Fakenham Racecourse in good health as it prepares for it's racing return
Fakenham Racecourse boss David Hunter says he expects the track to survive for the foreseeable future as final preparations are made for its first meeting behind closed doors tomorrow.
Three of Fakenham's fixtures were postponed at the back end of last season due to the coronavirus pandemic and, after a prolonged break, racing is ready to return to the Norfolk venue on Friday afternoon.
Hunter, the track's chief executive and clerk of the course, has delivered an upbeat message on the eve of the new national hunt season - despite spectators not being allowed to attend because of social distancing guidelines.
He said: "There's no question of Fakenham struggling and we will ride the storm out.
"I'm confident there will be racing here for the whole of this season and many more seasons after that.
"We've had to change a lot of things in the circumstances and tighten our belts a little bit accordingly, but we are finally looking forward to hosting our first meeting."
The course is Covid safe, with buildings and facilities accommodating coronavirus protocols while race day staff have been trained in new procedures.
Hunter added: "It's extraordinary really as we are likely to have fewer people here than we've ever had in Fakenham's history, but we've had to work harder than ever before ahead of the meeting.
"We lost three very important fixtures last season and it was a real pain for the sport and the people of East Anglia as a whole. Since then, racing has got its act in order to deal with the pandemic.
"The sport has been racing behind closed doors since June. We've had to learn from other people and have attended other race meetings to see how they have been operating.
"We are looking forward to welcoming the professionals and trainers, along with the owners who we will cater for in a slightly different way."
Tomorrow's seven-race card has attracted some strong entries while the prize money on offer remains very healthy.
When their money is added to Horse Racing Betting Levy Board and British Horseracing Authority grants, each race meeting will offer over £60,000 in prize money.
The leading two contests have attracted plenty of runners with 14 declared for the 3.10pm handicap hurdle and nine for the handicap chase 30 minutes later.
"We've had a lot stronger entries than we've had for the corresponding meeting in previous years," admitted Hunter.
"Race prize money is essential for the well being of the sport and Fakenham has always proudly committed as much as it can to the pot.
"We're committed to putting £22,500 of our own money into the prize fund, which is about 75 per cent of what we were putting in pre-Covid times.
"There will be £60,000 of prize money on offer at each one of our meetings."
Hunter, who has described the going as 'perfect' following six of inches of rain since the middle of September, has asked the public to remain at home.
"We are bitterly disappointed that no members of the public or annual members are allowed to attend. We ask that people respect that and don't turn up on raceday as they will be turned away," he said.