LEADING Wagga trainer Trevor Sutherland says the horse racing industry would be "in a whole lot of hurt" should coronavirus eventually force race meetings to be suspended.
Races at the Albury Cup carnival on Thursday and Friday will proceed, but without crowds and only industry participants permitted.
The Wagga Gold Cup carnival in early May also faces the prospect of possibly being run without spectators, but Sutherland said it's vital the industry is as diligent as it can to ensure race meeting aren't called off completely.
"We can keep racing without the crowds, but if racing stops altogether we're in a whole lot of hurt," Sutherland said.
"It's one of the largest employment industries in Australia and the day you can't go to the races is the days most of them get put off.
"Ours isn't the only industry, there's going to be lots of other industries in the same boat and it's an untapped shell at the moment, we don't know where it starts and where it ends.
"It's not great for the (Albury) club, but the fact we can keep going at the moment is a big plus."
Sutherland said the equine influenza outbreak in 2007 which shut down Australian racing for several weeks has given everyone an indication of the preventative measures to put in place in the current climate.
"We got locked out for ten or 12 weeks and it took years to get over that financially," he said.
"We had to wash and clean, and when you go on the track wash your boots and hands.
"The procedures are very similar to what we have to do now. We just have to be very careful as an industry so we can keep going."
Sutherland is optimistic his runners Real Key and Gentleman Max will run well in the $75,000 Barlens City Handicap (1175m) at Albury on Friday, while Azaryah is number 27 in the Albury Cup order of entry and unlikely to start.
Meanwhile, Wagga will host a picnic race race meeting on Saturday, March 28 after three Riverina meetings - Ardlethan (Saturday, March 21), Tullibigeal (Saturday, March 28) and Cootamundra (Saturday, April 4) were abandoned this week.
"With Coronavirus issues forcing picnic meetings to be cancelled around the state, our club has been working with Racing NSW to try and add a picnic meeting to help participants earn prizemoney," Murrumbidgee Turf Club CEO Steve Keene said.
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