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Buchan and Gelantipy Racing Club

About the Club

Attending the Buchan Gelantipy Race Club Picnic Races at Canni Creek every years is a unique experience.

Set in the hills of Buchan, the Canni Creek race track has its own atmosphere and special track where spectators wait in suspense when they lose sight of the racing horses while they are hidden by the trees at the rear of the course and the fun is to see which horses reappear first.

The first Canni Creek Picnic Race meeting was held on Boxing Day in 1887 but the meetings were held on a  regular basis at the turn of the Century.

Most meetings were staged at the unique Canni Creek Track but they were also held at Sunny Point Farm, Quails Property, Buchan Station, Cloggs, the Gelantipy Station and Nigel Hunter's property.

Now at the turn of the century, the Canni Creek track has a modern look with new running rails and horse stalls bought with a grant from Racing Victoria which recognizes the Canni Creek meeting as important to preserve.

At Canni Creek, the on-course facilities are unique in appearance having being carved out of bush timber over the history of the meetings and are now adequate to cater for extremely large crowds. During early settlement of the Buchan and Gelantipy areas between 1860-1870 the Ricketson family, who held the Gelantipy station from 1878, were keenly interested in horses. Another name remembered by district residents is that of Mr K. Cavanagh, one time manager of Buchan Station. It is on record that the Gelantipy bred horses took part in ring events in the first Bairnsdale Show in 1974.

In the early days of colonial settlement, a demand for horses suitable for use as remounts in the Indian Army developed horse breeding as one the most profitable undertakings on the larger selections in the Buchan-Gelantipy areas.

Country of the type found in Buchan Valley was recognized by stud masters as "Ideal for horse breeding".

It was not long after settling in the area that many of the larger station properties had their own race courses and training tracks carved out of the bush, where owners and stock riders competed in flat ram and over fences.

Names of the men "who could do anything with a horse" are legendary in Buchan and Gelantipy. There were the Hunter brothers who maintained a steeplechase course, with particularly difficult obstacles. All four brothers were absolutely fearless and their skillful horsemanship, as well as the horses they bred and rode, are still spoken of with respect.

It was hardly surprising that a racing club was formed early in the district's history. James Dixon settled on the Murrindal River area in 1868 and built a homestead known as Murrindale Park. He was as good a judge of horses as any man and there were always good horses in the Glen and Murrindale Park. Among the horses he bred, district residents remember "Gelanllen" and "Daylight". The latter carried the district's hopes on at least one occasion as an entrant in the Melbourne Cup.

The tradition was carried on when Cad Price became the owner of Murrindale Park. He owned a horse named "Brave Flash", a performer on several East Gippsland courses. Another well known horse was "Toby", belonging to Mr. Lindsay Price.

Mr Price Snr. was Secretary of the Buchan and Gelantipy Racing Club for many years. After his retirement he was succeeded by his son, Mr Terry Price, who still shows much interest in the races.

The Canni Creek Races over the last two decades, has gone from a local sporting event to one of the most popular fixtures in the Picnic Racing Victoria racing calendar and attracts support from racing enthusiasts from a wide area of East Gippsland. It is not unusual to record overseas visitors among the large crowd attending this truly picnic meeting.

To be able to set up their hospitality tents in the shade of trees surrounding the course, parties arrive the day before by caravan and are ready for the gala atmosphere and holiday mood this gathering of district residents and visitors creates.

Former residents of the Buchan area return annually for the races and renew friendships, in addition to family reunions for the occasion. The race program continues with additional social events over the weekend.

The Canni Creek race track that you see today has had many changes. Every year it improves to cater for the large crowds.

For many years the ladies auxiliary catered for luncheons and afternoon teas with a band of women and also some of the men lending a hand with dishwashing and serving hotdogs - all under bush and camp-like conditions (no power). As a majority of the race-goers were a long way from home, feeding them was quite a feat.

As the years rolled on we found that people were reverting back to the early years when everyone brought their picnic lunches with them, meeting their friends and relatives and having a real reunion with them and a pleasant and enjoyable day in keeping with the title "Picnic Race Meeting".

Some years ago we handed over the catering to the Lions Club of Lakes Entrance as we found more and more people were bringing their own picnic baskets and it was a very hard task trying to cater for a volume of visitors, especially with voluntary helpers becoming hard to get. However, since Black Saturday The Buchan Footbal and Netball Club have been catering.

A bush bar operates for the punters to celebrate their winnings from on-course bookmakers who cater for local, Melbourne and interstate races.

The club purchases a 14 stall starting barrier from the Caulfield Racecourse at a cost of $4,000. They have also erected a 72'6" shed to house the starting stalls (Cost $6,900). The club is very grateful to the former Tambo Shire, which made an interest-free loan of $5,000 available. A toilet block was also built, with extensions added to cope with the increasing crowds. Recently, a "Living Country Racing Grant" provided a new inside running rail and the East Gippsland Shire Council provided a power generator and smaller and lighter starting barriers have been sourced from Woolamai R.C in 2011.

Cars are parked over a wide area of the grounds and race-goers have a clear view of the course which is also a nine hole golf links. Passenger buses bring enthusiasts from Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance, Orbost and Lindenow.

A note of sophistication was added one year when a small plane arrived bringing a Melbourne bookmaker. His departure caused quite an exciting moment when his plane stirred up a large cloud of dust.