Queen Vic tumbled – but I wouldn’t bet against a showing at Cheltenham

Fakenham Races, Victoria Pendleton taking part in the Betfair Switching Saddles Grassroots Fox Hunters Chase at 4.10 
Wearing Red/White/Black ANL-160220-092026009
Fakenham Races, Victoria Pendleton taking part in the Betfair Switching Saddles Grassroots Fox Hunters Chase at 4.10 Wearing Red/White/Black ANL-160220-092026009

Wensum, by Jim Harding, March 1

It was half-term week for a start which meant that with free entry for accompanied children the course was bustling, considering it was a coldish February afternoon. Maybe such a concession would be good for other sporting organisations.

After the first three races on the card a couple of auctions were held in support of a charity venture by Richard Farquar. This remarkable man is walking his way some 3,000 miles around the UK to visit all 61 racecourses and is not far away from his goal now. Fakenham was track number 54, just a couple of days ahead of his previous stop at Great Yarmouth.

Richard spoke eloquently about the two charities closest to his heart, Pancreatic Cancer UK and Racing Welfare. He lost his father to pancreatic cancer in 2012, a disease from which he said there was only a 1 in 5 chance of surviving beyond a year. As for the walk itself he described it as ‘the most enjoyable and fulfilling 12 months of my life’. One of the auctions was for a private visit to the Royal Stud at Sandringham and lunch at The Crown Inn, East Rudham. The other for a visit to Newmarket trainer Lucy Wadham’s stables to watch her string of horses out on the gallops. Plus joining her for a day at Fakenham races.

The two auctions raised over a thousand pounds between them which will be added to the more than £300,000 which Richard has thus far collected on his marathon.

Of course there was no doubting who was the main attraction at the course on that particular day. When cycling gold medal Olympian Victoria Pendleton announced her entry in the Fox Hunters Chase, riding champion trainer Paul Nichol’s horse Pacha Du Polder, there was inevitably bound to be some sort of media frenzy. Normally our race meetings draw two or three photographers but I counted more than thirty packed into the parade ring prior to the race itself.

In the circumstances the lady herself stayed very composed as the pack drew ever closer as she spoke to connections before the off. As we all know by now, things failed to go according to plan. After settling her horse into a good rhythm over the first mile she was unseated at the fence right in front of the main stands and took a sprawling tumble. Again I thought how well she dealt with the press conference immediately afterwards, assuring the doubters out there that whilst very disappointed and suffering from a ‘bruised ego’ more than anything else, ‘this isn’t going to put me off’. In a nutshell she let us all know that she absolutely loves riding horses and will continue working out with them every day.

For what it’s worth, her plan to take part in the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham next month does appear to be in jeopardy. I’d be surprised if she made it. But then she’s an Olympian and as such a bit different to ordinary mortals.

n Nominations are invited for the town council’s annual community volunteer award shield. This was initiated more than ten years ago by former mayor Alan Tickle to recognise individuals giving their services with no thought of reward but with the intention of helping others locally. It might be someone in a youth club, a church, a nursing home, a club or involved with a charity. Nominees must live in Fakenham and provide their voluntary work in the town. If you have anyone in mind please get in touch with town clerk Linda Jennings at Fakenham Connect, Oak Street NR21 9DM, phone 01328 853653 or email info@fakenhamtowncouncil.co.uk The closing date for applications is March 31.