BENDIGO racing bosses have applauded the efforts of industry participants in making sure their respective sports continue.
But they warn now is not the time to become complacent in the fight against COVID-19.
The praise from the Bendigo Jockey Club (BJC), Bendigo Harness Racing Club (BHRC) and Bendigo Greyhound Racing Association (BGRA) follows confirmation on Monday from Premier Daniel Andrews of all three codes being given the green light to continue for the foreseeable future.
BJC chief executive officer Aaron Hearps admitted he was cautiously optimistic in the lead up to Monday that racing would be given the approval to continue.
"I was fairly certain Racing Victoria would have had a contingency plan in the case of stage four being announced," he said.
"We have got a great Racing Minister in Martin Pakula, he has been tremendous.
"He's been able to organise $16m in funding for Racing Victoria over the last few months, which has been distributed to metro and country clubs, and that has kept clubs ticking over.
"I'm always confident if he's going in to bat for us, we are in safe hands in Victoria. He's a great supporter.
"To continue when a lot of industries will have to pause, we're very blessed."
Hearps said expected biosecurity protocols to tighten further in the coming weeks, but backed the industry to adapt and thrive as it had done throughout the pandemic.
"I think that would have put us in pretty good stead when the decision to continue racing was made," he said.
"There hasn't been a positive case throughout this period and with the number of industry participants in Victoria, it's been phenomenal."
"We're expecting the protocols to be a little bit tighter again."
The BJC has raced without crowds since its Golden Mile race day on March 28.
Small numbers of owners were allowed back on course for the club's last two meetings, but they will again no longer be unable to attend until further notice.
"We didn't have a lot of owners attending those meetings anyway, so it's not a massive blow," Hearps said.
BGRA manager Troy Harley views the green light as a reward for the efforts put in by participants in all three codes during the pandemic.
"The participants have done an amazing job - they've had changes thrown at them every few weeks and no doubt there will be a few more measures and changes for them to deal with in the coming weeks," he said.
"They've accepted it and are happy just to be racing. We as a club are happy to be operating and happy to be providing a service for them.
"We've been extremely pleased with how well participants have embraced the changes - some of them (changes) have been pretty out there - but I'm sure whatever we get asked to do we'll do straight away and keep going."
While the pandemic caused some changes to the racing calendar, most notably to the popular Gold Rush Carnival, traditionally held at Easter, Harley said the club had never been busier than during the COVID period.
"We actually picked up a few meetings while other tracks in Victoria underwent maintenance, so we raced more than we would have normally done in terms of race meetings," he said.
"We had to shift some of those feature races to new dates, but on the track, we had as good a period of racing as we've ever had.
"It was a little disappointing not to have people there, but it was great to be able to bring that action to people's TVs and phones through Facebook or the Watchdog app."
The participants have done an amazing job - they've had changes thrown at them every few weeks and no doubt there will be a few more measures and changes for them to deal with in the coming weeks.Troy Harley
With Lord's Raceway operating as a hub throughout various formats of regional racing since early April, BHRC general manager Erik Hendrix said the club had never been busier than during COVID.
He welcomed the opportunity to continue racing.
"The protocols and adherence to safety have really allowed us to be in this position to continue racing," he said.
"Everyone is playing their part, whether it's getting the facilities prepared and check-ins, through to the trainers and drivers keeping themselves in a safe space and using common sense.
"I guess when something like this happens, it's an opportunity for a bit of reflection and it tests the protocols that are in place, but it looks like the current ones are doing their job."
All three clubs will host race meetings this week, starting with Wednesday's trots and greyhounds, while the gallops return to action on Sunday.
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