The chairman of the Victoria Racing Club has reignited controversy over the state government’s decision to ban crowds from the Melbourne Cup.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the Victorian government’s Cox Plate backflip have conspired to ensure the famous Flemington racecourse will be crowd-free for Tuesday's $7.75 million race.
While 100,000 punters usually pack into Flemington on Cup day, there won’t even be a reduced crowd this year.
Speaking ahead of the race that stops the nation, VRC chairman Amanda Elliott expressed her frustration at the crowd ban.
“We were really puzzled by the fact even though we had very strict protocols, we had guidelines and worked scenarios back and forwards,” she told the Herald Sun.
“The restaurants are open, the pubs are open, the shops are bursting with people and Flemington, an outdoor venue sitting on 250 acres, no one can come?
“Certainly was a little puzzling to me.”
Michelle Payne, the only female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, said it was “hard to believe” there won’t be any punters in attendance at Flemington on Tuesday.
— Michelle Payne (@mj_payne) November 1, 2020
However both Elliott and Payne were confident the iconic race would overcome the lack of spectators.
“This year is a little weird, I’m still just as excited because the race itself is magnificent,’’ Elliott said.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen a stronger edition of the Melbourne Cup ever. The quality of the racing has gone to a new level.”
But fans were sill perplexed as to why the Melbourne Cup wasn’t allowed to host even a small crowd.
An empty MCG 🏉 on Grand Final day. A Melbourne Cup 🐎 closed to the general public. A boxing day cricket test 🏏 in front of a small or no crowd. And an Australian Open 🎾 without international tourists.
If this doesn’t shake the #IStandWithDan crowd, I don’t know what will!
— Monica Clare (@monica_clare1) October 24, 2020
— Doug Phillips (aka) Phill (@DougPhillips51) October 26, 2020
100,000 will roam through Chadstone today, any reason why the Melbourne Cup can't have a crowd?
— Brad (@bjfooty) October 27, 2020
I agree again Belle. Fancy having the Melbourne Cup with no crowd. What BS.
— JG 🌴⛵🐬🏖🐾🇦🇺 (@BeachGirlJan) October 29, 2020
37000 crowd at the NRL grand final in Sydney last week. 0 crowd at Melbourne Cup next week.
— Vince Black (@VB00Renegade) October 28, 2020
Hottest Melbourne Cup in six years
Attendance for the race that stops the nation has been dwindling, last year falling to its lowest point since 1995 as the temperature didn't creep above 19C.
The 2020 edition is set to be the hottest in six years, with the temperature forecast to hit 29C.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Rod Dickson is predicting dry and mostly sunny conditions across Victoria for the annual public holiday.
Melburnians can have two adults plus dependents from one household visit their house, with Cup organisers selling home-delivered gourmet food and alcohol packs curated by the likes of Neil Perry.
Alternatively, race-goers can opt to flock to parks and public gardens in groups of up to 10 to make the most of the fine weather.
Pubs and bars are also hoping to cash in on Tuesday's traditionally bumper trading day after finally reopening to customers last week.
Dozens of businesses are hosting Cup day-themed events across the city, with outdoor and indoor dining limits of 50 and 20 respectively.
Fashion is always a feature of the entire four-day carnival and this year's Cup competition will go ahead with a twist.
The rebranded Fashion on The Front Lawn will allow trendsetters and dress-up types to don their finest fascinators, frocks and suits from the comfort of home.
Despite the absence of on-track betting, serious and occasional punters across the nation are expected to have a flutter to the tune of millions on the main race.
TAB expects to process over 100,000 wagers a minute at peak times on Tuesday, its biggest trading day of the year.
“We take as many as 20 million bets on the day,” Tabcorp's wagering managing director Adam Rytenskild told AAP.
Aiden O'Brien-trained pair Tiger Moth ($7.50) and Anthony Van Dyck ($9) and Paul Preusker's Surprise Baby ($8) are rated top chances for the 3200-metre Group One.
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