Day At The Track

All is in readiness for track reopening

01:00 PM 20 Dec 2019 NZDT
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The new Charlton circuit,harness racing
Local trainers Leon Fanning, Joey Thompson and Kirk Boyle testing out the new Charlton circuit which will see patrons up close to the action on Sunday

The big day is finally here for the determined regional Victorian harness racing stronghold of Charlton.

The resilient community of a little more than 1100 has worked together for 13 years on its dream of a multi-purpose sports precinct - and with the $4.2 million dollar project now complete, harness racing makes its long-awaited return to Charlton Park this Sunday.

"The whole project has been massive. But over the course of the journey there was a lot of determined people involved who kept the wheels turning," club Marketing Manager Andrea O'Gorman said.

The new multi-purpose Charlton Bendigo Bank Complex replaces old buildings that were in poor condition, flood damaged and, according to O'Gorman, "about to fall down".

The community readily acknowledges that former school principal John Harley, who was chairman of the 2020 committee, was the main driver.

"The whole thing nearly fell over a few times, but John was so resolute and would just pick it up and go again. He worked so hard, with the help of some strong sub-committees," O'Gorman said.

"It's incredible to think that the local community and those in surrounding areas, could raise $1.35million toward it," she said.

"There's an unbelievable feeling that the big day has arrived and the multi-purpose Facility really is all finished!"

The Charlton Harness Racing Club Committee deferred the return of racing in September, preferring to wait until the project was finally complete.

"We were reluctant to hold our opening meeting until everything around the outside looked as good as the inside," O'Gorman said.

"Minor exterior works like landscaping, the car parking area and around the stabling was holding us up. But it's all been done now along with a new white surface put on the track."

John Harley and Andrea O’Gorman outside the new Charlton Park Community Bank complex

O'Gorman, a former art teacher, has spent more than 12 months painting artworks depicting district identities and horses, which are sitting pride of place at the back of the horse's stalls.

"There's 94 stalls now, so I'm five short. I'd do a few in little bursts and then take a break, before getting back at it again. They all have an Indigenous connection that depicts the strong association the club has with the Dja Dja Wurrung people of the area," she said.

One particular piece of artwork in honor of former great pacer Imprimatar is sure to bring back fond memories. The son of Entrepreneur was one of the Charlton district's most successful pacers. After qualifying at Charlton in February 1989, he then went onto win 24 races for $286,000 over the next five years.

And despite Mother Nature not complying by serving up searing hot weather conditions for Friday causing another rescheduling of the meeting until Sunday, there's still an abundance of enthusiasm around the club.

"The decision to transfer the meeting to a twilight fixture this Sunday afternoon was necessary with the predicted heat-but the club is ecstatic with the number of horses competing in the eight races," O'Gorman said.

"One of the downsides to rescheduling it was that many businesses and groups had planned on having their Christmas break-up parties at the trots. And of course, others will have already made arrangements for Sunday. So how many might turn up is probably a big unknown at this stage," she said.

"But we just hope that big numbers are there-we just want it to be one big party."

The harness racing club will share the new multi-purpose facility with other users at the park including football, cricket, netball, tennis, hockey and fishing.

The Andrews Labor Government invested $1.5 million towards the cost of the community-driven project, which has delivered improved facilities not only for harness racing, but also for Agricultural and Pastoral Society administration, a 240-seat function centre and shared clubrooms for football, netball, hockey, tennis, cricket and golf.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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