Fingers crossed for Fakenham races
Fakenham Racecourse is gearing up for its second New Year race meeting, and hoping for fair weather. David Hunter, managing director and clerk of the Fakenham course, said: 'We had a very successful meeting last January, with more than 5,000 people here on the first day.
Fakenham Racecourse is gearing up for its second New Year race meeting, and hoping for fair weather.
David Hunter, managing director and clerk of the Fakenham course, said: 'We had a very successful meeting last January, with more than 5,000 people here on the first day.
'With races at four other courses around the country on New Year's Day this year, only Cheltenham - a much bigger course - got a bigger attendance.
'This shows that we are filling a geographical gap and so we would hope that, at the end of our three-year contract with the British Horse Racing Authority in 2011, we'll be able to carry on for many more years.'
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The New Year's Day meeting is being run in conjunction with Heritage House, a Wells-based day centre for the elderly, underlining community links which are important to the racecourse organisers.
The course currently maintains strong links with Fakenham town through the sports centre and golf course on the site, as well as an established camping and carvanning area.
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On race days - 10 this year as well as a point-to-point for the West Norfolk Hunt - a full-time team of 11 staff is boosted to about 200, with many recruited locally.
In addition, the Prince of Wales stand is used on a regular basis for receptions, parties and conferences, supported by local catering.
'We're very grateful to all of our temporary staff for giving up their Bank Holiday to work at the course,' said Mr Hunter. 'From the gatemen to the medical staff there's a lot of behind the scenes people needed to put on an event like this.'
Racing at Fakenham on January 1 features six races, including four hurdles and two steeplechases. The first race starts at 12.40pm.
As a National Hunt course - the only one in Norfolk - Fakenham's season of jump races runs from the end of October to the end of the following May.
Fakenham can accommodate a maximum of 10 National Hunt meetings a season. The organisers believe any more race days would damage the course's light ground.
'Our New Year's Day meeting is a great opportunity for Fakenham Racecourse,' said Mr Hunter. 'It gives us a chance to show off all the good things that we do.
'But we do need racegoers to support us and come and have a great time. It's also important to remember that the racing is on January 1, and it's likely to be cold,' he said.
'I would recommend that racegoers get dressed up warm and comfortable with sensible footwear. 'There's nothing worse than being cold at these events.'