Wagga's inaugural group one carnival has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) have introduced a number of new measures to keep the industry going through the COVID-19 pandemic but some of the state's biggest races have become causalities.
The most notable of those was Wagga's group one carnival, that was going to see over $700,000 in prizemoney distributed through an exciting new race series for four and five-year-olds.
HRNSW announced the series will not be conducted in the 'current climate' but will 'endeavour to reschedule' the carnival at a time when it provides 'equal opportunity to all eligible horses'.
Wagga Harness Racing Club (WHRC) chief executive Graeme White, while disappointed, understood the decision had to be made.
"It was going to be the inaugural group one races for any code in this region so it's disappointing with so much prizemoney on offer - over $700,000," White said.
"However, there was no way it could be run when the zones came into play as it wouldn't allow all eligible horses the opportunity to compete. Harness Racing NSW will look to have the Championships at another time and hopefully that will be this season."
The zones form part of HRNSW's new 'regionalisation' move to keep the sport going through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state has been divided into four regions, where participants are only allowed to race where they are based.
Wagga's all-new Riverina Paceway has been named the base for the southern region and will conduct all of the racing from April 1 to August 31, at least.
It is a decision that will see the club race virtually twice a week.
"For racing to continue, regional centres had to be announced to meet the guidelines outlined by officials," White explained.
"The important part is there is still racing and industry participants have a chance to earn an income which is so important with all the costs involved having horses. Owners are also paying training costs so they want to be able to race to gain a return.
"Wagga is set-up with 146 race stalls, indoor and outside, to meet all the requirements regarding social distancing rules."
White believes the regionalisation move from HRNSW was the only avenue left open to it.
"If the racing wasn't regionalised there is no way it could continue due to all the rules that are in place," he said.
"All the clubs are so important for the industry and hopefully before too long they are all back racing."
Any Riverina clubs that were due to conduct TAB meetings during the next five months will have those programmes transferred to Riverina Paceway.
Carnival of Cups meetings will be moved to the central tracks and will still carry that title but will be conducted for standard prizemoney.
HRNSW will advise of the scheduling of the NSW Breeders Challenge and the Million Dollar Pace when dates and conditions are established which will provide equal opportunity for all eligible horses.
Menangle and Penrith will host metropolitan racing, while other regional centres include Bathurst, Newcastle and Tamworth.
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