To Plumpton on the 11 a.m. train from Eastbourne for what is has become an annual event for Man about Eastbourne. I was meeting up with one of my longest standing friends, Pious Bob. Bob had had a longer journey from the wilds of Buckinghamshire. Fortunately we both arrived in good time for the first race at 12.25. We met in the Paddock Restaurant which, as its name suggests, overlooks the paddock and has a balcony with a good view of the entire course and of the finish line. Mulled wine is offered on arrival which I declined this year in favour of a refreshing flute of one of the better proseccos. Having studied the form on the train in the Racing Post (reputed to be HM the Queen’s favourite paper – but was she a fan of The Sporting Life until it closed in 1998) I plumped for Brandon Castle in the first and was pleased to see 23 year old Devonian Bryony Frost ride away from the favourite J.P. McManus’s Collooney, ridden by Barry Geraghty, in a hard fought finish.
Christmas lunch in the Paddock was as enjoyable as ever starting with a warming celeriac and chestnut soup. I followed with turkey while PB enjoyed fish (haddock I think). Christmas pudding cheesecake followed. Sound wines by the glass.
The third race was the Derek Hunnisett Memorial Hurdle. Derek was a customer of Man about Eastbourne in the 1980’s when your man was a wine merchant in London. Derek was the owner of Hannington’s department store in Brighton. Derek enjoyed his champagne and I still have a bottle of the Hannington’s own label fizz I created for him. The race card carried a splendid picture of betrilbied Derek leading in his horse Manhattan Boy after one of his fourteen Plumpton wins, no doubt prior to opening a few bottles of said wine. Sadly my selection in the race, Soarlikeaneagle, didn’t.
No luck in the remaining races either. Two second places for horses backed win only. Pious Bob had little success either. But as Baron Pierre de Coubertin put it “moins d’y gagner que d’y prendre part”, and we’d had a good day out in good weather. There’s always next year.