Plumpton Racecourse Guide

A Misty Plumpton Racecourse
A Misty Plumpton Racecourse (Simon Carey / geograph.org.uk)

The quaint East Sussex village of Plumpton finds itself home to a small horse racing venue that offers jump racing between September and May. The course itself runs across the border of the South Downs, making it a very picturesque venue.

In February 2009, the course was entered into the history books as being the place where Tony McCoy rode his 3000th winner, the Nicky Henderson trained, Restless d'Artaix, during the Tyser & Co Beginners' Chase.

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The Course

The one mile, one furlong circuit at Plumpton is far from the easiest test a horse could face. There are undulations combined with tight left-handed bends which suit handier types. Hurdles races often set off at a good pace, with positions changing many times as jockeys look for a good spot on the inside. This is not the place to be during testing conditions however as the ground is usually better towards the outside.

The high causality rate at Plumpton is in part down to the quality of runners but there are couple of jumps that are a little tricky. The one at the top of the hill catches out many novices and any horse with good jumping ability has the chance to steal a length or two over it. Aggressive jockeying is best for any horse that’s comfortable over the obstacles on a track which often sees races determined by tactics.

Major Races

The Class 2 Sussex Champion Hurdle is Plumpton’s highest quality event. Run over a distance a touch under two miles, the handicap affair has been won by horses who have gone on to bigger and better things. One example being 2007 winner, Dunbrody Millar, who became the Topham Chase champion a few months later.

Another high profile race is the Class 3 Sussex National which is usually run in early January. Testing conditions often accompany this already tough contest which sees horses compete across three miles, four furlongs and 102 yards. Horses must have an official rating under 130 to enter but the absence of top class horses doesn’t stop it from being a great spectacle.

Visiting

Plumpton Racecourse from Low Weald
Plumpton Racecourse from Low Weald (David Spicer / geograph.org.uk)

Most fixtures at Plumpton are scheduled for Monday afternoon so it’s something to bear in mind if planning a trip here.

Useful Info

Dress Code

There is no formal dress code and given that racing takes place in the winter, dressing for the weather should be your priority. A smart casual policy (including smart jeans) only applies if you are dining in the Paddock or Marquee restaurant.

Ticket Prices

By booking your tickets in advance at Plumpton, a saving of £5 per ticket can usually be made. Early bought Grandstand and Paddock tickets tend to cost £16 compared to £21 on the day and advanced Picnic Enclosure tickets are usually £10 compared to £15 on the day.

No booking or administration fee applies to tickets bought online. Tickets will be available on the website up to five days before the race meeting. There are no concessionary rates offered but children under 18 are admitted free with a paying adult.

Membership

Membership at Plumpton should cost around £190, covering the whole calendar year. Applications made after January are usually available on a pro-rata basis. Benefits of being a member include: a free racecard at every meeting, access to the reserved car park and Annual Members’ Suite, reserved seating on the top floor of the Sussex Stand, complimentary admission to over 50 other sporting and racing events plus ticket offers for your friends and family.

Getting There

Plumpton Railway Station, which is a stop on the regular London Victoria to Eastbourne/Hastings service, sits right beside the racecourse, making it a very easily accessible place to reach.

There is also the option of a mini-bus service for anyone travelling from Brighton. The bus leaves Brighton Station 90 minutes before the first race, returning 30 minutes after the last at a cost of £5 for a return ticket.

Parking

There is plenty of free parking available inside the centre of the course.

History

Grandstand at Plumpton Racecourse
Grandstand at Plumpton Racecourse (Simon Carey / geograph.org.uk)

The site of Plumpton Racecourse was originally used for enclosed hare coursing but eight years later, in 1884, it introduced horse racing. The inaugural race took place on 11th February on that year and was won by a horse named Cowslip who would go on to win two races that day. To begin with, four days of racing a year took place, increasing to six the following year and 13 by 1888.

A regularly changing amount of fixtures was to follow the next few decades, with many years featuring just five scheduled days of racing. Often the actual number was lower as poor weather often led to the abandonment of meetings. Abandonments were so common that between 1939 and 1975, Plumpton was rarely able to put on all its scheduled races in any given year.

In 1909, Plumpton witnessed its last run-off in order to decide the winner of Uckfield Selling Hurdle after Marcellin and Santa Claus were involved in a dead heat. Void races, however, have been witnessed several times since. The 1954 edition of the Cuckfield Novices Chase was voided after all seven runners failed to complete the course and the Glynde Novices’ Chase suffered the same fate in 1962 for starting four minutes early.

The Sussex Stand

After the Second World War the number of fixtures began to increase and by 1964 there were 16 planned race days a season. Growing attendances helped create a need for a new Members’ Enclosure Stand (now the Sussex Stand) which opened in 1967. Two years later and both Black Sabbath and The Who performed at the course within the space of a week.

Famous Winners

The nature of the course at Plumpton has seen a few course specialists emerge, none more so than Manhattan Boy. On 30th August 1993, he won the Peacehaven Selling Hurdle for the fifth time, his 14th win at Plumpton. A decade later Comply or Die, later a Grand National champion, won here on what was his second competitive outing. In 2014, the East Sussex based course celebrated being named as one of the top racecourses for visitor attraction by Visit England.