it was like a red rag to a bull – of course I could! At this point I started working out just how many racecourses there were and from that (once I’d already committed to doing the challenge) I worked out that this would mean me attending 31 racecourses, covering 11,500 miles up, down and across the country, spending a small fortune at the petrol pump, not to mention all the hours sat at the wheel! Still, with the challenge starring me in the face, and being a lover of horse racing, it had to be done!
It was at this point that I thought that if I was going to do such a daft thing, I should at least try raise some much needed funds for a couple of charities I support and my aim is to raise £5,000 for each of them.... The first being Kirkwood Hospice who are running a Capital Appeal this year to enable them to redevelop their facilities at Huddersfield. Kirkwood Hospice need £11,500 PER DAY to keep their doors open. The second of my charities is HEROS (homing ex-racehorses organisation scheme). Having the most wonderful ex-racehorse, Fred, at the grand age of 25, I know how much life, love and enjoyment there is left at the end of a racehorses career, and if I can help do my bit so that other ‘Freds’ out there can enjoy their retirement from racing, then others too will have the experience I am having with my lovely chestnut boy!
So, let battle commence...
My challenge started at Huntingdon on 4th January with my pal Liz Devine Wright along for the ride (at this point her hubby thought we were mad – 10 months through the challenge, he knows we are!) Liz, who owns specialist hat shop Simply Devine, said from the start that she would sponsor my headwear for the coming 12 months..... Little did she realise at the time but she was coming along for the ride too, and has kindly now kept me company at 15 of the 29 racetracks I have attended!
So, to date I have been to the following courses and travelled over 10,000 miles.....Huntingdon, Uttoxeter, Sedgefield, Fakenham, Ludlow, Windsor, Kempton, Kelso, Worcester, Royal Ascot, Hereford, Wincanton, Towcester, Aintree, Chester, Goodwood, Epsom, Sandown, Newbury, Brighton, Cartmel, Folkestone, Newmarket, Newton Abbot, Salisbury, Bath & Exeter and at both Plumpton & Stratford (where I was asked to join the Best Dressed Lady Competitions!)
When we visited Newbury, we also visited HEROS en route, which was lovely. Thanks to Hilary for spending a couple of hours of her valuable time with us and showing us around, introducing us to the horses they currently have in their care including the ambassador Monsignor & his old mate Run for Paddy. Two superstars in their day! It was lovely to meet them all and to see the good work they do at HEROS – I am so pleased to be supporting them.
Unfortunately our Great British weather has let me down on several occasions with a number of planned meetings abandoned due to ice or water logging! It’s fair to say that this has caused havoc with my plans! Liz and I got all the way to Wincanton after a 4 ½ hour drive only to be told that the meeting may not go ahead as they were concerned the roof was going to blow off the stand! (Thankfully it still went ahead with us both holding onto our hats!) More recently I was having a conversation of the MD of Newton Abbot racecourse at 7am on the raceday to see if I should set off on my 5 hour trip to Devon!..... Thankfully that went ahead too where the previous day’s meeting was abandoned due to water logging!
Still, looking on the bright side, I’ve had a beautiful sunny day at Kelso (one of my favourites) and at Chester, Kempton, Windsor, Sandown, Epsom, Worcester, Newmarket, Salisbury and Plumpton. The rest of the courses have been attended in wind, rain and sub-degree temperatures!! Clearly I picked the wrong year to do this!!
So, on my journey to date I have experienced generosity beyond what I thought was possible when I started out. ..... I am absolutely sure that Liz didn’t sign up to attending all the courses with me but I sincerely thank her for her support to date and for the opportunity to wear all those amazing hats!! I wore a real beauty at Royal Ascot – a huge black & white number which she didn’t tell me cost £450 until I handed it back at the end of the day! (just as well really – I’d have been a nervous wreck holding onto that one!) I would also like to thank my good friend David Kay who pledged to give me his ‘nap of the day’ at each of the racecourses I attended, with all winnings going into the charity kitty. To date Dave has had a good few winners and I’m pleased to say there’s a nice little amount for the kitty! Dave also kindly managed to arrange tickets for Royal Ascot Ladies Day, which was fabulous, and Cartmel where I was asked to present the best turned out for one of the races – I choose a beautiful grey called ‘Pumboo’ but unfortunately he didn’t win the race (they do say that winning best turned out is almost definitely the kiss of death & sadly it was on that occasion – sorry Pumboo). I was however asked to present the prizes to the winning connections of the winner – Pete – which was an honour. I would also like to thank Emma Pearmaine of Simpson Millar for her sponsorship of our day at Aintree races..... A racecourse I had longed to visit where one of my favourite racehorses of all time – RED RUM - did an incredible thing by winning the Grand National on 3 occasions!
During the last 6 months I have been lucky enough to meet a few celebrities along the way including John McCririck, Luke Harvey, Mick Fitzgerald and Derek Thompson. I have also had Twitter conversations with Clare Balding & champion jockey Richard Hughes too.
I have also been working hard trying to beg various bits and bobs for my charity raffle – you can see from the list the generosity of people, and prizes are still being donated so the list grows! To date I have free badges pledged from several racecourses and First class return tickets to London on Grand Central along with a 12 person Executive Box at Owlerton Greyhound Stadium. Thank you to everyone who has donated.
I would also like to thank my family and friends for coming along to some of the racecourses with me and hope, despite the weather, they have enjoyed themselves! It’s been really important to me to have friends and family along as a 4 hour drive there and a 4 hour drive back, on a miserable day is no fun when you’re on your own.... even if you sing along to Tom Jones all the way there and Abba all the way back!! Occasionally you need someone to give you a prod to make sure you’re not falling asleep at the wheel!
I must also thank a large number of the racecourse staff who have been very supportive with many of them providing free entry on the day and helping me raise awareness of what I am doing & why, on Twitter with their retweeting! To date I have only had 4 racecourses turn me down but thankfully it is only 4 and if I get to the end of the year and it stays that way, then I will be a very lucky girl.
To date I have raised about £1,500 of my £10,000 target and will continue through wind, rain, burst tyres, cancelled race meetings, and people telling me I’m mad until I attend the 31st racecourse this side of 31st December 2012. (I am actually hoping to complete by the end of November but I’d best not tempt anything so keep that under your hat!) I am sure I will achieve my goal and I hope that I reach my target of £10,000 and I thank everyone who has supported me to date & those of you who would like to support me in the coming months.
If you would like to know more about my challenge, and the racecourses I have left to visit (Fontwell & Taunton), please see either one of my Just Giving pages below. And of course, if you would like to leave a small (or large!) donation while you are there, I’d like to thank you in advance!...... In the meantime, the raffle is an alternative way & hopefully you will be one of the lucky prize winners!
Pictured is Kate with John McCririck at Windsor.