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Fakenham looks to the future as racing season is brought to early end



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Officials at Fakenham Racecourse are looking ahead to next season after their current programme of fixtures was brought to a premature end this week.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that National Hunt racing will not resume until at least July 1 because of the coronavirus situation.

And that means the Norfolk National card on May 5 and the ever popular Ladies Day meeting on May 31 will be lost, along with the traditional Easter Monday fixture.

Racing at Fakenham will not resume until this autumn after National Hunt fixtures were suspended until at least July 1.
Racing at Fakenham will not resume until this autumn after National Hunt fixtures were suspended until at least July 1.

Chief executive David Hunter said: "We've lost two of our biggest meetings. It's a very big blow but every business is taking a knock."

He revealed a number of the course's staff have already been put on the government's furlough scheme, through which they will continue to receive 80 per cent of their salary during the shutdown period, and thanked them for their understanding of the situation.

But, with no racing now planned until at least October, he does feel Fakenham is in a better position than some courses, particularly those which run a full programme of jumps fixtures through the summer.

Top jockey Richard Johnson fell at the last in the 2019 Norfolk National
Top jockey Richard Johnson fell at the last in the 2019 Norfolk National

He said: "It's challenging, as it is for any business, but I feel we're as well prepared as we can be."

The loss of the May fixtures means the annual programme of off-season work on the track can begin earlier than it otherwise would have done.

And, unlike its world-famous Aintree equivalent, which was cancelled last month ahead of its scheduled running today, there is a possibility that the Norfolk National could be run later in the year, though that would be subject to BHA approval.

Mr Hunter said: "If the Norfolk National doesn't happen in 2020, it will just be one of those years and we'll go great guns for it next year."



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