BENDIGO Jockey Club (BJC) remains hopeful Saturday's Golden Mile race day will go ahead despite a two-day suspension on racing in Victoria, starting this afternoon (Wednesday).
Racing Victoria (RV) called an immediate halt to racing after the second event at Sandown on Wednesday due to fears a licensed participant could have become infected with COVID-19.
In a statement to the media, RV said the participant had been advised by health authorities that they were on the same flight as a confirmed case of COVID-19 when they travelled on March 12, prior to the introduction of strict coronavirus protocols governing the conduct of racing in Victoria, and the Federal Government's announcements on March 13 restricting social gatherings.
The participant is not currently displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.
Acting upon medical advice, RV abandoned Wednesday's meeting at Sandown after race two.
With RV seeking to resume racing in the event of a negative test result, BJC chief executive Aaron Hearps said he was optimistic the feature race meeting would go ahead.
"As far as we know we are racing, unless otherwise notified, but much will depend on the outcome of the test result for this participant, whether they are positive or negative," he said.
"If they are negative, and we hope they are, there's still a strong chance we'll be running Saturday.
"There are always people in worse off positions than we are, but we are hopeful more from an industry perspective we can race.
"The acceptances came out today (Wednesday) and it's probably the strongest Golden Mile race day we've ever had and the race itself is the strongest one I've ever seen.
"With Group 1 and Group 2 winners in it, for a Listed race it's magnificent.
"So, we're still hopeful we will run, but we will be dictated to by the government and the racing industry and we will abide accordingly and be ready for whatever we are instructed to do."
A full field of 16 plus four emergencies for the $150,000 Golden Mile (1600m) includes last year's $400,000 Group 3 Bendigo Cup winner Top of the Range, who is resuming from a 20 week spell.
The David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig team has heavily targeted the rich feature with five acceptors, headlined by Group 3 winner So Si Bon, a last start sixth behind Regal Power in the $5 million All-Star Mile.
In line with a statewide ban on race crowds, spectators are not permitted to enter the racecourse on Saturday, with attendance limited to participants and racing officials only and select media.
The BJC has implemented strict protocols to mitigate the risk of coronavirus being spread, not only on race days, but for trainers, jockeys and stablehands attending morning track work and its own office and outdoor staff.
"The health and wellbeing of staff is paramount to us, so we've put different OH&S procedures in place," Hearps said.
"Things like hand sanitisers and getting gloves in, and on Golden Mile race day there will be staff at the gate with thermometers, who will be testing everyone who comes in, to make sure they don't exceed the temperature threshold. We'll do all those things that help mitigate risk.
"We've put practices in place in the office where we are rotating staff internally, and next week the outdoor staff will be rotated to look after their health and wellbeing.
"A lot of it we are implementing day by day - (the situation) is changing every day and we are trying to move with the changes."
Thursday's Kilmore and Pakenham meetings have also been abandoned.
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