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Coronavirus hiccup hits race club members

Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson is hoping patrons will still be allowed on-course by the end of July, but admits it’s less likely because of the latest coronavirus spike in the state.

Owners returned to the racetrack at Ballarat on Tuesday and it was hoped members and spectators would be back in July after restrictions in Victoria were relaxed.

But with a spike in COVID-19 cases over the past week and AFL player Conor McKenna testing positive, restrictions have been toughened.

Thompson is, however, still hopeful patrons may be back on the course by the end of July.

Thompson said racing was guided by the same regulations as those governing all professional sports in Victoria.

“We were hopeful at the back-end of last week that those guidelines would allow spectators at professional sports towards the back-end of July and that would allow us to really ramp up the numbers on track,” Thompson told RSN927.

“Unfortunately the hiccup on the weekend has meant that is less likely to be the end of July now, I wouldn’t totally rule it out, but it’s certainly less likely.”

Thompson has implored the racing industry to remain vigilant saying they have done a remarkable job in keeping racing going.

“We need to do everything to keep on track because the AFL issue over the last few days clearly illustrates how fragile things can be,” Thompson said.

“I implore those participants to keep going with the protocols, keep going with the biosecurity and the social distancing.

“We can’t take for granted that we’ll race through the next four, five, six months unless we work hard at it.”

Thompson has described Victoria Racing Club’s plan to keep 40,000 or 50,000 people trackside during Melbourne Cup week as “prudent”.

He noted coronavirus would have a big bearing on numbers across all tracks during the spring carnival, although clubs were planning for crowds on track.

“I like the (VRC’s) optimism and I share the optimism, but I wouldn’t be saying its going to definitely happen at this point,” he said.

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