Horses will gallop on Murray Bridge’s outstanding new racecourse for the first time next Thursday in a series of official trials.
The course – soon to become the pulse of the town’s Gifford Hill racing precinct – will be open to the public and tested by horses, jockeys and trainers.
"The track’s extra width and its “superb” racing surface are tipped to heighten anticipation ahead of the centre’s official opening next month", says Murray Bridge Racing Club secretary/manager John Buhagiar.
“Yes, there’s a certain amount of excitement to be able to place the first horses over the new racecourse,” Mr Buhagiar said this week.
“Also, we’ll be able to get a gauge on the performance of the track, particularly being winter, and how it’s going to race into the future.”
Trials will be run over three distances – 1000m, 1200m and 1400m – and Mr Buhagiar expects the track to come through its first serious test with flying colours.
“I think one of the course’s strengths is its width, which will allow us to make rail shifts that are significant, instead of small ones that can create laneways, often leading to track bias,” he said.
“Down the side of the track and the home straight it’s 30 metres wide, and around the back of the course it’s 27 metres wide."
“So that probably gives us another 10 or 11 metres in width compared to our old track, and that’s a lot.”
Trial nominations close on Tuesday morning, but Thoroughbred Racing SA has scheduled eight to christen the Gifford Hill track. The distances mean horses will gallop on both the course proper and the chute.
“Numbers wise, I would anticipate there’s going to be a good amount of interest from trainers,” Mr Buhagiar said.
“The course itself is looking superb, even though we’ve had a couple of harsh frosts this year."
“Even walking around it on Wednesday, you would probably say it would be rated a ‘5’ or a ‘6’. It looks lovely and green and it’s designed to be resilient.”
Even though a hoof is yet to strike the turf in anger, the Gifford Hill track has already earned praise from a highly credible source, after representatives from leading SA stable McEvoy Mitchell Racing dropped in earlier this week.
“They were quite ecstatic about how the track felt when they walked it, and how it looked,” Mr Buhagiar said.
“They also said there’s no real ‘panic aspects’ in the track – the starts don’t have you panicking about your position, as can happen when there’s only a short run to the turn."
“Given all their years of expertise, and being a stable that is very successful, for them to be excited about this really buoyed us.”
The trials will be held from 9am next Thursday, July 11, with the public welcome to attend.
The new Murray Bridge site will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, July 24, before the Gifford Hill complex is officially opened on Saturday, August 10, when the club will host SA’s standalone metropolitan meeting.
The 800-hectare Gifford Hill racecourse development is adjacent the South Eastern Freeway.