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Local boy . . . Totara-based driver Matthew Williamson with Boredeaux, a winner at last year's Christmas at the Races meeting. PHOTO: CAROL EDWARDS

It is hoped a strong focus on family entertainment will draw the crowds to Saturday’s Christmas at the Races meeting at Oamaru Racecourse.

As well as the full afternoon of harness racing action, there will be entertainment for both young and old to enjoy.

Oamaru Harness Racing Club president Dave Heffernan said the usual entertainment for children – including the rat race, mini Jeeps and several bouncy castles – would be up and running, and there would be music provided by John McCabe.

Fashion in the Field returns, and the on-course action includes two kids karts races, for children and their ponies.

Mr Heffernan said he expected a lot of families to come straight to the racecourse from the Oamaru Christmas Parade, which takes place on the morning of the event.

“I think it should attract numbers because it [Christmas parade] normally wraps up by lunchtime and we start at about 1pm.

“What we’re trying to do is connect with the greater North Otago area. We have succeeded with the corporate side of things, so if we can connect with the families, that’s our main push.”

He said sales for the marquee area, at about 450, had been strong, and he expected a decent walk-up crowd if the weather played its part.

The first race on the 10-race programme is scheduled for 1pm, and the brothers-in-arms drivers series is expected to again prove popular with punters.

This year’s series features North Otago’s Matthew and Nathan Williamson, plus Ken and Clark Barron, Leo and Gerard O’Reilly, Phillip and David Butcher, Jay and Saliesh Abernethy, and Hamish and Peter Hunter.

The youngest Williamson brother, Brad, was originally going to partner Matthew but he will be in action in Australia.

Brad, last year’s leading junior driver with 70 wins, is representing New Zealand in the Australasian Young Drivers Championship which begins in Perth tonight.

Mr Heffernan said it was likely all 10 races in Oamaru would feature full fields.

Gates open at 11am with free general admission.