Shortened Warrnambool racing carnival revealed

Country racing’s famous three-day Warrnambool racing carnival has been cut down to just two days, featuring a jumps-only day and a flat racing-only day.

In a decision which is aiming to “significantly reduce the number of participants needing to stay in Warrnambool”, the carnival has been condensed to run over the first Tuesday and Wednesday of May.

A revamped two-day Warrnambool carnival has been announced.Credit:Pat Scala

By putting the jumps races on one day and the flat races on the next, it also means jumps and flat racing jockeys won’t mix over the two days and should be able to travel to Warrnambool and back on the same day.

“With the strict biosecurity protocols in place to allow for the continuation of racing in Victoria without crowds, we have had to re-imagine this year’s May carnival to provide a program that minimises risks, community interaction and the number of essential staff to deliver the event,” Racing Victoria’s executive general manager of racing Greg Carpenter said.

“In consultation with the club, CRV and AJRA, we have determined that a two-day May carnival with one meeting exclusive to jumps racing and the other to flat racing is the safest format to ensure that we can still conduct Warrnambool’s iconic races.

“The revamped program assists with the logistics of conducting the event, allows us to segregate our jumps and flat jockeys, and significantly reduces the number of participants that need to stay in Warrnambool, which is again unfortunate for local businesses, but a responsible measure for the industry to take.”

Prizemoney has been slashed by 10 per cent for all races, with the Thursday timeslot to be allocated to another club yet to be determined.

Warrnambool had budgeted for 30,000 people to attend over the three days, with one third of those tied to pre-paid packages and general admission tickets and memberships, however the ban on crowds will remain in place for the carnival.

Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive Tom O’Connor told The Age that those with pre-paid tickets for the carnival would be given the option to transfer them to the 2021 carnival.

“Everybody is being affected differently in this time, so we’ve been dealing with it on a case by case basis but there’s definitely been a lot of support in transferring it to 2021 and a lot of talk and excitement about the three days returning in 2021,” O’Connor said.

“The one thing it has shown to the club is there’s some great support out there from our members and people that travel from afar annually to the event have been fantastic in dealing with the club and allowing us some time to get some strategies in place in looking at transferring a lot of packages to 2021 or refunding.

“Everyone’s been really respectful and supportive of the club in a really trying time.”

More than $8 million in new money was generated for Warrnambool last year will be lost in 2020 and O’Connor said racing would play a huge role in bringing tourism back to the region once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

“Every community at the moment, if you’re involved in events and rely on tourism, you’re certainly hurting,” he said.

“The actual fallout is unknown at this stage but it’s certainly something, as a club, we’re mindful moving forward that once we can see some daylight at the end of this period we’ve got a role to play in trying to bring business back to the community.”

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