Plumpton Racecourse

The Going is Good at Plumpton Racecourse with AMS Contracting

A successful drainage project in 2021 by AMS Contracting has helped keep the going good at Plumpton Racecourse, as they keep their track prepared for extreme conditions.

Racing between September and May often means contending with the worst of the Sussex weather. In November 2022, the course recorded rainfall of just over 400mm, proving the importance of drainage projects Plumpton has carried out over the last 20 years.

The narrow six-hectare track is built on clay soil, which adds to the challenge, but with the 945 sqm of new primary and secondary drainage over three areas, the track is performing well for Head Groundsman and Clerk of the Course Marcus Waters.

“The areas are performing really well now,” Marcus said. “Previously some of the areas were getting very wet after little rainfall whereas now we don’t have to worry about them. The climate has changed somewhat, and we’re getting more extremes of weather now. So, being able to handle large amounts of water in a short space of time is getting increasingly important.”

“They got tested this year when we had just over 400mm of rain in November, the most in our 25 years of recording rainfall. I think AMS did a brilliant job and were very thorough. Nothing was left to chance, everything was thoroughly checked to make sure the outfalls were working, and it made for a very successful project.”

“Because we race through the winter and have quite a few fixtures throughout December, January and February, we are very weather focused. We’ve done quite a lot of drainage through the last 20 years, and that’s been finding the wet areas and draining them the best we can to keep us racing. If we’re waterlogged, we can’t race. As drainage goes, it’s to keep the show on the road through the winter. We could take a little bit of water, but you want to be able to take larger amounts. The climate has changed somewhat, and we’re getting more extremes of weather now. So, being able to handle large amounts of water in a short space of time is getting increasingly important.”

“If we lose a meeting, then it’s cancelled. We are unable to reschedule any meetings we lose. Racing is our main event, and because we only race 17 times a year, every fixture we have is really important.”

Keeping the track in good condition during the winter months is the main aim for Marcus. During that time, he and his team of four monitor the track for any problem areas and earmark them for drainage in the summer.  Being able to lean on his predecessor of 40 years for advice has helped him understand the track and provide insight to contractors, like AMS when developing solutions.

On this project, one area fell four different ways. Working with AMS, the decision was made to utilise existing primary drainage under the track using sand banding and secondary drains.

Using the knowledge and skills available from both sides has been part of ensuring a successful outcome. For Marcus, this extends past simply getting fixtures on, with onus on the quality and reliability of the track.

“The quality of the track affects everything.” Marcus explained. “The ground will affect the sort of horses you get and how many you get through the year. The trainers are looking for the best quality ground they can get. There are quite a few racecourses around the country that are all competing against each other for runners. All the tracks are unique, so horses can be drawn to certain tracks, so we’re really trying to get horses from all around the country.”

“We’re supported well by our local trainers, but potentially we can have some come down from the Midlands and North to run their horses here. Obviously, when they get here, they want the ground to be as described.

“A part of my job is describing the ground and giving the description of how it rides. That’s done by Good to Firm, Good, Good to Soft, Soft or Heavy. Of course, they want to know it’s going to be like that. and obviously, the weather can affect it through the days leading up to the event.

“You’re trying to produce the best ground possible throughout the year. Sometimes it’s a bit trickier when you’re getting into mid-winter. People are understanding, but it needs to be safe so they can run, and if you abandon, they will end up running somewhere else eventually, so there is a risk of losing runners as well as a meeting.”

Working with AMS

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