Hopes of 1000 but it’s no gift

ALBURY-Wodonga Gift director Tom Burbidge is under no illusions he’s trying to break into one seriously tough sporting market.

But he’s giving it a shot, anyway.

Burbidge might be brave enough to admit athletics isn’t exactly a mainstream sport on the Border.

But the Albury native is also brave enough to make an attempt at changing that.

And with his biggest concern ensuring the program at Albury Sportsground runs on time tomorrow, it’s clear he’s getting somewhere.

Up to 1000 fans are expected to flock to the Sportsground for the second running of the new-look Gift.

But Burbidge isn’t counting his chickens.

“Athletics is traditionally pretty tough to get spectators to so it’s hard to know exactly what sort of crowd to aim for,” Burbidge said this week.

“We’ve drawn some big names to compete and now we’ll wait and see.

“We’ll be taking a bit of a count this year which we didn’t do last year.

“We’ve got some ideas for the future but for now we just want to cement it as a fixture.”

The biggest of those big names set to compete tomorrow is the third fastest Australian of all time.

Josh Ross, who ran against Usain Bolt at the London Olympics, will headline tomorrow’s $10,000 feature.

But he’s no certainty to win it.

“He’s actually running off a negative handicap which is pretty incredible,” Burbidge said.

“He won the St Albans Gift last Saturday after our handicaps had already been set and so now he has to run off negative one, not scratch.”

About 200 athletes will compete tomorrow in what is becoming one of Albury-Wodonga’s most promising sporting events.

“Our biggest worry is making sure we get through it all on time,” Burbidge said.

“We’ve got a pretty packed schedule.”

Racing starts just after noon, with the final of the Gift set to run just before 7.30pm.

The $1000 fastest footballer race is also set to grab plenty of attention.

The first heat for that event is at 5.40pm.

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