Fakenham Racecourse

Roving Report: It’s beginning to look a lot like Fakers

December’s a quiet time, isn’t it? Not a lot going on, not much to do, writes David Massey. Not from a racing point of view, anyway. The days are short, which means earlier start times, which means getting up at the crack of dawn to get there, which means an early night the evening before, and usually abstaining from the bottles and bottles of Christmas booze you’ve bought for the festive period. Unless you want to work on the pitch with a sore head all day. And I don’t. 

I’ll be doing Kempton Silver Ring next week. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever worked a pitch on King George Day, so that’ll be exciting. What’s less exciting is the 5.45am alarm call to get there in time. I’ll let you know how that goes in my next missive. 

Southwell being as it is at the moment - no public, and there won’t be any for the near future, either - means my services are not always currently required at my local. It’s very quiet there, and for a recent meeting that kicked off around 11.20am, we were actually able to count the people attending (around 50) as we sat upstairs, keeping warm. 

I have, at least, had more time on my hands to go racing and get some notes down. Last week I went to Leicester, to have a look to see how Apple Away was progressing. I don’t mind a trip to Leicester, although for a track that’s only 35 miles from me, it seems to take ages to get there. Once you come off the M1, you’re in a world of pain; Fosse Park retail traffic to start with, then a whole series of traffic lights, bottlenecks and roundabouts before you get to the track. There’s not a lot to look at, either; no rolling Cotswolds to keep you calm, merely a series of Chinese takeaways, tanning salons, and Betfreds. 

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The one thing I do miss about Leicester is Reg’s Beef Rolls. An absolute must in the winter months, lovely tender beef mopped up in gravy in a massive bap, all for the bargain price of a fiver. There was always a queue. 

That aside, Leicester is a perfectly nice day out. Apple Away was very good, and looks to be improving. Come the end of the day I had a little chat with Jonjo O’Neill about his in the last. Talking to Jonjo always brings a smile to your face. He gives nothing away. 

“Did you find a reason why he ran so poorly at Newbury, Jonjo?”

Jonjo looks at the horse, looks at me, and looks at the horse again. 

“Which one is this?” he says to the lass, pointing at it. I burst out laughing. 

“It’s Regal Blue”, she says. “Nothing came to light.”

“I don’t think he liked Newbury much”, says Jonjo. “Anyway, he’ll win today.” 

I’m just confused and laughing. Forty seconds ago he didn’t know which horse it was! 

He actually ran a good race, finishing third and running much better. I think he’ll win one soon. 

It was also a great pleasure to meet Malcolm Heyhoe and his partner at Leicester, both there for a day out. I’m sure older readers will remember Malcolm’s columns in the Guardian and Weekender, among others; we had a lovely chat and it turns out Malcolm’s a fan of these Geegeez scribblings. I look forward to bumping into them again in the near future.

Next stop was Cheltenham, at the weekend. On Friday I was free, so was able to do some useful paddock notes and enjoy myself, but Saturday I’d already committed to working on the rails. I found myself next to the ever-jovial Pinno, who had clearly been working on the joint I was on on the Friday. There’s always an easy way to tell; Pinno is the most untidy bookie you’ll come across. All of the previous day’s ripped-up tickets and newspaper were still in the hod, now wet from a bit of rain, and you have to clear them out before you can start. One of these days I’ll charge him for cleaning services. He always calls me “Davey Boy”; “what do you like here, Davey Boy?”, “can we get this jolly beat, Davey Boy?”, “not a lot of business about, Davey Boy”, that sort of thing. I like working next to him, he’s always good fun. 

Saturday was not busy. I was taking in the region of 600-700 a race on the rail, steady but nothing outstanding, The biggest bet I took all day was a 1000-200 Nurse Susan in the last, which won, and that sort of tells you how the whole day went. Over the 14 races on the Friday and Saturday, there were eight winning favourites and the biggest priced winner was 9-1 (Madara, I even managed to take a 900-100 that as well), and not many books were smiling as they headed to the car parks at four o’clock.  

And finally, lovely Fakenham on Tuesday. Sadly for me, my lift bailed after he’d seen the weather forecast of rain all day, so I had to drive myself on the 250-mile round trip. It’s a good job I actually like driving! 

I always keep Google Maps on to update me of any potential issues and one cropped up on the A17 near Sleaford. A lorry had come off the road and gone over into an embankment; it was lucky there was a large hedge there or he’d have gone fully over. I just about managed to creep by the accident, only to hear on the radio ten minutes later the road had been closed. That would have been game over as far as getting to Fakenham went. I often see accidents like that while on my travels and am always grateful not to be in them. 

Around 9.40 I was getting peckish and fancied a bacon sandwich, so was pleased to spy a “Hot Food Next Layby” sign near Sleaford. However, on pulling up the guy had already packed up and was preparing to tow his wares away! Either he’d had a jackpot morning or people don’t eat bacon sandwiches on the road after half nine anymore, it seems. A couple of miles down the road was “Michelles” in another layby, and she did provide an excellent bacon roll. All’s well that ends well, and I’m back on the road with a decent cup of tea to boot. 

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At Fakenham, I’m working with the lovely Julie for the S&D firm and we have a fun afternoon, despite the rain. Plenty of locals have turned up and although it’s mainly small money, it’s busy enough, and the firm wins nicely on the day. Just as well, as my petrol expenses, having driven myself, are on the high side. Plus the bacon roll. The rest of the firm are off to the local Wetherspoons for their dinner, whereas I have the three-hour drive home.

The sky is a beautiful red and, as it starts to turn dark to the west and the light disappears, the colours begin to clash and I manage to get a picture as the last of the daylight goes.

I haven’t got an arty bone in my body, but I do like the snap I managed to take. I hope you do too.

On that note, I’d like to wish all Geegeez readers a merry (and profitable) Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you all in 2024! 

- Dave M

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3 replies
  1. pfebrey
    pfebrey says:

    many thanks for the posts this year Dave, always a great read and insight.
    Agree about Barry Pinno, always found him a nice chap at the races. Good luck in the Silver Ring!

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