Thompson wary of hot spot risk

Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson says the close vicinity of Victoria's COVID-19 hot spots to some of racing's biggest venues has put the potential of large spring carnival crowds further in doubt.

The Flemington and Moonee Valley tracks are located on the borders of some of the 10 postcodes going back into lockdown for the next month at least due to Victoria's ongoing coronavirus spike.

Speaking on After The Last, Thompson said that with the recent outbreaks being so close to the some of the big clubs there was now less potential about the possibility of increased crowds during the spring.

“It’s taken a step back of course with those hot spots and some of those hot spots are pretty close to some of our venues, so it certainly makes it less likely we’ll have crowds in spring," he said.

“There’s plenty of people who work at those facilities who clearly live in those areas, there’s plenty of owners in those areas, so we’ve communicated to trainers at Flemington and to participants more broadly in and around those facilities to really ensure their biosecurity measures.

“We’re still over three months away so there’s a bit of optimism around and we’re planning for some return of crowds of size in spring but really it’s a step back for sure, we’ve had two steps forward and now we’ve had a step back for sure."

It was announced on Tuesday that Victoria's Spring Carnival prize money would remain largely untouched with $97.5mil still on offer.

Thompson said Racing Victoria had been in a position to do this due to wagering and a renewed engagement in racing as the sport was able to continue to run during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Early on in the crisis we saw really soft turnover and had great concern about that, we still thought the important thing was to keep racing and that proved to be the case," he said.

“Gradually as people got more comfortable with the situation in the community more broadly people have really engaged with racing and that’s certainly given us the confidence to be able to do this as we head into our key spring period.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there but while people are engaging with racing on TV, through and with wagering we have a fair bit of confidence we can do it sustainably.”

“We’re three-and-a-half months through this pandemic at the moment and we’ve got a long way to go, there’s no way we’re even near halfway through.

“I think certain parts of the racing industry have done really well such as wagering and the fact of keeping racing as well, but I think it shouldn’t be lost that the clubs in particular are very dependent on crowds and it’s really important way of punters getting to the track in spring and there’s great uncertainty about that."

Prize money was reduced slightly in a number of races including the Group 1 Kennedy Mile and the Group 1 Darley Sprint, but Thompson denied it was a club-led decision.

“The prize money is funded by three key sources – Racing Victoria, the government and the clubs, with top-ups throughout the spring.

“We considered all those three sources together when we’ve thought about this, it’s a collective contribution and it was a collective decision here to pick a few races which we can’t fully restore but as a whole we are getting a long way there, and $97.5mil prize money is a lot of prize money in the spring."

Victoria minimum prizemoney restored and flagship spring races unchanged