While the large crowd expected for Wellington Cup Day will no longer be present at Trentham on Saturday, the Wellington Racing Club is thankful the meeting is able to go ahead.
With New Zealand entering the red setting of the COVID-19 traffic light system at 11:59pm last Sunday, the club has to comply with the gathering restrictions imposed by the Government.
As a result the 10,000 expected crowd will be reduced to a tenth of the size, with the club utilising a pod system of no more than 100 people per pod.
RACE INC chief executive Tim Savell, who oversees the club, is philosophical about the timing of the alert level change.
“We have just to be realistic about the position the country is in and the industry needs to be safe and secure,” Savell said.
“You have just got to deal with what is in front of you and make it work.
“It is fair to say that we have been planning for that eventuality (entering red traffic light setting).
“It was in the back of everyone’s mind that it could occur, so it is not a complete surprise.
“It is extremely disappointing for the thousands of people who were going to come along and have a good time.
“From a club perspective, the icing on the cake is your big day, so you are not getting the chance to have a bigger bite of the pie.”
Savell said pre-ticket sales were promising and another bumper crowd was expected for the club’s biggest day on the calendar.
“There is a lot of refunding to be done in due course for those general admissions for a day they can no longer attend,” he said.
“We were hoping for the same number as last year, so between 7,000-10,000. Now we are down to about 1700-1800.”
Savell said the industry has been in the same position in the past, so they know what is needed to comply with COVID-19 protocols.
“From a racemeeting perspective, it is back to how we were in September-October. So the industry has got that sussed, it is just turning back the clock a few months,” he said.
“We have been through this before and we know that with our big site we can spread people out.
“We will have discreet pods with their own entrances, amenities, totes, and table service for food and drink.
“From an industry perspective, we are completely sealing off the ground floor of our members stand so that it is only for the industry.”
While the Wellington Cup meeting will be held with limited groups spread throughout the complex, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing has made the decision that racemeetings at Matamata and Hawke’s Bay on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, will be conducted as closed-door meetings.
The Canterbury Jockey Club has also decided to run their meeting at Riccarton on Saturday behind closed doors. A decision regarding attendance at their racemeetings from February onwards will be made prior to the third day of the Riccarton Park Summer Racing Season on Saturday 12 February.