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Plumpton Racecourse

Published on: 01/11/2013

Situated near Lewes and Brighton, in East Sussex, the village of Plumpton contains one of the very smallest of the many National Hunt Jumping tracks throughout the whole of the country. Coming in at just over a single mile, the track is diminutive indeed. It has an extremely tight left hand outside course, along with an inside chase course. A characteristic feature of the course is a rising hilly terminus. The size of the course is not an impediment however, and it draws jockeys and trainers from afar. The public too have a liking for it, and it has good travel links to accommodate them. A almost direct link from London Victoria makes the journey easy, with but a single change needed at Lewes, before arriving at Plumpton Racecourse.

Most people mistakenly believe the racecourse to be fairly modern, but its origins lie back in the Victorian era. In 1876 a local greyhound breeder named Henry Case established the very first hare coursing area in Plumpton. About a decade later the small expanse of land was converted to accommodate horses. Today the track still honours with a plaque the name of Cowslip, a horse ridden by one Harry Escott, which triumphed at the opening Plumpton Racecourse, winning not just one, but two races on that very first day.

In 1884 victory in the inaugural steeplechase was claimed by a horse named Olanleigh, who was ridden by his owner, a Captain Fisher. It was during the late 19th and early 20th century that Plumpton Racecourse really grew in prominence. Many of the best jockeys and trainers of the day professed to a great liking for the venue, and every race day the public never failed to fill it to capacity. In 1889 there was a full end to coursings at the track, which had been continuing alongside horseracing events for some years; a long schedule of 15 days of racing was held to commemorate the change.

With the growing popularity of the racecourse many people complained that its capacity was not large enough. There was actually a public petition demanding modifications and improvements be made, so that capacity could be increased. Heeding these wishes, in 1904 the bold idea was formulated to transfer the old Tattersalls Grandstand the short distance from the derelict Northampton racecourse. With this done the capacity of Plumpton Racecourse was vastly increased.

The two world wars brought an end to racing at Plumpton, unlike so many other tracks, it was reopened to continuing popularity once the conflict was over. In 1948 the Marquess of Abergavenny Challenge Cup was introduced to its ever growing list of prestigious events. Victory was first found in this race by Southborough, ridden by surely the very first (and only?) Naval Officer to win at Plumpton, one Commander Richard Courage. With such a name it is inconceivable that he could take anything but first place, whatever the competition. In 1950 the Abergavenny Cup was won by Nickel Coin, who next year went on to win the Grand National.

Plumpton Racecourse has certainly come a long way in the 140 years since its opening. It stands as proof that a racetrack does not need to be overly large, or even be situated near a major city, to be a success. It is a testament to how good management, and the loyalty of some top trainers, and the love of the general public, can transcend a small piece of land into something magical.

Published on: 01/11/2013 © Bet Bind
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