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The closure of race meetings to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic is set to have a devastating effect on Victoria’s biggest country carnival.

The Warrnambool Racing Club has announced its three-day May carnival will be open to participants and race day officials only with club members, owners and the public locked out.

Set to run on May 5, 6 and 7, Warrnambool is the home of jumps racing and hosts Australia’s longest race, the Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) on the final day.

Up to 30,000 people usually attend over the three days and with no spectators on course the WRC has entered discussions with Racing Victoria, Country Racing Victoria and the Australian Jumps Racing Association as to whether alterations should be made to the race program.

The outcome of those discussions is expected next week.

WRC chief executive Tom O’Connor said like a lot of other large events, hard decisions needed to be made.

“We are in unprecedented times and the WRC has to consider supporting the jumps community, their ability to race and their ability to support their owners and stable staff,” O’Connor said.

“In these extraordinary times, the WRC trusts its loyal members, customers and business partners will understand the position that presents itself.”

Race meetings in Victoria became crowd-free from last Friday night’s meeting at The Valley.

RV has since announced further biosecurity measures, the latest being a group of 25 riders to be separated from their fellow jockeys using different rooms on course as well as scales for weighing-in and out for races.

The May racing carnival delivers large-scale economic benefit to the Warrnambool region, with accommodation bookings running year-to-year while other businesses also benefit.

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