Victoria's Racing Minister Martin Pakula says he's committed to making this year's May Racing Carnival "as good as we can" after last year's event went ahead without a crowd.
Mr Pakula said a closer-to-normal May races was in sight but would depend on COVID-19 community transmission in the months ahead.
"If we are able to move through the first part of the year and maintain the current situation with no community transmission then the chances of a May race carnival more like those we remember becomes greater," he told The Standard.
Mr Pakula expressed commitment to "having a wonderful May races" while helping to open the Warrnambool Racing Club's $5.8m Matilda Room extension on Monday.
"There will be all the appropriate conversations with the public health team about making it as good as we can," he said.
The three-day event went ahead as a crowd-free, two-day meeting in 2020 due to the health restrictions.
But a 226-strong crowd was back at the club enjoying the Matilda Room on Monday for the Port Fairy Cup; the biggest race meet the new room has hosted crowds at.
The project, which took two-and-a-half years to build, can host up to 400 diners or 600 people for a cocktail function, double the club's previous capacity.
It includes a long upstairs function space that can divide into halves, a new commercial kitchen, two bars, two betting areas, a deck overlooking the course's finish line and a new downstairs cafe.
The project follows a $1.25 million grant from the federal government, $300,000 each from Racing Victoria and the state government, and $250,000 from the Woodford Racing Club, with the Warrnambool Racing Club contributing the remaining $3.7 million.
Federal Wannon MP Dan Tehan said the facility made the south-west community "a better place".
"It's on time, it's on budget and they have done a terrific job," Mr Tehan said.
Warrnambool Racing Club CEO Tom O'Connor said he was "relieved" to see the project opened and crowds attending.
"It's great to have people here. It's a real community facility so you want the community to enjoy it," he said.
"The beauty of this facility, because it's so big , we are able to operate fairly safely from a COVID point of view."
Racing Victoria has kept spectators and racing participants segregated at racecourses as part of health restrictions as crowds returned to meetings last year.
Mr Pakula said the racing body would likely review their rules going forward as community transmission remained at zero cases.
"The industry will have those discussions with public health about whether they need to stay in place," he said.
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