IT SEEMED everything you touched at Torbanlea Race Track yesterday turned into gold as last minute preparations were made for tomorrow's Torbanlea Picnic Races.

With a new format, a new cup and a boost in prize money, this year's event will have a 15-strong field vying for the first-ever $15,000 Elstons Partners Gold Rush.

Organisers took to the course with buckets of paint and brushes to give the venue a golden makeover.

Not even the rusty old starting gates were spared as workers blasted the metal frame with gold.

Burrum Recreation Reserve Association president Mal Chard said it was fitting one of the richest picnic races in Australia was given the Midas touch.

"This is going to be bigger than Ben-Hur," he said.

"For a small community to put on an event like this year is an exceptional effort."

As the only horse race in the district, the annual Torbanlea Picnic Races lure thousands of punters eager to be part of the action.

The quality of horses may not be like Flemington, but for spectators it will be racing heaven.

"There's something special to this day," John Charlton, who trains three-time cup winner Jazz, tells.

"It's the biggest event in this area I know of and for me this is favourite day of the year."

While the race for the record prize money will be hotly contested, the battle for best dress trackside will surely go down to the wire.

Over recent years the picnic race has developed into a fashion spectacular where women pull on their most glamorous outfits for the popular Frangipanni Fashions on the Field competition.

Other picnic race favourite's mini trotters, wood chop, tug-of-war and public sprints will also be returning.

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