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RACING TO A START DATE

June 27, 2020

BY ANDREW HORNERY, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

They may be faint, but there are signs of a pulse returning to the national social scene.

Organisers of Sydney’s Spring Racing Carnival are forging ahead with plans for seven weeks of thoroughbred action across Rosehill and Royal Randwick, though exactly what a day at the track will look like in the COVID-19 age is a little unclear.

Australian Turf Club commercial executive general manager Corina Black confirmed limited ticket sales – which had been frozen at the start of the pandemic – had quietly resumed this week, and were selling fast, with a focus on tables (albeit socially distanced) within the venues’ restaurants, as well as corporate boxes and private suites.

“Even with social distancing restrictions we can safely accommodate 10,000 people per race day, and we are anticipating, and hoping, that by the time the Everest comes around on October 17, we will be at full capacity at Randwick… so that’s 40,000 people,” a cautiously confident Black predicted.

The club will be using sophisticated thermal imaging cameras at its main entry point to the racecourses. When someone entering registers an above-average temperature, they will be stopped and scrutinised.

“If they are not well, we will be turning them away. Our staff have been fully trained in the new rules of social distancing. The facilities are now being constantly cleaned and we have installed reminder notices around to set out just how far punters should be from each other.”

Next week the Victoria Racing Club is meeting with key stakeholders to gauge what sort of Spring Racing Carnival will be held in Melbourne this year, though given the latest spike in COVID-19 cases, the prospects of the grand social gathering we are used to do not look promising.

Meanwhile milliners such as Paddington’s Neil Grigg have been dreaming up creative new headwear concepts that could provide a stylish and safe solution for ladies heading to the track.

“To incorporate a face shield of some kind into the headwear, offering full protection but is still elegant and beautiful… I believe it can be done,” Grigg said.

“There won’t be much opportunity for showing off if everyone’s in a box, so yes, maybe giant brims will be the go, at the very least it will be a good social distancer, no one will be able to get under it to get close!”

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