Fakenham Racecourse Guide

Starting Line at Fakenham
Starting Line at Fakenham (Richard Humphrey / geograph.org.uk)

With ties to the Royal Family, there is a certain charm about the small racecourse at Fakenham that few can match. The Queen Mother attended in both 1981 and again in 2000. According to course chairman at the time, Andrew Don, it was a place she had a real soft spot for.

Fakenham is the only National Hunt course in Norfolk and one of just two in East Anglia. While most of its meetings fall within the normal jump season, there are usually a couple of racedays in the summer months for those who just can’t be without.

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Map

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The Course

The left handed course at Fakenham is a very tight one, almost square in shape with four sharp bends per circuit. The tightness of the track makes it more suited towards handier types rather than gallopers. Front runners also tend to fare better, not only do they get the best position around the tight bends but they don’t have to defend a lead for long down such a short-run in.

The hurdles track features one hurdle down each of the four straights while there are six fences, including one with an open ditch on chase track. Obstacles are spaced along undulating ground which only adds to the tricky nature of the course. Something else to be wary of is that the actual ground underfoot is sometimes more testing than the official going would indicate. All bundled together, it is safe to say that a previous course win at Fakenham is certainly something to look out for.

Major Races

One of Fakenham’s most anticipated races is its Silver Cup which takes place in the spring. It’s one of only a few Class 3 races Fakenham hosts during the year and the two mile, three furlong hurdle race pays out over £10,000 in prize money.

The Silver Cup is not quite Fakenham’s most valuable race however, that would be the demanding Norfolk National. Run over a distance of three miles and five furlongs, it’s a real test of endurance for all those involved. Other notable Class 3 handicaps at Fakenham include the Ladies Day Handicap Chase and David Keith Memorial Handicap Chase. Whilst none of these are really big races on a national or international level, they are certainly great days to visit the track.

Visiting

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The Winning Post at Fakenham (Richard Humphrey / geograph.org.uk)

While probably not worthy of making a long trip to visit, if you happen to be nearby then Fakenham can treat you to a very pleasant racing experience.

Useful Info

Dress Code

No official dress code applies at Fakenham but there are a few recommendations. Smart casual clothing is preferred in most areas, with more formal wear (suit or a jacket) preferred in the members’ area or hospitality suites.

There are many areas of grass at the racecourse so it’s wise to wear appropriate footwear in the winter. On Ladies Day, racegoers are encouraged to dress up for the occasion with suit and tie for the gents and smart dresses for the ladies.

Ticket Prices

Course Enclosure tickets are £10 per person and here you have access to bookmakers, food outlets, a licensed bar and seafood restaurant. Grandstand & Paddock tickets will set you back £15 each and the last remaining is option is Day Member tickets at £20, which give you access to everywhere within the course.

Prices are the same for all racedays and children 17 or under receive free entry when accompanied by an adult. If booking early bird tickets online then you will receive a £2 discount per ticket but be aware that all online purchases carry a £2 transaction charge for the whole booking.

Membership

Annual membership at Fakenham is for the full calendar year and covers 13 individual race days. Single membership costs £145 and double membership is £225. There aren’t many extras included but you do receive a non-transferable pass for the members’ car park.

Getting There

Due to Fakenham’s fairly remote location, driving is the easiest way to get there. For the Pudding Norton Entrance, have the postcode NR21 7NA as your destination and NR21 7NY for the Jewsons Entrance.

The two nearest train stations from the course are Kings Lynn (20m) and Norwich (25m). The X8 bus service will take you to the racecourse from Kings Lynn and the X29 service from Norwich.

Parking

Free parking is available but you can upgrade to the members’ car park for a cost of £8 on the day or £6 if purchased several weeks in advance.

History

Horse Edeiff's Lad
Horse, Edeiff's Lad (Richard Humphrey / geograph.org.uk)

Regular heavy going at East Winch, near King’s Lynn, was becoming an issue for the West Norfolk Hunt whose race meeting had taken place there since 1884. The committee decided that a more suitable venue needed to be found and Fakenham was the place that was identified thanks to its lighter soil.

With the decision to switch formally made, Fakenham hosted its first meeting on Easter Monday, 1905. The day saw 37 horses in attendance which was a great turnout considering the difficulties travelling in such times. The change to Fakenham proved to be a popular one although it was forced to introduce a hurdles races in 1926 as numbers for the steeplechases were dwindling.

Racing Calendar

The Easter Monday meeting remained as Fakenham’s only fixture until 1947 when a raceday on Whitsun Bank Holiday Monday (now known as the Spring Bank Holiday) was introduced. It proved to be a hugely successfully addition to the racing calendar with 208 entries for the six races. Six years later and the original grandstand was built while the paddock was enlarged and parade ring moved.

Fakenham Racecourse Ltd was established in 1965 to ensure the racecourse could survive under the threat of closure due to financial troubles. The company qualified for Levy Board support and also leased part of the racecourse which then was used to develop a sports centre including a golf course and tennis courts.

Royal Sponsors

The Prince of Wales became a patron of the course on 1st January 2000, taking over from Her Majesty the Queen. As a result, Fakenham named their most extensive project, the £1m Members’ Stand after the prince himself. His Royal Highness personally opened the new stand in March 2002 while stating that he was “enormously touched to have been asked to become Patron of the Racecourse”.

Obviously, Fakenham cannot compete with other courses when it comes to size or class of racing. However, it has a unique charm, decent facilities and makes for a great day out at a reasonable cost.