SOUTH-WEST harness racing trainers, drivers and owners could soon head to metropolitan races as the state's top body aims to move out of region-based racing.
Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) is on track to move out of region-based racing on July 1 and has set July 13 as the target date to resume racing at all tracks around the state.
Trainers, drivers and owners will be able to aspire to win feature and metropolitan prizemoney for the first time since Victoria moved into a regional-based model in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From July 1 to 12 meets will be conducted at the nine clubs - Ballarat, Bendigo, Cranbourne, Kilmore, Melton, Mildura, Shepparton, Stawell and Terang - which have been part of regional racing.
From those dates trainers from across the state can nominate their horses at these clubs.
Listen to this week's edition of The Standard's football podcast - The Main Break
HRV will work with Trots Clubs Victoria to ensure from July 13 all clubs are comfortable in managing the strict protocols in place to keep the industry safe following the coronavirus pandemic.
CEO Dayle Brown spoke glowingly of how the industry has responded to COVID-19.
"I am enormously proud of the way in which our clubs, participants and staff have risen to the challenge and adhered to the stringent protocols in place to keep us racing as we navigate through this period," he said.
"They should all feel proud of their efforts and it is because of those efforts we are on track to continue phasing out of regional racing."
Terang's Jason Lee, who has slowly seen an increase in his rides in the past month, hopes to get more drives with regional-based racing ending.
Lee, who scored a double at Wednesday's meet at Stawell, said his family's stable currently had 30 horses in work and would soon gear up for a return to metro races.
Every Saturday night during July Tabcorp Park Melton will showcase metropolitan racing with feature races to headlining those meetings.
Brown said "it is so important as an industry we get this next step right" as the sport returns from coronavirus-enforced changes.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.