How the July Racing Carnival kicked off under COVID-19

FOR the small crowd gathered at the Clarence River Jockey Club on Sunday, it was a Westlawn Day unlike any other, but they were glad to see it happen.

And there may be hope that future days of the carnival may be open for more to see.

The traditional start to the carnival, which was moved to a Sunday last year, is usually awash with the black and gold colours of long-time sponsor Westlawn Finance.

Event organiser Helen Commerford said she had mixed feelings about the restrictions hit day this year.

Westlawn Finance day event organiser Helen Commerford stands in the near empty stands after a race on the opening day of the carnival that allowed a restricted crowd in due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Adam Hourigan
Westlawn Finance day event organiser Helen Commerford stands in the near empty stands after a race on the opening day of the carnival that allowed a restricted crowd in due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Adam Hourigan

"It's sad for the racing industry, but I guess it's been able to go ahead, and people are being employed today," she said.

"It was a last-minute thing, which has nothing to do with the jockey club, and I think the jockey club has done a wonderful job in getting it going."

Ms Commerford has been part of the day's festivities for the past 30 years, and she said it was good to see the club doing the best it could for racing.

"It's nice to see it go, and it means leading into the carnival, hopefully, if everything goes well we might see more people allowed across the carnival."

Clarence River Jockey Club chief executive officer Michael Beattie said he hoped to hear of an announcement within the week.

"I'm extremely hopeful we'll see some changes from Racing NSW along with the government with relation to the way sporting events can be conducted post-July 1," he said.

"And once that happens we'll sit down and get our head around our plans in a more strategic manner for the Grafton Cup and Ramornie Day.

Despite the restrictions, which he said were difficult for some to manage at first, Mr Beattie was upbeat at the result from the day.

"It was absolutely terrific. The racing itself was really good - we'll see the winners of feature events to go through and contest the Ramornie and Grafton Cup, which is exactly what this day is about," he said.

 

Race 5 - Westlawn Finance Race Day 2020
Race 5 - Westlawn Finance Race Day 2020

 

"It was wonderful to see owners back at a country race meeting, with a good number come and enjoy that part of the day even though they're only allowed for an hour.

"And we had some members back in our member's area … and all I spoke to had a wonderful day."

Mr Beattie said the with the prospect of restrictions lifting to allowing larger crowds, it would be members who would again get priority for the still restricted events.

"There's no doubt … that if you are thinking of coming to the Grafton carnival, my advice would be to join the CRJC," he said.

"The cost of that is not dissimilar to getting into on Grafton or Ramornie day so financially you'll be no worse off, and you'll be in a position to be able to come to the races."