A Day at Fakenham Races  The National Hunt isn’t one of my favourite codes of racing. In fact, beyond the odd venture to Huntingdon, heading to Norfolk, one of two tracks in the county, the other one being on the North Sea coast at Great Yarmouth, I’m a complete novice to steeplechases, hurdles and flat races.

I was looking forward to going to Fakenham.

I was invited by my cousin, Danny, and a small group of friends including, Kevin, Dave Smith and Buster. The journey by car took us from our home town of March, Cambridgeshire to Fakenham via the A47. The trip took just over an hour.

We arrived about an hour before the start of racing to a very rural location with a crowd that looked like they come off the farm with associated apparel and army of Wellington boots. I was struck by how cold it was. In fact, it was freezing cold. The course allowed dogs on leads and I saw a greyhound that couldn’t stop shivering.

Thinking about the date of this meeting it was many years back in 2015, the final season of jockey A.P. McCoy. He was there racing that day and there was a buzz around the course. The man himself was enjoying the moment with racegoers taking photos while others got their racecard signed.

Fakenham has 11 fixtures each season.

The Grandstand & Paddock admission from £15 – £20 (booking online in advance is cheapest) and affordable. For that you get:

  • Access to the Grandstand viewing area

  • View of all the parade ring

  • Bookmakers

  • Tote facilities

  • Food outlets

  • Trade stands

  • Licensed bar

  • Britbet Betting Shop

The course is left-handed and almost square in shape and a circuit of about one mile. The steeplechase course is on the outside of the hurdle course and six hurdles per circuit with an open ditch as the penultimate obstacle.

The first meeting at Fakenham took place in 1905 attracting 37 runners. However, in 1926 hurdle races were introduced as the number of steeplechases dwindled.

In 1965 with fears that Fakenham may be closed, the formation of Fakenham Racecourse Ltd led to the qualification of funding from the Levy Board. In addition, part of the racecourse was leased for sports facilities including a golf course.

I can’t remember the horses that run on my visit to Fakenham or whether I placed a bet but I do remember enjoying a great day with good company. I guess I’m not alone with that opinion considering it has received royal patronage from King Edward VII to King Charles III who become patron of the course in 2000. In fact, the 1 million pound members’ stand is named ‘The Prince of Wales Stand’.

It was soon time to go home but not before going into the old Long Bar (which has now been replaced by The Adrian Flux Bar) as much to warm up as have a pint of beer.

Soon after the last race, we made our way to the car and back home.

It was the first and last time I went to Fakenham races but I would like to go again. Even on the coldest day it has a warm feel about the place and there is something truly beautiful about this little course.

I didn’t get the autograph of A P McCoy but I saw the joy of a crowd who witnessed a racing legend.

As John McCririck used to say: ‘Go racing!’

How right he was.

Doctor, Doctor: At The Races  Is there a doctor in the house?

No, he’s at Fakenham racecourse doing his job on a cold, winter’s day.

You may have been to a racecourse meeting, watching the horses walk around the paddock, owners and trainers chatting with excitement about the race to come, and mingled in the crowd is someone with a medical bag, observing all and sundry, especially the jockeys.

You notice someone with an armband which details Doctor!

It’s no surprise to find a doctor is an important part of proceedings, in fact the meeting wouldn’t even go ahead if the medical provisions weren’t in place.

In fact, it is a legal requirement for at least one ambulance, doctor and vet to be on course at all times in case there is an injury to jockey or spectator. As a business, it would be a requirement to cover public liability with health and safety measures.

But what is the role of a doctor at the racecourse?

The doctor oversees the medical facilities ensuring the racecourse is properly equipped so staff can handle injuries and emergencies. These must comply with racing regulation set out by the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) and other relevant bodies.

It is important that lines of communication are clear with racing officials, trainers, jockeys and stakeholders to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved.

The major roles of the doctor include:

  • Emergency response to administer immediate first aid and stabilise injured individuals and make decision whether to transport an injured person to hospital.

  • Pre-race assessment of jockeys to ensure they are fit to ride and check injuries or illness that could affect their safety.

  • The doctor may be involved in the collection of blood or urine samples regarding drug testing (also alcohol) to ensure participants adhere to the rules and regulations of the sport.

  • If injuries occur concussion protocols are in place to determine if a jockey is fit to continue racing.

  • In addition, the doctor may need attend injuries or illness of spectators.

  • The doctor has to liaise with other medical professionals such as paramedics, nurses to provide comprehensive medical care and swift response to emergencies.

The role of the doctor at British horse racing fixtures is crucial for the safety of everyone whether jockey or member of the public. They often go unnoticed but play an important role in the health and safety, ready to respond instantly and with professionalism.

Sid James Betting: What A Carry On  Who doesn’t enjoy a Carry On Film?

True, in this modern day they may be a little close to the knuckle with outrageous innuendo and a sprinkling of sexism. The Carry On franchise ran from 1958 – 1992. This British comedy saw 31 films. Produced by Peter Rogers and directed by Gerald Thomas, a regular cast of stars included favourites Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtry, Barbara Windsor and Sid James.

One of my favourite films is Carry On At Your Convenience made in 1971. Sid James played Sid Plummer who worked at WC Boggs’ Lavatory factory in a time of industrial action and strikes. I remember the film had a gambling slant as the pet budgie, Joey, had the knack of tipping winning horses until Benny The Bookie (turf accountant) closed his account.

Sid Plummer said: ‘What kind of sportsman are you?’

Benny replied: ‘If I was a sportsman I’d be riding the horse!’

Anyway, it seems Sid James was a gambling man who wasn’t afraid to have a bet.

He loved to bet on the horses.

However, he was a gambling addict and largely unsuccessful. In fact, he lost ten of thousands over his lifetime. He was so prone to a bet that he asked his agent Michael Sullivan not to tell his wife how much he was earning so she wouldn’t know about his gambling losses.

In fact, James was notoriously tight-fisted because he was often in debt or looking to bet on the next ‘sure thing’.

He also loved to drink whisky and favourite brand Cutty Sark. By all accounts, it was his favourite because it was free!

Often referred to as a gentleman who loved the three ‘Bs’: Booze, Birds and Betting.

It was known that James would look for the next ‘bung’ and cash in hand to keep it from the tax man or suspicious wife. To get free cases of scotch he’d place brands on set or add unscripted mentions in broadcasts.

Sid James starred in 20 Carry On films.

He passed away on 26th April 1976 aged 62.