Members, owners and some spectators are being welcomed back to major SA race meetings at Murray Bridge and Gawler over the next two Saturdays.
Tomorrow’s bumper nine-race Murray Bridge meeting, offering a record $456,500 in prize money, will have a capacity of 350 people, while up to 1000 will attend the Gawler and Barossa Jockey Club’s city-class meeting on Saturday week.
In addition, this Sunday’s Port Augusta Cup meeting will also have up to 1000 people on course, as clubs endeavour to get people back to the races following the COVID-19 restrictions.
Murray Bridge Racing Club will open its indoor facilities tomorrow, with up to 350 members of the public – that is non-essential racing personnel – allowed on site.
Club secretary/manager John Buhagiar said bookings for the meeting were strong, with about 75 per cent of available spots already taken up.
“People who book will get priority, including members of the public,” he said.
“We still have general admission, but once we reach capacity we’ll close off to general admissions.”
Mr Buhagiar said all Murray Bridge’s facilities would be open tomorrow, including the balcony and front stand, but reminded people that social-distancing restrictions would remain in place.
“We’re really happy that it’s now come to a number (of attendees) that makes reopening viable,” he said.
“Saturday’s a really big day for the club, and it’s exciting.”
Gawler and Barossa Jockey Club members have already booked out the site’s entire function centre for the July 11 meeting and CEO Shane Collins said opening up sooner, rather than later, was an important acknowledgement of members, owners and the racing public.
“Recognising the urgency of our members wanting to get back to the races has been paramount,” he said.
“They’ve really jumped on board and we’re very motivated to make sure our members are looked after.
“Owners are also hugely important.”
The Gawler and Barossa Jockey Club has left a number of spots vacant for general admissions, adhering at all times to the two-square metres social-distancing condition.
“We will be open to the public on the day, but we can’t guarantee that they will get entry, depending on numbers,” Mr Collins said.
“We’re suggesting general admissions pre-book and buy a pass beforehand, so then we can manage the numbers, knowing how many can get let in on the day.”
Mr Buhagiar echoed Mr Collins’ view that the racing public was eager to get trackside, following the coronavirus-enforced lockouts.
“I think there’s a lot of interest from people there, being able to come back,” he said.
“I must say, we congratulate the industry and the people who are coming back to the racing for their understanding of the circumstances we’re in, and the respect they have for it. It’s been brilliant.”
SA racing clubs will manage the return of patrons by operating under a COVID-19 safe plan to ensure appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures are maintained. Please note that patrons, members and owners will not be permitted into essential racing areas, including the mounting yard and horse stall area.