Harness racing's impending return to Horsham has been scrapped, with the industry announcing it will return to a region-based model just nine days after it moved back to a normal, statewide calendar.
The new, slightly-altered model has been created for the next six weeks to maintain separation between participants inside and outside the Melbourne metropolitan area locked down to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Wimmera trainers will fall under a new statewide "Country" region, with races to be held at Stawell, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, and Terang.
Trainers based in the Melbourne metropolitan area and Mitchell shire to the north will race at Melton, Cranbourne and Kilmore.
Harness Racing Victoria used these same nine tracks for its initial region-based model introduced in April.
"Our people's health and wellbeing are always the top priorities.
"Our regional model saw us successfully and safely negotiate the period from April to July. Having that model developed and on hand has allowed us to pivot quickly following the announcements from the Premier.
"All of our stringent COVID-19 protocols will remain in place and must be adhered to. We are communicating regularly with all industry stakeholders and will continue to follow the advice of the State Government and the chief health officer," Brown said.
"Importantly, all decisions are being made in collaboration with the Harness Racing Advisory Council, Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association, Harness Breeders Victoria, Victoria Harness Racing Club, Trots Clubs Victoria and other key industry stakeholders.
"The overwhelming feedback my team has received from industry participants in the past 48 hours is that they want to continue racing, but also want to feel as protected as possible at the races.
"Our participants and staff are the people on the roads and attending the races and their views must be respected," he said.
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