This Sunday 13th May marks the end of our 2011/12 racing season at Plumpton and I thought you might find some rainfall statistics of interest during this the ”wettest drought on record”.
I have used the period 1st September to April 30th for each of the past three years to reflect the rainfall for a typical season :-
2009/10=871mm 2010/11=621mm 2011/12=605mm
As we keep hearing and our records confirm the last two winters have been relatively dry with only April 2012 being well above the monthly norm with 149.5mm recorded.
The recent rainfall has certainly helped the underfoot conditions for the horses with natural ground far more consistent then watered ground can ever be but with that said and a predicted going description that includes the word soft lets hope for a dry, warm and sunny day this Sunday.
In my last blog I asked “where has all the rain gone” well with December still very young it looks as though the winter has finally started and with it a change in the ground. The advice I have from our professional forecasters is that we should not expect any extreme cold snaps this side of the New Year but they do predict slightly higher than average rainfall for the period Dec/Jan/Feb in the south-east. Time will tell if there predictions are good and our reservoirs will certainly be grateful if they are.
November certainly ended with a wet week heralding 20 mm of rain over the last 7 days, December has started much the same with 25 mm recorded for the 1st and 2nd days of the month. With this in mind the going has eased considerable and we must now consider and indeed expect soft conditions for the foreseeable future.
The work has started in the centre course to construct a new machinery storage building and for Monday’s meeting (5th Dec) some of the framework can clearly be seen, this building has been designed to provide maximum weather protection for the expensive ground caring equipment the racecourse has invested in over the past couple of years. I hope you will agree with us when we say that the location was decided upon to provide first class access to the track for maintenance procedures whilst minimising any interuption to viewing.
With four weeks since our opening Ladies day fixture of the 20011/12 season and well into autumn the question now is where has all the rain gone?
The last meaningful rainfal on the course was on the 5th October when 5mm was recorded and previously to that 7mm over the 20th/21st September, it was decided following the first meeting that until it rained “properly” we would continue to water sparingly to avoid the course from drying out completely. There was already a plan to feed the course in this gap between fixtures and this was done on the 5th Oct using an organic based fertiliser which would then need either rain or irrigation to activate, we have infact put 12mm of water onto the course each week of the preceeding three weeks to keep the grass moving and hopefully maintain moisture levels for racing. Over the past week the watering was increased to apply a further 24mm of irrigation to produce going for our Moorcroft day just on the easy side of Good to Firm.
What summer I hear some of you say and you may be right, the best spell of settled weather we experienced was from April to June with July until now best described as changeable with temperatures at times below average, with the lack of rain grass growth was poor during late spring early summer but it sure is making up for it now with recent rain and warm days the course is still being topped twice a week.
The summer break saw us complete the three year programe of additional drainage banding work around the top bend this involved cutting a 50mm wide trench 250mm deep at one metre intervals diagonally across the top of existing drainage pipework, the trenches are back filled to within 50mm of the surface with shingle and topped with a root-zone and grass seed mix to aid turf re-establishment. Although we believe over recent years we have addressed most of the vulnerable areas on the course drainage needs time to work and a serious amount of rain on the eve of a meeting during winter months can, depending on the recent weather pattern, still cause concern.Whilst measures such as drainage work and the deployment of frost covers greatly increase your chances of racing they must never be considered as a guarantee that racing will always take place.
All our steeplechase fences have either been refurbished or completely re-built and painted this summer as have all 60 hurdles on course, so with everything almost ready and the watering going well all we need now is a fine day on the 18th September for the start of another exciting season of racing at Plumpton.
LONG MAY IT LAST!
At this time of the year ground conditions are changing with any thoughts of firm ground fading into the memory and winter ground coming up on the rail, changeable is the only word to describe the recent weather pattern at Plumpton with 25mm of rainfall over past 7 days. A mainly dry and blustery last couple of days have prevailed with a forecast for this w/e of showers Friday night into Saturday and more on Sunday, Monday is looking to be cloudy but dry. The underfoot conditions are officially described as Good at present and I am hopefull that will be the going on the day even with a few showers still to go through between now and racing.
