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Bumper fields for Gifford Hill’s debut

It's official opening is next month, but the Murray Bridge Racing Club’s inaugural meeting at Gifford Hill on Wednesday has its own informal label.

“We’re terming it as our debut,” said club secretary/manager John Buhagiar.

“I’m excited for it, because this is what it’s all about. This is why we built the facility.”

The brand-new course earned rave reviews after staging it's first-ever trials on July 11, but this week’s eight-race meeting finally puts the facility – including the $20 million Bridges function centre – under race-day conditions.

“It’s going to be great to see how everything performs,” Mr Buhagiar said.

“The trials gave us a guide, but this is obviously the real thing.

“And this meeting provides the public with their first opportunity to experience racing from within the building too.”

This week’s meeting attracted bumper nominations and a more-than-healthy final acceptance number of 136. Two races will be staged over each of the 1000m, 1200m and 1400m distances, while the remaining two races are over 1600m and 2000m respectively.

Mr Buhagiar said the meeting is a valuable lead-up to Gifford Hill’s official opening day on Saturday, August 10.

“There’s always something you’ve got to try to iron out and that’s why it’s important for us to have this day, so we can look at how everything runs,” he said.

“It’s a new facility, so we’ll be sure to keep an close eye on our procedures.”

Race 1 is scheduled for 12.10pm and racegoers can expect a magnificent – and fair – racing surface, according to Thoroughbred Racing SA chief operating officer Nick Redin.

“It’s a big, wide-open track, with cambered turns,” Mr Redin said.

“So it’s built – like all modern tracks – to hopefully provide an opportunity for all runners.”

Mr Buhagiar agreed that width is among the course’s many strengths.

“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,” he said.

“So that probably gives us another 10 or 11 metres in width compared to our old track…”

Mr Buhagiar expects a reasonable crowd on Wednesday.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people have just dropped by to have a look,” he said.

“There’s a lot of anticipation.”

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