I haven't been to Plantation and haven't done Surefire in a while, but I moved my green horse up to Novice at Loch Moy recently...
it was a nice, inviting course, very simple half coffin (sometimes just a ditch), gentle waters etc.
Downsides for Loch Moy: course is compact, snaking back and forth in a smallish space -- doesn't really matter to the horse but if you have trouble remembering where you are going it can be a challenge!
There is a novice trakhener -- not scary, and they often put fill in it, but it's at the bottom of a hill and you have to ride forward to it.
And they do have the "porthole" jump -- a table with round circles of darker wood across the face. Some horses don't like this jump...
And if you are not 100% about moving up, or want to do it gently, then doing an unrec. first is a nice way to go -- just make sure it is a GOOD unrecognized. Waredaca might be a nice option there.
I have done novice at all three recently....all are straight forward and easy.
Plantation is probably my pick for xc....love their course. My guy is entered Novice there in April as his move up....so are a bunch of other horses. It is usually a nice inviting course, good flow and good galloping!
Anyway....I don't think you would be wrong at any of them. Sounds like you have done your homework....bet you will be fine! Pick the one close to your home (so you don't have the added stress of a long trip)...and the one that fits in your schedule....then go and have fun!
** The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits. -- Albert Einstein **
I also like Fair Hill. It is a one day and you go straight from stadium to xc so the stadium acts as a warm up. You can also hack up to the jumping the "back way" and go through the stream so wet feet before having to do it on course. I always really like the xc at Fair Hill.
I think the xc at Plantation is good if your horse is fit enough and you as a pair balanced enough to be comfortable on the hills, but I think the stadium is on the tough side as it is on grass and not level
I moved my guy up to Novice at Loch Moy. It is a lovely course and there is nothing too difficult. The water is a pass through and the ditch is practically nonexistent. Dressage and stadium are on footing, which is very nice. Stadium is probably the toughest part there. It tends to be maxed out with lots of twists and turns.
I've done novice at Plantation and Fair Hill and I think either would be great, with Plantation maybe edging out FH by just a smidge. Both are wide open courses, inviting jumps, canter-through-water, etc. As a previous poster said stadium at Plantation is on a bit of an angle but it's not too bad, and it's good prep for the xc which is on the side of a hill! My opinion is that your horse needs to be in better shape for Plantation - running up and down takes its toll.
I do remember my first recognized novice was at Fair Hill which I thought rode easier than the unrecognized events I did there. I'm not alone in thinking that either!
I think doing unrecognized first would be a good idea, if for no other reason that if things don't go as planned you aren't out as much money.