THE three-day Swan Hill June Racing Carnival has officially been reduced to a nine-race meeting on Sunday, June 7 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
After weeks of discussions with Country Racing Victoria and Racing Victoria, Swan Hill Jockey Club (SHJC) CEO Aaron Garvie said the conditions were not viable to run the traditional format.
"Under the current bio-security protocols, we don't have any members, general public or owners that can attend race meetings — essential staff only," Garvie said.
"In our opinion, the restrictions will go longer than the June carnival, meaning we'd continue to operate under those conditions."
The decision falls in line with the Warrnambool May Carnival's reduction to one day — the state's only other three-day carnival.
Garvie said it was disappointing not to be running an event which has seen more than 10,000 people flock to the Swan Hill Racecourse in previous years.
"It's a community and tourist engagement event for Swan Hill and a massive three days for us and the town, so it was a decision not made lightly," Garvie said.
"The positive is racing is still going ahead with all our biggest races across the three days running within one day."
The $112,500 Swan Hill Cup (1600m), $90,000 VOBIS Gold Elvstroem Classic (1300m), $90,000 Golden Topaz (1200m) and $31,500 Drought Breaker Maiden (1600m) will all run this year.
While changes across all race meetings in Victoria sees the prize money of each race reduced by 10 per cent this year, Garvie said more than $450,000 will be on offer.
SHJC are already processing full refunds to all those who had pre-booked tickets to the carnival.
However, Garvie said some ticket holders are asking the club to use their money to secure tickets to the 2021 carnival.
"It's fantastic to see and while we're focusing our attention to the cup meeting this year, we're looking ahead to making the carnival bigger and better in 2021," Garvie said.
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions being in place since March, the club has still successfully hosted three race meeting, including one last Sunday.
"Racing is one of the fortunate industries to still be functioning, although under a lot of restrictions," Garvie said.
"While we've lost two carnival racing days, we're having a second meeting from Mildura transferred here on May 11, so we're on track to maintain the same amount of races in a season.
"Meetings have been capped to nine and maximum fields of 12 across country races, which hasn't affected us and we're still seeing strong nominations.
"The trainers still have access to all the facilities, although some are forced to take a reduced number of staff to meetings.
"Before anyone enters the track for meetings or track work, we are doing temperature testing as well — so abiding by all the precautionary measures."
Garvie said while the club has adjusted aspects of their business, no layoffs have been made and he hopes the club can continue to grow beyond the pandemic.
"We were fortunate to have a healthy balance, plus government programs such as JobKeeper are assisting us," Garvie said.
"We've put our Customer Facilities Enhancement Program on hold, but we managed to finish the refurbishment of our main toilet block.
"Hopefully before the commencement of the 2021 carnival, we can complete our refurbishment of the kitchen in our trainers and owners area."