Fakenham all set for New Year’s Day meeting
Fakenham clerk of the course David Hunter is confident their showpiece New Year's Day meeting will get the go ahead.
Hunter confirmed no track inspections are planned ahead of Saturday's six-race card at the north Norfolk circuit with the thaw firmly underway after a prolonged cold snap.
Fakenham's New Year's Day meeting earlier this year was abandoned due to frost and the track's December fixture was also cancelled – but Hunter revealed planning for the festive meeting is now in the final stages.
'We're all set for racing on Saturday,' he said. 'The frost has come out of the ground so we are quietly confident for what should be a great day's racing. The declarations will be confirmed on Friday but there is no doubt we should get some quality racing. I hope, I hope, the milder weather will stay although where I am it is starting to get cold again. We've had a lot of low mist and fog these last couple of days but where I am it is clear and unless the forecast doesn't run true then we have nothing planned in terms of an inspection.'
Hunter is optimistic of rivalling the 5,000 attendance for the track's inaugural New Year's Day fixture back in 2009.
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'We lost our meeting on December 12, which was disappointing, and certainly the industry as a whole has seen a lot of meetings lost in this last six week spell of bad weather,' he said. 'This is obviously one of our main meetings of the year and with the frustration of losing it to the frost earlier this year we want to get the go ahead. We had 5,000 or so here for the very first meeting we held on New Year's Day in 2009 and hopefully it will be that sort of crowd again – particularly if the weather stays onside. With the weather as it has been, people haven't really been able to get out and do anything, let along go racing.'
Hunter admitted the horse racing industry as a whole had been hit hard by the festive freeze which saw Kempton's prestigious Boxing Day King George VI race switched to January 15.
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'We've had a lot of entries, whether or not that has worked in our favour because trainers are desperate to get their horses running I don't know,' he said. 'The maximum runners we would have is 17 in any race but I hope for a decent number. I'm not sure if all the other fixtures planned for New Year's Day will be on. I guess Cheltenham will be on but I don't know about Catterick. That could be a tricky.
'It's been a truly miserable end to the year - not just for us but the whole industry. We'd actually had a good season here at Fakenham but all the frost and snow and the length of time we've had it, has taken its toll on the ground. This meeting in a lot of ways I guess is a new start for us for the year. A chance to recover and recuperate.'
Racegoers who purchased advance tickets for the abandoned December 12 will be able to use them for the New Year's Day meeting. First race: 12.30pm.