The Victorian Government announced a number of eased restrictions on Sunday which will allow Victorians to get closer to normality once again.
Many have immediately turned their attention to sporting events and the possibility of crowds returning.
However, while that is on the cards for Racing Victoria, it won’t be happening just yet.
Racing Minister Martin Pakula said on Monday that racing still had to jump through some hoops before allowing punters back onto course.
“Whether it can get away by Saturday, it’s going to be tight,” Pakula told RSN 927.
“Certainly within the next week or two I would expect to see crowds starting to come back to racetracks once those plans are submitted and ticked off by the relevant inter-departmental committee and the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We’re engaging with the industry I think starting today or tomorrow.
“My suggestion has been we talk to the three metropolitan clubs and probably CRV (Country Racing Victoria), on behalf of all country clubs, about submitting applications along with GRV (greyhounds) and HRV (harness) as well.”
The news comes as a bit of a blow for the organisers of Sunday’s Jericho Cup meeting at Warrnambool.
“It’s probably going to be tough with the Jericho I think,” Pakula said.
“Basically, we have a public events framework in place where organisations that want to put on events make applications, submit COVID-safe plans and get ticked off.
“The nature of that process differs depending on the size of the event so it’s under 500 its very different to a Boxing Day test at the MCG
“Under the public events framework, the first couple of weeks from now to early or mid-December will be up to but we’ve indicated that will move every couple of weeks provided we maintain the current infection profile so that’s really promising.
“I think you’ll see up to 5000 in a few weeks’ time but look, it might not take two weeks.
“It might be a week from now. The first country meeting of next week there might be crowds but the way it will look will depend on the plan put forward by country racing or by the metropolitan clubs or the venue and that being signed off.
“I can’t really speculate about what the mix might be between club members and GA (general attendance).
“The office of racing will work with the PRAs (Principal Racing Authorities) and the clubs to get their applications in and we’ll be working with the Department of Health to get them ticked-off ASAP.
“The fact that we’ve had owners on the track and we are going to get crowds back on track in the next couple of weeks is another step along the road that the economy is taking and its another great advance for racing.”
Pakula spoke in high praise of racing’s ability to push through the pandemic uninterrupted , an achievement not many other sports have been able to pull off.
“I think since March, if I am not mistaken, we might have missed one day and that might have been the Mark Zahra test and we missed half a day or a day if you’d said that to me in March I would have thought that was incredibly optimistic,” he said.
“We didn’t just get through. I thought the quality of racing in Melbourne in the spring was just exceptional.
“The Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup were all really high-quality fields and I think turnover speaks to that.
“People were very engaged with racing this year and the fact that we got through it all without missing a beat is a great credit to the industry.”