Fakenham forced to abandon meeting after opening race

Racing was abandoned at Fakenham on Wednesday after two horses slipped and fell on the same bend in the opening Maiden Hurdle over two miles.

Horses and riders were uninjured and the race was completed but it was decided to carry out an inspection on the track.

This was led by stewards, racecourse manager David Hunter and the jockeys concerned, Sean Bowen and Ciaran Gethings. Immediately after, a public announcement declared that the remainder of the meeting would be abandoned for safety reasons.

Fakenham has now lost the first two of its fixtures this season, the previous one on October 20 called off prior to the start due to waterlogged ground.

The next scheduled meeting is on Tuesday, November 21 when the first race is due off at 12.20pm.

Hunter said: “We had a very heavy rain storm, a bit more than a shower, just as jockeys were getting onto their horses.

“That is what has caused the problem, that deluge of rain onto quite lush grass.

“It didn’t have a chance to get into the ground and it just created slippiness on the ground. We had to be pragmatic and it’s a very sad day for Fakenham as I’ve never had anything like this in 27 years of racing.

“It’s desperate but we had to do what is right for jockey and horse welfare. Had the rain arrived half-an-hour earlier it would have soaked into the ground, we’d have been riding on soft ground and horses would have been able to get their toe in.”

The first and only race, the Sculthorpe ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle, was won by odds-on favourite Roger Pol ridden by Gavin Sheehan for trainer Jamie Snowden.

His main rival, Call The Dance, under Nico de Boinville for Nicky Henderson was second at 13/8.

Winning jockey Gavin Sheehan said: “It’s like an ice rink. It’s not ideal but I ran the track beforehand and I advised we might chuck down a bit of sand, just to prevent something like this.

“With that rain, it’s probably made it even worse, and I think we need to go in and have a little chat and see what’s going on.

“I was slipping going into hurdles and I just slipped going into the bend at the second last. We’ve got such a gallop round there that you can’t afford to be slipping and sliding.”