Amazingly, East Anglia has precious few racecourses.
The ‘home of racing’, Newmarket, is situated next door to Norfolk in Suffolk but this area of the country is about quality rather than quantity.
Check out the current racecourses in the area, the biggest races on offer, how the sport has changed there and more.
How Many Courses Are There in Norfolk?
As of now, only two racecourses are situated in Norfolk, and they are at opposite ends of the county; one up to the North West in Fakenham, and the other on the county’s East cost in Yarmouth.
Just down the road however is Newmarket which is the most important place for horse racing anywhere in the UK.
There is an even split in Norfolk between jumps racing and Flat racing, meaning year-round racing in the county between its two tracks (see below).
Racecourses in East Anglia
Across Norfolk and Suffolk, there are only three racecourses but with Newmarket included the quality of the action is top-notch.
These are the racecourses currently operating in the area:
Left-handed and near enough a square, the jumps track here is unique. Popular with the Royal Family, Fakenham is situated 33 miles from Norwich and just 18 from Sandringham.
Just 50 miles from Norwich across into Suffolk is the famed Newmarket Racecourse. Newmarket houses both the Rowley Mile and the July Course, hosting some of Britain’s top Group 1 races and handicap events. The area is also home to the National Stud.
Also known as Great Yarmouth Racecourse, this track is in Norfolk but remains popular with Newmarket-based trainers. The track is only 21 miles from Norwich out on the coast and features plenty of competitive Flat racing action right through the spring, summer and autumn.
Norfolk and Suffolk’s Major Races
Those in Norfolk, especially close to Norwich, can choose between jumps action in the colder months and Flat racing in the summertime. The best events in the county, run yearly are:
|Fakenham Silver Cup||Jumps||Fakenham||March||A 2-mile handicap hurdle.|
|David Keith Memorial Veterans’ Chase||Jumps||Fakenham||March/April||A three-miler, run on Easter Monday.|
|Norfolk National||Jumps||Fakenham||May||A 3-mile, 5-furlong handicap chase.|
|Handicap||Flat||Yarmouth||August||A good, Class 2 handicap over 1¼ miles.|
|John Musker Fillies’ Stakes||Flat||Yarmouth||September||A 1¼-mile Listed race for the fillies and mares.|
|Beckford Stakes||Flat||Yarmouth||October||A Listed race over 1¾ miles. Yarmouth also hosts many top-quality novice races.|
It should go without saying that Newmarket hosts some of the top races anywhere in Britain.
It’s easy enough for those in Norfolk to get to Newmarket’s tracks too.
Mentioning only their Group 1 events and top handicaps, these are the biggest races at Newmarket each year:
|2000 Guineas||May||1m Group 1 Classic for 3yo colts, the first Classic of the British season.|
|1000 Guineas||May||Equivalent of the 2000 Guineas, but for 3yo fillies.|
|Falmouth Stakes*||July||1m Group 1 for fillies and mares.|
|Bunbury Cup*||July||Top 7f handicap.|
|July Cup*||July||Major Group 1 sprint over 6 furlongs.|
|Cheveley Park Stakes||September||6f Group 1 for 2yo fillies, run during the Cambridgeshire meeting.|
|Middle Park Stakes||September||Equivalent of the Cheveley Park, this time for colts.|
|Cambridgeshire Handicap||September||Huge betting race, a 1m1f handicap.|
|Sun Chariot Stakes||October||1m Group 1 race for fillies and mares.|
|Fillies’ Mile||October||1m Group 1 race for 2yo fillies.|
|Dewhurst Stakes||October||7f Group 1 race for 2yo’s, the race which crowns the champion juvenile.|
|Cesarewitch Handicap||October||2m2f handicap, part of the Autumn Double with the Cambridgeshire.|
*Run on the July Course. All other races run on the Rowley Mile.
How Has Racing Changed Over the Years in Norfolk?
Racing was first known to have taken place at Great Yarmouth back in 1715. It took place in various guises, but it wasn’t until 1810 that a proper racing calendar was recorded with organised meetings using thoroughbred horses racing for good prize money.
Over at Fakenham, the West Norfolk Hunt made a committee decision to transfer races from East Winch near King’s Lynn. They had been racing since 1884 and now Fakenham had become a recognised horse racing location.
Hethersett were racing as the Norwich and Norfolk Hunt from 1875, but under the auspices of the Hussars from March 23rd, 1888. They continued right up until 1939. There is no racecourse there now.
Yarmouth’s ownership transferred to the local authority in 1904, though racing was suspended there in 1920 owing to World War I. By 1947, racing had resumed after WWII at Fakenham along with Yarmouth with the two continuing to race throughout the decades.
In 1965, Fakenham Racecourse Ltd was founded in order for the track to qualify for Levy Board funding and support. This kept closure at bay, with big supporter the Queen Mother visiting the track in 1981 and 2000. In 2012, Yarmouth’s ownership merged with Arena Racing Company which continues to run the track today.
Now, Yarmouth is famed for its novice races on the Flat. Owing to its proximity to Newmarket, many top trainers send good young horses to begin their careers at Yarmouth. It has become an important track because of this, with horses of the quality of multiple Group 1 winner Dubai Millennium having started racing there.
Fakenham continues to put on regular jumps meetings. They aren’t as well supported as organisers would like, but they continue to be popular with trainers, owners and jockeys, especially on Norfolk National Day.
Famous Courses in Norfolk to Have Closed Down
Not a whole lot has changed in terms of the racecourses we know in Norfolk.
While various point-to-point and unofficial locations have opened and closed over time, only this known racecourse has closed:
|Hethersett Racecourse||1939||The inaugural meeting at Hethersett was held in March 1888, organised by the Hussars. The regiment enjoyed racing and meetings continued until the outbreak of World War I.|