Dame Judi Dench thrilled thousands of racing fans on Saturday when she spent the afternoon meeting and greeting visitors to Lingfield Park Racecourse.

The award-winning actress, who lives in Outwood and is a keen racing fan, chatted to fellow race-goers as they enjoyed 'Discover Racing' day at the Surrey course.

Dame Judi, who is a racehorse owner, was at Lingfield Park as patron of the East Park Riding for the Disabled (RDA) charity, which holds regular days at the racecourse to highlight the work it carries out with disabled people at its nearby base.

As well as signing autographs and posing for pictures in return for a donation to the charity, Dame Judi was proudly showing off the colours and a display of photographs of her ex-racehorse, Smokey Oakey, who now lives at East Park RDA.

“It seemed a good opportunity to show how a successful racehorse can be successfully re-homed,” she said.

“We have lots of lovely memories of Smokey Oakey – particularly him winning the Lincoln at Doncaster in 2008 – so it’s lovely to share that with people here today.

“He is now being cared for at the RDA and he couldn’t have a better home.”

Sally O’Neill, who runs East Park RDA, said: “This is always such a good day for us as it helps us tell our story to so many people.”

She said: “Riding for the Disabled is such a worthwhile charity and helps so many people, but it is very expensive to run.

“We rely heavily on volunteers and donations which is why today is so important.

“The fact that we can show off our lovely patron – Dame Judi Dench – is the icing on the cake!”

Discover Racing attracted visitors from all over Surrey, Sussex and Kent, with demonstrations mounted by renowned 'horse whisperer' Gary Witheford and his stallion Bujo, one of the highlights, as well as free pony rides for youngsters.

Andrew Perkins, executive director of Lingfield Park Resort, said: “It was a fantastic event with lots of opportunities for all our customers to learn something new about racing and race horses – and to meet our national treasure, Dame Judi Dench!”