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23 September 2020
By ANDREW DOWDELL
Horsham and District Racing Club has erred on the side of caution by ruling out crowds at the Horsham Cup meeting next month.
Club president Jason Merlo had hoped that some form of crowd might be possible at the October 18 cup meeting, however the board this week aborted those plans.
“There will be nothing on course, I think that’s the way Country Racing Victoria wants it at the moment so we have erred on the side of caution,” he said.
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“It is disappointing, but you’ve got to think of the bigger picture and there’s less than a month until we race.
“But whatever happens, the races and the Miller’s Contractors Horsham Cup will go ahead.”
Mr Merlo said the club was unwilling to risk the health of Wimmera residents and further financial pain by pushing ahead and allowing owners and members back on track.
“We have no COVID cases here and we don’t want them in Horsham, and if the A-grade jockeys from Melbourne came to race, we would have to pay for facilities to isolate them, which would be very expensive,” he said.
“The main thing is doing everything to avoid another lockdown and we are hoping that things will ease in time for us to have crowds back at our Christmas meeting in December.”
The 2020 spring cups circuit throughout the Wimmera will not feature usual attractions such as Fashions on the Field competitions, corporate marquees and children’s activities such as face painting.
Mr Merlo said he understood racing was among myriad decisions facing the State Government and health authorities on their plan for Victoria to return to a semblance of normal life.
The State Opposition accused Premier Daniel Andrews’ Labor Government of having ‘no plan to get racing people back to the track’.
Shadow Racing Minister Tim Bull said while ‘a stepped and staged approach’ to crowd returns was sensible, the government must show more guidance and leadership.
“We are heading into the prime racing season and country race clubs have some of their most profitable days coming up on the calendar,” he said.
“Horse owners are one of the backbones of our great industry and as a first step we should be looking at getting limited numbers of owners back on course, and club members as well.”
Mr Bull said changes to allow up to 50 people at an outdoor dining facility should have been matched by guidelines for racing administrators.
“While people will grace bowling greens, tennis courts and golf courses, one of our state’s biggest sectors has been left hanging by a thread,” he said.
The entire September 23, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!