Among the COVID-safe measures being looked at are a click and collect food service and cordoned-off entrances to manage the flow of people into the ground.
The DHHS, Department of Sport and Department of Premier and Cabinet are all involved in the process. CA is still yet to release its remodelled home men’s international schedule.
Victorian horse racing has operated behind closed doors since the middle of March due to the coronavirus, apart from a six-week window from June 23 until early August when owners were allowed back on course under strict protocols. However a reduction in COVID-19 cases in Victoria over the past seven weeks has improved the possibility of some crowds attending the races during the spring carnival.
Should crowds be permitted on track, it’s expected priority will go to owners of horses running at the respective meetings, as well as sponsors, before members and the general public will be allowed on course.
“Since March, the VRC has been planning for a number of different scenarios for the 2020 Melbourne Cup carnival, including the possibility of reduced or no crowds,” VRC chief executive Neil Wilson said.
“With four weeks until Derby Day, that planning continues and we are in regular discussions with the state government as to how we may be able to safely welcome small crowds to Cup week.
“No decision on crowds for the Cup week has been made. The decision ultimately lies with the state government and will depend on public health advice.
“Whilst of course we would love to host crowds at Flemington for Australia’s greatest racing carnival, we know that most people will be watching away from the track. That’s why we are focused on providing an off-course experience that ensures everyone can share in the magic and excitement of the Cup week, no matter where they may be watching.”
The government is also in talks with Racing Victoria, the Melbourne Racing Club and the Moonee Valley Racing Club on the potential for limited attendance by connections and sponsors at the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate.
The Caulfield Cup is the first major cab off the rank on October 17, which is likely to be run and won before the five-kilometre restriction on movement in metropolitan Melbourne is lifted, making it difficult for the MRC to plan for any sort of crowds.
But MRC chief executive Josh Blanksby said the club has asked whether connections and those with an official duty, such as race sponsors who are offered the chance to present winning trophies to trainers and jockeys, might be able to attend.
Minister for Racing Martin Pakula said any decision on crowds would rest with the government’s public health team.
“Decisions on attendance at major race days will be based on public health advice, which has been our consistent position,” Pakula said.
“We will give all proposals proper consideration and it’s worth noting that interest in the carnival to date from Victorians and racing people interstate has been as strong as ever.”
When Racing Victoria allowed owners on course from June 23 until early August this year, they were underpinned by protocols that included a time limit on when they had to arrive and depart the course, limits on how many owners per race could pre-register to attend and restrictions on where on course they could go.
Should crowds be allowed on course, they will almost certainly be restricted from accessing mounting yards and stabling areas where racing participants are working.
Damien Ractliffe is the Chief Racing Reporter for The Age.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.