The return of crowds to the Warrnambool Racing Club came just in the nick of time for Des Free.
The Timboon man and long-time club member was able to attend Thursday's meeting and watch the horse he co-owns, Ashberg, run around in the third race on the card.
While it was an unspectacular result - Ashberg came second last - it was a joyous occasion for Mr Free.
"I'm not a big punter, I just love watching the horses running around," Mr Free said.
"It's good to be able to come to the races again, you do miss it. The staff here have been fantastic, it's a bit of different circumstances today so to have that extra help has been great."
Mr Free was among the club members and horse owners who were permitted onto the course for the meeting as part of a Victorian government COVID-19 trial to test the staging of events with bigger crowds.
The cap on crowds for the race meeting was 300.
Warrnambool Racing Club CEO Tom O'Connor said the gathered crowd was just shy of that number.
"We are very pleased with the turn-out and things have gone really well," Mr O'Connor said.
"It was a trial today and we have got some good feedback and will gather some handy data. We have had some extra staff on, as we have throughout COVID, to help people navigate their way through the day."
Mr O'Connor said the club would provide feedback to the state government about the meeting.
He said the club would be keen to host further crowd capacity trials if asked. The next two meetings are October 28 and November 5.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
- Bookmark https://www.standard.net.au/
- Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines
- and newsletters.
- Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
- Tap here to open our Google News page.
- Join our Courts and Crime Facebook group and our dedicated Sport Facebook group