FAMILIES across the region and beyond are under starter’s orders for a fun-packed night in Worcester - hailed as the world’s only food-themed racing event.

The Angel Hotel Race Night – one of the major events of the annual Pershore Plum Festival - has a track record for being a colourful occasion as anyone attending the meeting is invited to dress in purple or plum to acknowledge the delicious Pershore plums.

The festival’s plum-related characters will be present to add their own distinctive splash of colour and entertainment. They include mascot Prunella Plum and her new beau Eggbert the Pershore yellow egg plum making his first appearance at the event.

The Plum Charmer – otherwise known as solicitor Paul Johnson who dresses in robes of papal purple and serenades the plum trees with his clarinet to encourage their production of the fruit - will be there together with Queen Victoria making it a right royal plum event.

And the newly crowned Pershore Plum Princess, 10-year-old Caitlin Hall, who attends Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Pershore, and her attendants, nine-year-old Brooke Quiney and eight-year-old Lilly Attwood, will complete the official festival party. There will also be a competition for the best purple outfit.

The meeting at Worcester Racecourse on Tuesday July 26 includes the Land O’Plums Chase, first run at Pershore races in 1899, the Tiddesley Wood Yellow Egg Plum Handicap and the Pensham Hurdle.

Chairman of the Pershore Plum Festival and Wychavon Tourism Officer Angela Tidmarsh said the race meeting was getting more and more popular each year.

“Word is spreading and, as well as families and individuals, it seems to be attracting interest from businesses wanting to use it as a social event,” said Angela.

“There is every indication that the coach bookings with Dudley’s Coaches, which includes entrance to the race meeting, are up. It is also the first official event for the plum princess and her attendants. They are all really looking forward to it.”

Pershore’s original racecourse was built in 1870 on Weir Meadows and in the early days many of the horses racing at the Pershore meetings were ridden to the town several days in advance and stables at local hotels.

In later years many of the horses and punters came to the town by a special train renamed the Pershore Plum, thanks to pressure from the National Farmers Union in Worcester.

The original course was prone to flooding due to its location near the River Avon and it was moved to a new site closer to the town’s railway station.

However the new racecourse became an army training camp in 1939 and never reopened. The Land O’Plums Chase was confined to history until its revival at Worcester Racecourse in 2010.

• The meetings at the new racecourse attracted some of the best jockeys of the 1930s including seven times champion jockey Gerry Wilson.

• In 1937, a teenage American jockey called Bruce Hobbs burst onto the British scene with three winners at Pershore. The following year, only three weeks after his 17th birthday, he went on to become the youngest winner of the Grand National, riding the 40/1 shot Battleship.

• Keith Piggott, Lester Piggott's father also raced there, as did Jack Anthony who won the Grand National three times, went on to become a trainer and won Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1929 and 1930.