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By Robyn Bristow

The historic Hurunui racetrack is in pristine order for the February 8 Hurunui Race and Gala Day.

A dedicated and hard-working committee has been grooming the grounds and has renovated the 100-year-old-plus caller’s box in time for the biennial event, which is steeped in 146 years of history.

Race caller Ian Chambers will now have a great view of the action on course at the event, which has received strong support from community groups and businesses, ensuring an entertaining day out for the whole family.

The Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Helicopter Service will be the beneficiary of the day, and it is hoped to have one of its helicopters fly in so people can meet the crew. However, this will depend on workload.

President Richard Frost says, as a volunteer fireman in the Hurunui district, he sees first-hand the very real difference the helicopter service makes to people’s lives and wellbeing in what is a large area.

Out on the track, the Heavy Horse 500-metre Challenge, during which draft horses will pound around the track, is on again, while the defending Lakes Station team will have serious competition this year in the Station Challenge 800m race, and 200 metre Rescue Race.

Competitors are expected from all over the South Island, including from Clarence, Kaikoura, Motunau and as far afield as Glenorchy. They all will be hoping to knock the Lakes Station team off its perch.

Harness Horses will be racing again in the 2400m events, which often prove to be some of the tightest races of the day, with some real photo finishes to get the crowd on their feet and cheering.

The Lead Rein competition for youngsters and the Kidzcarts Race will be held to showcase the next generation of budding drivers.

Free children’s entertainment is being offered with the Mitre 10 Bouncy Castle, The Wipe Out and the DK Custom Cabins children’s playhouses.

Pedalmania, which is a hit with young and old, will be returning.

Other features include horse power of a different kind from the Canterbury Mustang Car Club and the Canterbury MG Car Club, which will have members’ cars on display.

A great crowd pleaser will be back again in the form of the Hurunui Hotel Horse vs Human Race with the publican, Adam, running the last leg of the race for his team.

It would not be a great raceday without the Fashion in the Field competition, in which judges will be looking for the best-dressed child, woman and gentleman of the day. With free entry to this event and great prizes on offer, it is worth making the effort to dust off the fascinator and top hat.

The tug-of-war event will finish the day off with teams of five seeing who has enough strength to take the prize home. Entries will need to be in quickly on the day as there is limited space available registrations need to be made at the public bar.

With great prizes being donated by local businesses and organisations, the raffles are going to be a real winner, so ensure you keep some of your raceday winnings aside to buy tickets.

The Equalisator this year is being manned by the Hurunui Hockey Club. People can buy their $2 bets on the horse races. After betting closes on each race, the lettered ticket purchased is allocated a horse by ballot, giving everyone an equal chance of winning.

Mr Frost says people should come prepared for the day with cash.

“Dig out the coins from the back of the couch, as cash will be limited on the course. Make sure you bring some cover from the sun are welcome,” he says.

The Hurunui Racecourse can heat up, especially when the action on the track starts. There is always a bit of shade at the public bar, being run by members of the Hurunui Rugby Club.

There will be more than 25 stalls selling a range of crafts and food throughout the day.

The racecourse is just off State Highway 7 on Medbury Road, Medbury. It will be signposted from the highway.

Adult entry is $10 cash at the gate and under-12s with an adult are free. No dogs are allowed. The first race is at 11am.