One the jewels of Sussex, Plumpton Racecourse has a new CEO. Platinum sat down with Craig Staddon to find out what he has in store for the venue
Can you tell us a little of your background prior to taking over at Plumpton?
I have been involved in horse racing for the past 25 years, from owning horses in syndication through to working at two of the biggest racecourses in the world; Cheltenham (2007-2012) and Ascot (2013-2021).
As Head of Sales at both of these venues, I was primarily responsible for driving sales and marketing across all sales verticals that covered general admissions, hospitality and fine dining, sponsorship, and conference and events.
Owning horses was a real buzz and I got to meet many like-minded people. I was very fortunate to visit many racecourses around the UK. I even owned a horse that ran at the Cheltenham Festival and in the Grand National.
With such long experience, it must be exciting to take over at Plumpton?
Absolutely. Plumpton is a real ‘hidden gem,’ and a racecourse that is thriving. Having only been in the post of CEO for 2½ months, initial observations are one of Plumpton being a real community racecourse, with a key focus on delivering exceptional service to our visitors. I am merely the custodian and will be looking to build on the success of my predecessor, Dan Thompson, and to elevate awareness of the racecourse more across the county and region.
Can you outline some of your future plans for the venue?
It is still early days for me, and I am currently observing and listening. I intend to build a masterplan over the coming months. What I can say, is that we will be continuing to reinvest profits back into the racecourse and putting the customer at the centre of any future plans.
Can you tell me about the event space available at the venue?
Our remarkable venue provides a show-stopping setting for any occasion, complemented by the best cuisines and ambitious team of experienced event professionals. Over the past 10 years, we have spent more than £2m in racecourse facilities. This investment has helped deliver a portfolio of more than 50 stunning indoor and outdoor event spaces set over 100 acres of beautiful parkland, and we’re certain we’ll find the solution to your bespoke needs.
Plumpton has the space and versatility to cater for the most inventive business and social get-togethers, large enough for ambitious events, and intimate enough for smaller, special occasions. Event space includes private boxes, restaurants, bars and marquee all able to cater for up to 300 people.
I like to look at Plumpton’s outdoor spaces as something similar to a ‘showground’, where we are able to slice and dice these spaces accordingly to provide bespoke offerings that can be tailored to demand and the needs of our customers.
We pride ourselves on offering events that go above and beyond customer expectations and that deliver unforgettable experiences.
Corporate hospitality has long been a great success at racecourses. Is this something you will be featuring at Plumpton?
Absolutely. Within the county of Sussex, we are blessed with many SMEs and blue chip companies, so we will certainly be introducing ourselves as a destination. I am sure many do not know Plumpton even exists, and this is something we need to focus on. The site is unique, so it is ideal not just for entertaining on race days where we have fantastic private boxes and restaurants, but also great for corporate away days and team building, conferences, summer parties and special events.
Can you outline the various areas available to punters on a race day?
Even though Plumpton is a small racecourse (especially when comparing it to Ascot), the intimacy of space it provides is its crown jewel. We have three main bar areas – Chasers, Southdown and Paddock – all serving food and beverages throughout the day. All are only a stone’s throw away from each other including the Parade Ring (where horses parade pre-race and winners and placed return after the race – it is a great amphitheatre). All these facilities are equipped with TVs and audio so people could watch the race inside if they wanted, we also have over 10 Tote and two William Hill betting shops on site. There are three course-facing grandstands with stepping allowing customers to watch the racing undercover.
We have two types of race days; ‘Standard’ when only our grandstand is open, and ‘Feature’, when we open both the grandstand and the centre of the course. The latter is used by people to picnic and this enclosure also has both bar and toilet facilities.
Something unique and not seen at any other racecourse is our Retired Racehorse Stable, whereby we showcase ex-racecourses and allow our punters to pop down and give the horse a polo and a pat.
What is special about Plumpton?
Many things and these are words that people have mentioned to me when asked. They all apply: Magical; friendly; inclusive; fun; memorable; local; rural; caring; intimate; welcoming; charming; cultural; heritage
How many days a year can we visit Plumpton?
We race 17 days per year, and have six family race days, including Easter Sunday and Monday. With all family days, we tend to offer free entertainment, ranging from DJs, buskers, donkeys / pony rides, petting farm, face painters, bouncy castle etc. Our demographic runs from young to old people (under 18s can come racing for free but need to be accompanied by an adult).
The Plumpton team is only ten-strong, but cumulatively have over 200 years’ experience within their chosen fields, all working as one to deliver the very best experience. I look forward to my time at Plumpton and to meeting all the Platinum readers over the coming months.