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A Day At The Races.

Updated: Feb 21

I used to live in the Cotswolds and would go to the Cheltenham Gold Cup Festival every year.

When I went to rehab my therapy team asked what my long-term goal was, I wanted to go to Cheltenham with no walking aid like every other year. At the time I wondered why they looked at me so sceptically. Having amnesia for my entire time in hospital I was blissfully unaware of how ill I'd been and thought this was perfectly obtainable.

Having left rehab in December, it was roughly mid January when I realised that everyone was right and I would need some form of support and would take my walker. The Gold Cup takes place in mid-March and it was early February when I admitted that a wheelchair was a safer option.

Cheltenham uses an external company for mobility hire and the gentleman who runs it is a lovely person. They have a huge car park but don't allow taxis in. We got dropped on the opposite side of a very busy road which we had to cross (a very nice police lady helped me). The collection point for the mobility equipment is at the Member’s entrance (the opposite direction to the main gate).

When we got to the main gate four stewards had no idea where the collection point was. It ended up being a roughly 30-minute walk (at my pace) from the drop-off point. We booked a hospitality suite and NO staff member knew where it was, this doesn't make for the best start when it's crowded and you're lost!

When we eventually found it, it was located on the second floor of a large marquee. There was a lift to the first floor where a hostess told us the only way to access the second floor was via the stairs. With difficulty, I did manage these, while John carried the chair up. On the second floor, a second staff member said there was a lift further down the corridor. In fairness, our hospitality restaurant had great staff and lovely food.

When it was time to leave we were shown to the lift. We managed to find a way back to the mobility point. To add insult to injury, they have Riding For The Disabled collecting donations when you leave! The equipment had to be dropped at the same point as earlier so again meant a long walk back to the taxi rank, at least we were lucky enough that the gentlemen who ran the hire company was incredibly kind and walked with us to the main car park which led to a much shorter walk to the taxis. After a long wait, we eventually chose to use the bus.

I emailed the Racecourse to complain and got a rather lacklustre response explaining the “system” and blaming it on a communication error. I replied that I didn't think this was an acceptable excuse and still saw no form of empathy. They offered compensatory tickets for a different day next year in an enclosure, that with my disability would be inaccessible. I replied once again (with a slightly savage) response that I worked for roughly 10 years in luxury hospitality and would be more than happy to travel two hours from Surrey to advise them on how to “treat” their disabled guests. I copied in two regional directors and got no acknowledgement from either of them. I even said how my experience was a crushing disappointment after such a horrid year previously.

We have booked hospitality for the same day next year. Here's hoping its a better experience (watch this space)!

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