SYDNEY may be in lockdown, but harness fans will be relieved to hear Club Menangle and Harness Racing NSW will press on with plans to host the Inter Dominion in November and December.
While the landscape appears to be changing daily, Club Menangle has decided to draw their own line in the sand and host the Inters, with several contingency plans also put in place to ensure it goes ahead.
The club has urged trainers to go ahead and nominate their horses if they are considering contesting the time-honoured series, so the club can begin planning how best to accommodate them.
Club Menangle chief executive Bruce Christison knows there will be plenty or hurdles to clear if the series is to go ahead with three rounds and a Grand Final, but the club is desperate to ensure the trainers have something to aim for with their elite pacers and trotters.
“Our No. 1 priority has been and always will be the safety of our staff, participants and patrons,” said Christison.
“Providing NSW Health allows us to keep racing, we will put the necessary protocols and controls in place to enable us to run the Inter Dominion.
“About 15 months ago we made the decision to postpone the 2020 Inter Dominion because of the COVID pandemic,” Christison told HRV’s Adam Hamilton.
“If anything, things have actually become worse since then.
“Barring any major direction, like a public health order from the State Government, we have made the commitment to hold the Inter Dominion this year.
“We decided we just can’t go another year without an Inter Dominion . . . it’s too important to get the brand back out there.”
Christison explained that his club expected to suffer some further financial ‘pain’ to what was initially expected.
“But we joined the (hosting) rotation to keep the tradition and brand of the Inter Dominion alive and that’s certainly what we want to do,” he said.
“Look at the Olympics; I’m one of many who had grave doubts over whether it would or should have gone ahead, but Japan did a superb job with it and it was a massive success.
“It gave us all two weeks to remember and that’s the approach we have to take with the Inter Dominion.”
While it seems inevitable crowd numbers will be severely limited, Christison said any crowd would be better than no fans at all.
“We’ve obviously talked a lot about that and it’s meant a change to our marketing plans,” he said.
“As much as we’d love this to be an opportunity to reach a new audience and people who have not witnessed harness racing at its finest; we now have to focus on our harness fans and catering for them as much we can.”
Christison urged trainers contemplating whether or not to contest the Inter Dominion to go ahead and nominate.
“That costs nothing and once we know who may be there, we can take steps to ensure they are there and we can set about making this the best series that we possibly can,” he said.
“Basically, we’ll do whatever we need to do to get the series run – even if we have to run the entire series at Menangle as a last resort.
“While that would be the worst-case scenario, with the entire state locked down it’s something we may be forced to contemplate.”
The first round of Inter Dominion heats are scheduled for November 27 at Tabcorp Park Menangle.
At this stage the second round is scheduled to be at Bathurst on December 1, the third round at Newcastle on December5 and the Grand Final at Menangle on December 11.
Trainers have until September 27 to nominate.
– MICHAEL COURT