HARD labour is behind the near-pristine look of the Dederang race track ahead of Saturday’s picnic races.
Prisoners from Beechworth have been a key part of preparing the grounds ahead of the annual race day, the origins of which date back to 1862.
About 5000 people are expected to be on hand for the six-race program with former AFL star Nathan Brown to take centre stage in the fashion stakes as a celebrity guest judge.
Racecaller Paul Langham will also mark his 30th year of calling the picnic races.
Hot weather is forecast for the weekend but club president Maurice Goonan says that won’t be an issue.
“The weather in the Kiewa Valley is always that little bit cooler so we think we will be OK,” he said.
“But we have brought in hot weather precautions for the horses, with plans to water down the stables to keep them cool and we will have an extra vet on hand to monitor their health.
“We have been watering the track and the grounds look fantastic, courtesy of our volunteers and the prisoners from Beechworth.
“The aim of our race meeting is a family fun day, where the races are the initial attraction and then there is everything else.
“There will be live music between races, fashions on the field and after the last race the traditional madman’s mile, a foot race around the track for the fit or foolhardy.”
Melbourne-based racing radio presenter Langham said he wouldn’t miss cup day.
“It was my first full meeting as a racecaller, now 30 years ago, and everyone told me it never rains at Dederang,” he said.
“It doesn’t rain much but it did that year.
“But the amazing thing about Dederang has been its growth.
“Every year there is something new and every year the crowd grows that little bit bigger.
“It has gone from a little country meeting to something much more, much better than most around the state — once you have been, you keep going back.”
But as the racecaller, some of the growth is less than ideal.
“The track has come a long way from the days when there was no outside railing but the trees planted in the centre of the course have also come a long way,” he said.
“Most of the back straight is now almost completely hidden from the caller’s view.”