MURTOA-MARMA Racing Club president David Delahunty believes race-goers will be treated to an outstanding afternoon at Murtoa today, despite a small field in the feature event.
Mr Delahunty said it was disappointing only four horses had accepted for the 2014 Emmetts-John Deere Marma Cup, to be run over 2050 metres.
"It's getting harder and harder each year because of all the other meetings, such as the one at Ararat this week," he said.
"Going back 25 or 30 years ago, ours was the only meeting in the region on New Year's Day."
Eight race meetings will take place across Victoria alone today.
"Some years it's not too bad and then other years we cop small fields like this," he said.
"It will still be a great day. It's just one of those things at this time of year."
Mr Delahunty said the track was in terrific condition because of a hard-working, dedicated committee.
"We've put in an enormous amount of work on the track and its surrounds during the past three to four years the past six to eight months in particular," he said.
"I think people who haven't been to Murtoa Racecourse for a while will be surprised by all the work that has been done and just how good it looks."
Mr Delahunty said today's weather forecast was favourable.
"The weather's going to be in the low 30s, which means it will be nice and warm without being stinking hot," he said.
"It looks like conditions will be perfect, which will make a huge difference.
"There's plenty of shade and lots of activities to keep people entertained."
Mr Delahunty said off-track entertainment would include live music and children's activities.
"It's always a great atmosphere for families and for young people," he said.
"I can guarantee it's going to be a great day."
The club has put together a six-race card.
The cup looks to be an open affair, with all four contenders having genuine claims.
Sue Murphy-trained Back on Track heads the weights on 58 kilograms and will be ridden by South Australia-based jockey Paul Marks.
The pair will defend its Marma Cup crown after winning the 2013 feature with Bredlign.
On face value, Back on Track's last two performances have only been fair, but he has been racing in better company finishing second in the Wycheproof Cup four starts ago.
Lucario, from the Stawell stable of David Noonan, is coming off a career-best performance at Nhill on Boxing Day.
The six-year-old son of Churchill Downs recorded a convincing three-and-a-half-length win in a 0-58 race.
He will need to travel an extra 400 metres for the 2050-metre cup trip, but will be guided by experienced Horsham jockey Holly McKechnie.
The Terry and Karina O'Sullivan-trained It's a Laugh is coming off a moderate performance in a 2000-metre, 0-58 race on his home track at Stawell.
But his previous 1600-metre run at Hamilton was full of merit, with the six-year-old enjoying a strong finish to claim third in a protest after being hampered entering the straight.
The final contender Taratruce is a lightly-raced seven-year-old from the Kyneton stable of Michael Sell.
He finished a solid third over 1875-metres in his last start after coming from well back in the field.
Today's encounter should be a tactical affair, with Back on Track and Lucario likely to settle one and two.
It's a Laugh and Taratruce will need to apply pressure mid-race to ensure they are in a winning position on the home turn.
The $8000 Marma Cup will be run at 4.40pm.
Gates open at 11am with the first race to jump at 2pm.