Inspection at Fakenham racecourse

Ian Clarke The fate of tomorrow's race meeting at Fakenham will hinge on a morning inspection after more wintry weather was predicted to hit the circuit tonight.

Ian Clarke

The fate of tomorrow's race meeting at Fakenham will hinge on a morning inspection after more wintry weather was predicted to hit the circuit tonight.

The course was considered raceable at 3pm this afternoon after last night's ground frost thawed but, with more sleet and snow forecast, officials will await the outcome of another inspection at 7am before they know if the meeting can go ahead.

If the ground fails the test, it will mean the cancellation of the National Hunt programme and an amateur's race in aid of the Countryside Alliance and local charities.

On a brighter note, Fakenham yesterday learned it will get an extra race meeting on Friday February 27.

Speaking about the prospects for tomorrow, clerk of the course David Hunter said: “All I can say is that the frost we had this morning is out of the ground but the forecast temperature is for zero or minus one tonight.

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“We would pretty much be racing this afternoon but we have a forecast of sleet and snow possibly coming down tonight so we will be having another inspection in the morning.

“They have forecast possibly between three and five millimetres of sleet or snow which may get to us. In the morning we are going to see where we are and it depends what, if anything, we get of this bad weather.

“If we don't pass the inspection and there is no racing, nothing will happen tomorrow. We will have to reschedule the charity race for another day.”

Officials were particularly keen for tomorrow's meeting to go ahead as it would be the tenth Countryside Counts Raceday at which country sports are put firmly on the racing agenda. It falls four years to the day after the government's ban on hunting with hounds was introduced.

Amateur jockeys ranging from a teenager to a man in his 50s would be among 10 riders competing in the amateur's race, run over the flat over one-and-a-half miles.

The riders are all from East Anglia and ride regularly - but with little race-riding experience.

Among those due to compete is greyhound trainer Julie Green, of Yaxham, near Dereham and proceeds from Julie's fund-raising will do directly to the Great Yarmouth Homefinders, the only national charity dedicated to finding homes for greyhounds once their racing days are over.

The youngest scheduled rider is 16-year-old Stuart Higgins from Erpingham in North Norfolk, riding Alfie Atkins from Tina Hayward's point to point yard. The oldest competitor would be 54-year-old Ed Howard, riding Lucy Babe from trainer George Prodromou's South Norfolk yard.

Other entrants are hairdresser and musician, John Sparrowhawk from East Harling, show jumper Lisa Declerk, of Griston, near Watton, student Lucia Kendall, of Beccles, Riding for the Disabled instructor, Adam Head, of Upwell, near Wisbech, assistant bloodstock agent Tori Tremlett and Newmarket work rider Sophie Silvester.

Fakenham chief executive David Hunter said of the event: “I first ran this amateur race nine years ago and I am delighted that it has gone from strength to strength and is proving to be a very popular event with riders and the general public.”

Each rider has to find a suitable horse and raise a minimum of �750 sponsorship.

Last year's race raised �12,000, of which �6,000 went to the Norfolk Countryside Alliance and in excess of �150,000 has been raised in total during the past decade.

Depending on the outcome of the inspection, the amateur race is due to start at 12 noon with the National Hunt programme starting at 1.25pm.