Shepparton News

No cheers or spilt beers


- By Josh Huntly

While 10,000 people will pack into Flemington for the “race that stops a nation’’ the track at Echuca will remain silent on November 2.

Hopes of getting crowds through the gates at Echuca by Melbourne Cup day were dashed, following the announceme­nt of “patron free” events by Racing Victoria and the Victorian Government on October 11. It’s the second year running crowds will be unable to attend the Echuca track on racing’s biggest day.

Echuca Racing Club general manager Garry Armstrong admitted it was disappoint­ing to miss out on Melbourne Cup day crowds.

“The priority is to keep racing going, because that keeps everyone employed,” Armstrong said. “We have had some support from the industry to be able to do that, which is fantastic.

“But when there’s no-one at your event, it’s a hollow sort of feeling.”

The club typically welcomes up to 5000 patrons on Melbourne Cup day, according to Armstrong.

Current restrictio­ns will remain in place for most race clubs until November 4, unless 80 per cent of the eligible population in Victoria aged 16 years and older have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by then.

Echuca will look to its Family Day at the Races on New Year’s Eve to welcome back patrons, and Armstrong is hopeful of a return to a normal race day experience by December 31.

“Without people here there’s certainly no atmosphere,” he said.

“That’s what we look forward to — when that comes back and people get that real buzz about being back at the races again.

“Unfortunat­ely for those clubs that race early to mid-November, they’ll be the ones doing the hard yards in regards to getting events right.

“By the time we get to December 31, hopefully we have a really clear understand­ing of how the events work and how we can make it as good as we possibly can.”

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