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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Racing rallies to help son make terminally ill father's dream a reality

Harry Lucock (right) with his father three and a half years ago
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The racing industry's willingness to rally around and support their own has left a devastated family in Essex totally humbled after one man's dying wish became a reality overnight – thanks to the power of social media.

Harry Lucock, 20, tweeted on Sunday that his cancer-stricken father Stuart, 57, had made a bucket list after being informed on Friday his treatment was now classed as palliative.

Top of that list was to share a few pints of Guinness with the Irish at Cheltenham on the St Patrick's-themed Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival.

Harry, who attended the festival for the first time last year – on his own as his father was undergoing treatment at the time – made it his goal to get his father to Cheltenham.

He said: "That was his number one, so I really want to do it for him. Second or third on the list was Vegas, but I don't think anyone could afford his travel insurance given all his problems, so Cheltenham was more realistic."

What Lucock had not expected was the response from the racing industry. Local trainers Fergal O'Brien and Martin Keighley got in touch to suggest the pair paid a visit to their yard, while the track itself got in contact and the BHA offered the pair behind-the scenes access.

Lucock, who is a punter himself, focusing mostly on greyhounds and football, got his passion for racing from his father but never expected anything like the reaction his tweet received. 

"I wanted to get him there," he said. "He wanted to come with me last year but his treatment meant he couldn't. Now he's classed as terminal it's become something we really want to do. He's been to Cheltenham before, but not the festival, and Paddy's day was top of his list.

"He wants to sit around with the Irish having a Guinness and experiencing the atmosphere. Doing it by myself last year without him was the best and worst thing, but now the situation's got worse with him it's something I really want to do for him."

Lucock, who turns 21 this month and has been urged by his father not to put on hold plans to move to Cheshire this weekend for a new job opportunity, added: "I tweeted it because I don't like talking about it much as it gets to me, so it was a way of telling everyone at once. The response has been unbelievable.

"I've had various trainers and jockeys message me, the racecourse, it's been absolutely crazy. My dad sat there and read through most of them when I got home last night and it brought a tear to his eye, he was really taken aback.

"It's not just the racing community, general people I don't even know have messaged me out the blue saying they've gone through similar things with their family members, some of which are still here, some of which unfortunately aren't; it's hit home how together that sort of thing can bring people."

Lucock, whose mother worked in a betting shop before his father's illness was discovered five years ago after a stroke, added: "He's always watching At The Races, ITV and The Opening Show, the racing takes his mind off things. It's the be-all and end-all for him.

"It puts his mind at ease and without it I think he'd be struggling a lot more than he is. It keeps him going through the day, he does 20p lucky 15s and loves it. It's everything he wants to do."

Stuart suffered complications during rehab since his original thyroid cancer diagnosis and recently the cancer spread to his lymph nodes and lungs, and his son added: "Smoking for 35 years has caught up with him and he's now classed as in palliative care, another word for terminal. They haven't put a date on it, which I guess is a good thing.

"He's got so many things wrong with him, with arthritis and osteoporosis, but what that tweet's done and the power of social media is just incredible, he's more stunned than anyone.

"He's getting really excited. I told him how big it's got and he said to my mum yesterday, 'I'll have to get a bloody suit!'"

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He's always watching At The Races, ITV and the Opening Show, the racing takes his mind off things
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