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LATEST: Government backs down on Cox Plate crowds

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LATEST: The Victorian Government has caved to public pressure and reversed a decision to allow owners on track at the Cox Plate horse racing carnival this week.

The government revealed on Tuesday up to 500 people, made up of horse owners and their connections, would be able to attend the races at Moonee Valley under strict health and safety protocols.

It sparked immediate outrage, given the rest of Victoria remained under harsh COVID-19 restrictions.

Tom Elliott said it seemed strange, with people unable to go to the pub or have guests for the grand final on the same day.

“Good luck to the racing industry, but it really does seem like one rule for them and one rule for everybody else,” the 3AW Drive host said.

“I can’t help but think that because the racing industry pumps so much money into the state government, they’ve bent over backwards to make life easier for them.”

Some six hours later, Racing Minister Martin Pakula apologised.

“Tonight I’ve spoken to the Moonee Valley Racing Club and the decision’s been reversed,” he said on Twitter.

“Owners won’t return to the race track until we reach the next stage of the easing of restrictions.

“I apologise for any upset that has been caused.

“The decision to allow some owners on course for the 100th Cox Plate was motivated only by respect for the occasion & a desire to mark a small step on the path to reopening.

“It was a mistake, given that other restrictions remain in place, and we’ve heard the community feedback.”