Unless Racing NSW has a last-minute change of heart, the 2021 Port Macquarie Cup will be run behind locked gates on October 8.
This is despite the NSW state government's slight relaxation of COVID-19 Public Health Orders in regional New South Wales which currently state small gatherings of people can proceed - if they abide by the rules.
Under the easing of restrictions earlier in September, outdoor facilities including stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos could reopen with one person per 4sqm, capped at 5,000.
Up to 500 people can also attend ticketed and seated outdoor events, but Port Macquarie Race Club chief executive Michael Bowman said that currently would not apply to the biggest race on their calendar.
"Racing NSW is the governing body so at present they've decided there will be no relaxation of the current situation which allows for essential personnel only," he said.
Racing NSW is the governing body so at present they've decided there will be no relaxation of the current situation which allows for essential personnel only.Port Macquarie Race Club chief executive Michael Bowman
"It's on the basis that very strict observances over the whole Delta period is what kept racing going and I think with the situation at present they feel it would be better just to continue it."
Port Macquarie won't be alone with the Newcastle Cup and Wyong Cup race meetings in previous weeks also proceeding without crowds.
The Wauchope Cup and Camden Haven Cup meetings were also run without crowds.
"We're not Robinson Crusoe; it's the thing the industry has had to bear and it's a whole new world at the moment," Mr Bowman said.
"At this stage we've just got to go along with it."
An official decision is set to come at the end of September, but with other feature days and cup carnivals around New South Wales also falling victim to a no-crowd policy, the odds appear long.
It will be another different look at the number one race day on the Hastings calendar after last year's event was run in front of a restricted crowd.
But this year there could be no general public.
"We had a crowd limit last year of 500 plus owners so we were quite surprised the restrictions were going to continue on (when regional NSW emerged from lockdown)," Mr Bowman said.
We had a crowd limit last year of 500 - plus owners - so we were quite surprised the restrictions were going to continue on (when regional NSW emerged from lockdown).Michael Bowman
"But maybe they're looking at aligning with the general day of when vaccinations hit 70 percent or 80 percent."
The best way punters can watch the race appears to be in front of the television.
There was no room on the calendar to push race day back a few weeks to allow for potential crowds.
"I wouldn't think so; there's other meetings programmed and the thing is the race will go ahead, there's no ifs or buts about that," he said.
"It's 100 percent certain to happen with a $200,000 Cup, but as it looks at present it's quite possible there won't be any crowds allowed.
"The most important thing is to keep racing going. At least we get the income stream from TAB turnover."
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