VICTORIA'S peak racing body will push ahead with a reduced Warrnambool May Racing Carnival, despite a unanimous council vote calling to postpone or cancel this year's event.
Councillor Kylie Gaston raised fears the races could spread coronavirus in the region, likening it to the health consequences from the Ruby Princess cruise ship, before gaining support from fellow councillors to ask the state government to put brakes on the event.
Racing Victoria moved to assure councillors on Thursday of the "strict biosecurity protocols" planned for the wound-back two-day event next month, slated to continue without crowds.
"Having not been presented with the opportunity to discuss this matter with councillors prior to their reported decision, we look forward to the opportunity to provide them with a detailed overview," a statement said.
A spokesman said Racing Victoria had told non-local participants not to stay in the region and to drive between the racecourse and home on the same day.
He also assured there would be no interstate travel to any races.
"There will be no industry staff staying in Warrnambool," he said. "This will be the May Racing Carnival in name only. It will look and feel nothing like the event that the local community or indeed the racing industry are used to."
The spokesman said that the decision to split the jumps and flat races across two meetings meant that each day of the May Races was scheduled to have less people in attendance than those at a restricted Warrnambool meeting two weeks ago.
He said racing was "continuing in a safe and responsible manner is to support those people whose livelihoods depend on it".
Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula told The Standard that Victoria's Chief Health Officer's advice was that "racing can continue at this time" with restrictions.
"Racing Victoria is responsible for determining the timing and location of individual race meetings," Mr Pakula said.
"Racing is being conducted under strict biosecurity protocols, including a ban on race-day crowds and limits on personnel allowed on track, and we commend the industry for the responsible way in which it has met the challenges of this unprecedented situation.
"It's worth noting that already this week, racing has been conducted at Echuca, Ballarat, Bendigo, Benalla and Kilmore."
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