So having altered your clocks and forgetting the tricks, treat yourself to a day at the races this Monday 1st November at Plumpton racecourse.
Plumptons new season starts this coming Sunday with the now traditional Ladies day meeting getting the ball rolling, lets all hope for a fine day.
We have been gently watering through September and the turf is looking great, its hard to remember just how stressed the course looked following the mini drought that ended mid August. For the record May,June and July saw a total rainfall of 86mm with our ten year average for the same period standing at 195mm, we need not of worried though nature did as nature does and August went someway to restoring the balance with 139mm of rain that mostly fell in the second half of the month. The course changed in appearance almost overnight following this much needed rain.
Irrigation for us is an expensive and labour intensive operation with the water we use coming straight of the mains, referred to as putting champagne on grass, our system consists of 40 aluminium pipes split into two runs of 20 that need to be towed into position and placed according to the wind for optimum coverage. Two furlongs at a time can be watered at a rate of 6mm/hour with each line of 20 pipes moved five times to cover a single circuit. We have applied 45mm of irrigation to the course since the 1st September and will continue if necessary, 24mm of rain has been recorded over this period and with no significant rain forecast before the meeting I expect the going on the day to be Good to Firm-Watered.
It is hard to believe that a little over a month ago I was praying for it to stop raining, and yet here we are in the lead up to the last meeting of our season watering like mad hoping for some rain.
Over the past five weeks we have been busy not only due to there being a race meeting during that period but because the ground staff have managed to re-seed the course, with perennial rye grass for those that are interested, and also fed it with a part organic based fertiliser to promote growth.
Unfortunately the cold north easterly wind that has blown across the course recently has been slowing the grass recovery down, but that said and helped in no small way by the irrigation system I feel sure that everyone will see and appreciate a big improvement in the course’s appearance since the 19th April.
I predict the going for this Sunday’s family fun day meeting to be Good to Firm-Watered, unless the rain arrives in time to help us.
In my last blog I refered to how quickly ground conditions can change at this time of year, well due to the current spell of wet weather I am hoping for just that to happen now!
It has rained on and off over the past four days with a total of 40mm being recorded at 8am Wednesday morning. This week-ends Easter festival of racing at Plumpton has two meetings scheduled and with the going heavy at present we certainly could do with a couple of dry days prior to Sunday.
The course has been prepared to handle two days racing with rail and hurdle placements back in towards early season lines on ground that recently has had a rest. So far this spring grass recovery has not been great but considering the amount of racing Plumpton has put on through the winter months I believe us to be in “pretty good nick”.
March brings-forth the spring equinox when underfoot conditions can change rapidly with daylight hours lengthening and temperatures hopefully rising, although cold nights and a frost are still a threat to the gardeners among us.
Preparations for Monday’s meeting have been affected by the recent dry spell which has included a cold easterly wind blowing across the course drying the surface, indeed no rain had been recorded since the 28th February. Going for entries last Monday was Good to Soft but by Wednesday afternoon it had become Good with Good to Firm places and with the cold and dry weather set to continue the decision was made to water.
6mm of irrigation was applied to the racing surface Thursday/Friday and on completion the going was described as Good. Mid-afternoon on Friday saw the arrival of showers which continued into the evening and resulted in 4mm of rain being recorded. I walked the course again Saturday morning and declared the going to be Good to Soft, with dry conditions set to prevail between now and racing.
This last week of February must have been the wettest of the winter so far with our records showing 79mm of rainfall since last Sunday, today (Friday) thankfully some much needed dry conditions are prevailing. The preparations for next Monday’s meeting have involved a lot of head scratching over rail and hurdle placements due to wet ground but I am pleased to say that the course is now set up ready with the groundstaff all keeping there fingers crossed for a favourable w/e weather wise. March is going to be a busy time for the racecourse with three meetings scheduled so lets hope for an early spring to promote grass recovery.