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Beach racing could be on its way to Britain as Fakenham clerk hatches bold plan

Beach racing could be destined for British shores if Fakenham clerk of the course David Hunter can garner enough support for a Laytown-inspired event in North Norfolk, with some Newmarket trainers already showing an interest in the idea.

The four-mile long sandy beach at Holkham has been mooted as a possible venue for an idea which was hatched when Hunter paid a visit to Ireland for Laytown's annual raceday on the beach in September.

Holkham, which is just 12 miles north of Fakenham, is already a regular haunt of Newmarket trainers through the year, with some taking their string to the Norfolk coast for a freshen-up and paddle in the sea.

Although there would be plenty of hurdles to overcome before racing could be staged, Hunter thinks the project could be viable and help diversify the sport.

He said: "I went to Laytown for the first time this year and loved it. I came back thinking we could do something similar along the North Norfolk or East Anglian coast as we have vast areas of sandy beach.

"I hope to go to some of the beach racing they have in mainland Europe such as France next year and it could well work here, especially as we are trying to attract different crowds."

Attracting new crowds is a theme behind the City Racing project which has just completed its latest set of trials and Hunter thinks beach racing would have a ready market if the proposal gained traction.

He added: "The Norfolk coast attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors through the summer months and somewhere like Holkham would be a possible venue, although the access through Lady Anne's Drive is a bit narrow.

"Like other beaches along the coast it has vast sands, although any sites would have to be subject to discussions with landowners and other stakeholders.

"If it could come off I'm sure it would prove popular and I'm sure the Newmarket trainers would support it as it's only 90 minutes down the road."

Among the trainers based in Newmarket who are in favour of the idea is Phil McEntee, who is well placed to judge.

He said: "We've had runners and winners at Laytown in the past and somewhere like Holkham would be a great venue if it were to happen here.

"They don't have races beyond seven furlongs at Laytown and Holkham would be a longer beach than that and the layout would be perfect. Bring it on I say."

Fellow Newmarket trainer Martin Smith added: "I would be well up for it if they could get beach racing here and would definitely support it.

"I grew up in Belgium where we used to work the horses on the beach through winter and we never had a problem with it. There would be a great novelty factor and I'm sure it would attract new crowds."

Gay Kelleway is also in support of Hunter's idea and said: "I'd be all in favour of racing on a beach here. Anything has to be better than City Racing, which I'm not a fan of at all."

If you have not been to Laytown, you have not experienced one of racing's liveliest parties. It is the best show on sand.

Laytown, located on the east coast of County Meath, has been staging racing on the beach for 151 years and, when the sun shines, it is absolutely glorious. The average Laytown crowd is around 5,000 and that tells you all you need to know about how popular the event is.

Jamie Osborne and his Melbourne 10 owners have taken a real shine to the place, and don't forget subsequent Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Labaik made an appearance there in 2016 – although an appearance was all it was, as he never budged and stood still in the stalls.

The setting is unique and so is the atmosphere. It is most certainly one for the bucket list.

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