Race will aid wounded soldiers

It's a case of “horses for forces” for a charity race meeting which has changed its fundraising emphasis to help rehabilitate wounded British soldiers.

It's a case of “horses for forces” for a charity race meeting which has changed its fundraising emphasis to help rehabilitate wounded British soldiers.

Fakenham Racecourse will stage its eleventh annual amateurs' race at its meeting on Friday, February 19.

For the previous 10 years, the event has raised money for the Countryside Alliance and bolstered awareness of country sports and rural issues.

But this year the race proceeds will be split with the forces charity Help for Heroes under the meeting's re-branded title of the Countryside and Forces Raceday.

Clerk of the course David Hunter said: “The countryside, country sports and racing have always had a close affinity with the armed forces and this year we thought we would combine things.

“I hope that the nature of the race meeting will remind the government of the lunacy of the hunting bill and the crucial role that Help for Heroes plays in plugging the financial gap when it comes to providing the first class aftercare and rehabilitation which injured members of our armed forces receive.”

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The charity race goes off at noon which is, for the fourth year running, being sponsored by Ames Nissan from Thetford.

Also, for this year only, there are some changes to the race conditions, the most notable being that all 12 riders are retired East Anglian point to point riders.

David Hunter explained: “I had a number of suggestions as to how this year's race could be different and the one that stood out was confining it to ex-point to point jockeys, thus giving them a chance to saddle up and race for one last time!

“Consequently, we have increased the carried weight to 13� stone and have extended the race to two miles.

“They are a competitive bunch, so be prepared to see a hard fought race by some well-known names from the past.

“We first ran this race 11 years ago and we are delighted that it has gone from strength to strength and is proving to be a very popular event with riders and the racing public.

“Each rider has to find a suitable horse, raise a minimum of �1,000 sponsorship and get themselves and their horse fit.

Once again we are extremely grateful to Brian King and Ames Nissan for their continued sponsorship of the race and to the East Anglian Point to Point Association for their help and support of the event”.

One rider who is particularly keen to get back in the saddle is Lt Guy Disney, an officer based at Swanton Morley with the Light Dragoons.

Lt Disney lost the lower half of his right leg last summer when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his patrol vehicle in Afghanistan.

Before his injury he rode point-to-point races for Norfolk trainer Nibby Bloom, who will compete against him in the charity ride.

He said: “This will be my first time riding in a race since I lost part of my leg.

“The training has been going very well and I have had a specially-made 'riding limb' fitted to my leg. It will be a tough, highly competitive race and I am particularly looking forward to being upsides and trying to beat my friend and point to point governor Nibby Bloom.”

In October, Lt Disney joined Toni Terry, wife of England football captain John Terry, in promoting a fundraising horse-race at Ascot.

Fakenham's amateurs' race has grown in popularity during the last 10 years and has raised more than �160,000 in total for charity.

The Countryside Alliance will spend much of its share of this year's windfall to fund the Countryside Education Day for Norfolk school children at Stody Estate on May 12.

Help for Heroes will use its share to help injured servicemen and women through their rehabilitation and healing.

The six women and six men taking part are: Annie Bowles, Caroline Fryer, Gi Dangibau, Hannah Barnard, Mike Skinner, Malcolm Kemp, Neil King, Nibby Bloom, Penny Stearn, Guy Disney, Chris Lawson and Jenny Knights.

Last year's race raised over �12,000, and well in excess of �160,000 has been raised in total by the race over the last 10 years.

The West Norfolk Foxhounds will parade on the course in front of the grandstands at 12.30 pm. The first of seven National Hunt races is off at 1.25pm. The cost of admission is: Members �18; grandstand & paddock �13, course enclosure �8 per adult with children 16 and under free.

Donations can be made to either cause by writing a cheque to Norfolk Countryside Alliance or Help for Heroes and sending it to David Hunter, The Racecourse, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 7NY.