Delights of Norfolk's racecourses: Great Yarmouth and Fakenham
PUBLISHED: 12:44 10 May 2019
Archant © 2018
Racing writer Terry Redhead on the different delights of the county's two racecourses
If you are a fan of horse racing, Norfolk is a perfect bet to win your affections. For in Great Yarmouth and Fakenham racecourses, Norfolk has winners in providing both codes of the sport; flat racing on the east coast and National Hunt racing in the north of the county.
Neither would claim to rival Ascot or Newmarket of the flat racing world or Cheltenham or Aintree of the jump racing scene, but both have traditions of providing exciting racing and excellent hospitality.
Great Yarmouth's season started with the first 2019 meeting on April 23. That will be the first of 23 meetings taking place before the end of October; 19 in the afternoon with four evening dates, including the popular Ladies' Night, on Wednesday, July 17.
Highlight of the season is the three-day festival on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, September 17, 18 and 19.
Owned by Arena Racing Company, Great Yarmouth attracts leading trainers and jockeys, particularly those based at Newmarket. I've seen, over many years, famous trainers like the late Sir Henry Cecil in the queue at the solitary ice cream van on a baking hot summer's day.
I've witnessed Frankie Dettori chased from parade ring to weighing room by youngsters and senior citizens, determined to snaffle an autograph or, nowadays, a selfie.
In very few sports can a mere spectator get so close to the stars of the show… and the horses themselves, of course.
While Great Yarmouth is preparing for its 2019 campaign, Fakenham is continuing its 2018/19 National Hunt season with the Snellings Norfolk National, the longest race of the Fakenham year, the highlight of Tuesday, May 7's meeting, before the season finale, Jarrold Ladies' Day, on Sunday, June 2.
The 2019/2020 season is under orders on Friday, October 18 with three more autumn and winter meetings before the course greets the New Year with its annual January 1 fixture in a programme which runs from October-June.
Like Great Yarmouth, Fakenham's reputation for excellent hospitality is respected throughout the racing world.
Again, the top trainers and leading jockeys are frequent visitors to a track, described to me by 20-times, now retired, champion jockey Sir AP McCoy as 'one of the friendliest courses' in the country.
On his last appearance there, I recall McCoy's chauffeur-driven BMW waiting for him to sign race cards and feature in selfies, for at least two hours before 'the greatest jockey' was able to 'escape' his army of supporters.
In racing terms Great Yarmouth and Fakenham are regarded as 'minor' rather than 'major' venues. That, however, is simply part of their charm and timeless appeal.