Melbourne’s Flemington racetrack has welcomed back punters for the first time since March after a prolonged absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Up to 1000 guests will attend the Living Legends Race Day on Saturday, the first Flemington race meet since the first crowd-free Melbourne Cup Day on November 3.
It comes after the Victorian government last week granted permission for 500 spectators on Saturday, which was extended on Wednesday to 1000 people.
The Victorian Racing Club said up to 900 members could sit in the club stand, while up to 100 owners were also permitted to attend the meet. All patrons will be allocated a seat and social distancing will be enforced.
The entire spring racing carnival in 2020 was held behind closed doors as Victoria slowly emerged from its devastating second coronavirus wave.
The last attended Flemington race meeting was on March 7.
The Cox Plate on October 24 had been set to host up to 500 racing connections for its 100th running before the government backflipped on the dispensation amid widespread criticism.
VRC Chief Executive Officer Steve Rosich said in a statement on Saturday that two race days at Flemington this month would host punters.
“The safe return of VRC members, owners and the public is a priority for the club,” he said last month.
“We have missed having them on course – they create the atmosphere that brings Flemington Racecourse to life.”
Mr Rosich last week said he hoped the attendance cap could lift to 5000 people in the near future.
Despite the lack of patrons at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, the VRC said in a statement that $364.5 million was gambled on the race, up 17 per cent on last year.