Unlike babies, not all dreams are perfect...

Ber Baby.jpg

The baby has arrived and Lauren weighed in on Friday morning at a very healthy 4.17kg. For US and older readers that converts to an even more healthy 9 lbs 4ozs; now I really do feel guilty for letting the diminutive Ber take those (great) photos in the snow two weeks ago. In case you’re wondering, I have no idea how many inches long Lauren is; they measure this for some reason in the States but I don’t think they do in more advanced nations.

Bernard, one of my racing friends, wanted to comment on the “is that a jockey on his back?” blog I think he got it into his head that this was a duelling blog competition because he seems to have written his own blog – here’s a link Bernard’s Blog and tell me if you think he’s excited or not.

I spent a long time on the last blog talking about why Cheltenham means so much to me; it does, but that doesn’t mean that everything about the Cheltenham experience is wonderful. Actually, everything is wonderful until you have occasion to deal with the management team and then it can go downhill very quickly.

What’s provoked this negative line of thinking and brought back some bad memories is my recent request for high-resolution images for this web site. I explained the concept, gave them an early alpha version to look at and asked for some images of the parade ring, crowd scenes and action photos from the Festival. I naively felt that this would be mutually beneficial; I would get the photos and they would get the support of a website subtly entitled Cheltenham Dream. The girl I spoke to was great and immediately sent four photos; admittedly two were of the Open meeting but I was grateful for anything. I incorporated them on the home page of the site and, when the site was finished, sent a note to her boss praising her responsiveness, explaining what the website was all about and offering to let him use the website in any way he saw fit. I attached the link and sat back to await his eager response. Within three minutes I had it and opened the email expecting to see either an ‘Out of Office’ message or barely contained excitement from the Regional Head of Marketing. The response I received was a little deflating (and, trust me, living in Boston I know more about deflation that I ever wanted to) as Matthew Foxton-Duffy wrote:

"Looks good, not sure how I can help further unless you want to let the horse run in Cheltenham racecourse colours!"

Hmmm! Not what I was hoping for and, possibly a touch arrogant don’t you think. I had earlier that day seen a great photo on the Cheltenham website which was exactly what I had asked for initially; I fired off an email to the girl who had sent the original photos and asked if I could get a hi-res version of this photo. The answer came back two minutes after Mr. Foxton-Duffy’s email:

Would have been nice on the front page, eh?  

Would have been nice on the front page, eh?  

"Sadly I have issued all the images that are available to the public FOC"

I genuinely believe she was sad; I’d be sad if I worked in that department. I felt a sense of sadness myself; all those years of managing businesses and the Marketing 101 course I took in 1996 – all apparently wasted as I clearly have no idea about marketing. I am also sad that I can’t use this photo – you would have loved it!

This type of attitude and poor customer service is something you get used to if you deal with Cheltenham long enough. I had been a member for 20 years when they first introduced that badge plus ticket policy. This requires that not only do you need a metal Member’s badge but also a paper ticket than can be scanned. I assume this is to stop Members passing their badges through the railings to a friend who would then walk in wearing it (not much trust there) Anyway, in the first year of this policy I had come over from the States, picked up my Badge from my parent’s house and only realized, lying in bed in Cheltenham on Tuesday morning, that I did not have the paper ticket with me. In my excitement and anticipation of the racing to come I decided that if I were to take my passport, explain I had come 3000 miles, that a friend was bringing down the other tickets on Wednesday and , just generally, use my charm then, surely, I would be let straight in. That would be a No! I was told I would have to buy a Tatts badge to get in and then I could use my Member’s badge when inside; this would cost 40 pounds but I could send off for a refund (5-6 week processing time) if I ‘ever found the ticket’ (they added with rolling eyes)

Maybe they recognized me from two years earlier when they actually called security and made me feel ‘this big’. See if you think the security guy was necessary: I stay in Cheltenham and walk to the course so there is no point in going through the frustration of parking and then exiting the course every day. On this occasion I wanted to go on Gold Cup day (Friday) but planned for a quick getaway and so was considering parking my car on the                                                                                                                         course. The conversation went like this:

Me:                                                    Do you have any Member’s Car Park Labels still available?

Friendly person:                           Yes, we do

Me                                                     Great! How much for tomorrow? (they were 50 pounds for the week)

Maybe not so friendly person:  Fifty pounds

Me                                                     But that’s what I would have paid for the whole week. Surely you can give me a                                                            discount?

Definitely not friendly person:  Take it or leave it

Me                                                      Can I speak to a manager please?

They refused, I asked again and then, before I knew it, I was being asked by security to leave the office. Trust me when I say I am pretty easygoing and never look for trouble so this was mortifying for me. No sooner was I standing outside than a Customer Service rep came up to me, listened to my story, disappeared for two minutes and came back with a complimentary Car Park Label..and then spent five minutes apologizing with a long suffering look in her eye; it was almost as if the Front Office staff had behaved like this before!

Once again, the juxtaposition of wonderful racing and the ‘out of touch’ nature of the people who administrate it was shown in stark contrast. I do believe they are making some progress but it’s clear some of the old attitudes still exist.

All of that whining and yet there is no way (health issues aside) that I will ever miss the Festival. It’s only five weeks away and only three weeks before the initial entries for the Bumper have to be in. I will probably be in touch with Peter this week to see where we are and will post whatever he tells me; we will also have to start thinking about a jockey soon. I am still living in a state of paranoia that we won’t get into the race but am trying to be optimistic. There are a couple of good Bumpers this weekend at Newbury and Naas and I really hope they beat the frost. From my point of view, it’s much better for good horses to run against each other as, hopefully, the trainers of the beaten horses will get disillusioned and decide not to enter the Bumper and/or the handicapper will downgrade the horse’s rating. If the meeting was abandoned they could still think they have got a superstar and enter the horse anyway. You see, there are way too many dreamers in the horse racing world – we need some reality! I can wait until March for my reality and, in the meantime, still dream what that reality will actually be!