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Just weeks after bushfires swept through east Gippsland, the track at Canni Creek is ready to host the 133rd Buchan Cup.

Locals have worked feverishly to get the track fit for racing with double the usual crowd expected at the meeting on Saturday.

The annual picnic meeting was given the go-ahead by racing officials late last month after an inspection of the track.

“A week after the fires all the community at Buchan and Gelantipy were saying please if you can get this race meeting going, do it because we need it,” Buchan & Gelantipy Racing Club’s secretary manager Ian Dunkley said.

“And that’s what the committee has done.

“We got offered to shift it to other professional tracks and even change the date, but the community wanted it at Canni Creek.”

He said the bushfire swept the exterior of the track which is 1600m in circumference.

“So it blackened the whole track and it went almost all around the outside of the facilities,” Dunkley said.

Outside running rails, the winning post and the judge’s tower were damaged but the main buildings and horse stalls were not affected.

The half-burned winning post has been stabilised for Saturday’s meeting.

“We’re retaining it as an iconic message,” Dunkley said.

“We repaired the outside rails and rehabilitated the track which was completely black.

“It was helped by getting about 33 millimetres of rain in three consecutive days about three weeks ago.

“It’s probably the greenest it’s ever been. It’s normally very dusty.

“We had to get it passed by the stewards, jockeys, trainers etc. They had to walk the track and give us the tick of approval which they did providing we did a couple of things and we’ve done those.”

Dunkley said they normally get 1400 people to the meeting but he was expecting double that on Saturday.

Along with six races, including the $6000 Buchan Cup, there are children’s activities, a footballers’ gift race over 100m, fashions on the field and this year the Melbourne Cup will also make a special appearance accompanied by Cup-winning jockeys Greg Hall and John Letts.

Dunkley is a part-owner of popular sprinter Jungle Edge who will run in the Southern Cross Stakes at Randwick in Sydney on Saturday, with that race scheduled to jump at the same time as the third race on the Buchan Cup program.

 
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