While patron-free race days are almost a thing of the past in the Sunshine State, the small town of Miles – which is based north-west of Toowoomba – have opted to run their upcoming meeting with no punters on-course.
After discussions with local industry participants, the club's committee and people within the area, it has been decided the race day will run without patrons to ensure the prize money will go back into the industry.
Miles and District Amateur Picnic Race Club President Lance Krause explained that those within the club did not want to run the risk of having to go into isolation in the week leading into their February 12 race day and risk the prize money not being awarded to participants and connections.
"We were worried from Christmas time onwards about having someone on the committee or a participant having to isolate in the lead-up to our race day," Krause said.
"It would make it very difficult for our club to put the race day on if some of our committee would not be able to be there in the days leading in and on race day.
"We do not want to see another race day cancelled in our area, we have had two years of things being up in the air with not much consistency, so we decided to keep the races going to ensure the industry gets the race day in.
"Hopefully this helps keep our committee safer as well by not spreading the virus.
"To hold the event with up to 2000 people in close contact from far and wide would create far too much a risk of spreading COVID and was a risk we were not willing to take."
Racing Queensland's non-TAB Thoroughbred Racing Manager Col Truscott said it was a positive that participants will be able to race for the prize money on offer across the five-event program, which is headlined by the 2022 Murilla Cup.
"It is an industry-based decision by the club and in making their decision, consideration weighed heavily for participants in the Eastern Downs region that have been denied a number of racing opportunities in past months in the Eastern Downs region due to weather cancellations," Truscott said.
With the Miles-based club expected to lose significant revenue from not hosting patrons next month, Krause and his club are hopeful of picking up another race date later in the year if another club was to need to transfer one following rain.
"This is the right thing to do to keep things rolling along, we understand this decision is going to cost the club money as we are not making money at the race day but it is something we need to do to give back to the industry," Krause, who has been involved in the club for almost two decades, said.
"Everybody has been quite supportive of it and recognised that it is probably the right call.
"Everybody in the industry is glad the race day is going ahead for their sake.
"We are not Eagle Farm, we do not throw millions back into the racing industry, but the little bit we do is important for local trainers, track work riders and everyone else."
Trainer Andrew King, who was previously based in Miles and has since relocated to Chinchilla, praised the Miles club for ensuring prize money can still be earnt by trainers, jockeys and owners.
"When COVID first arrived, we raced like this to ensure the trainers and owners have the prize money coming in, a lot of trainers in this area just train horses and do not have a job on the side so it is key," King said.
"I think it is a great idea to continue racing with no public there if the prize money keeps coming into the industry."
King comes from a famous racing family in the area and has had his own license for the last couple of years, training five winners so far.
With racing in the area soon to ramp up following the quieter New Years and Christmas period, King expects to have around seven gallopers in work in the coming months.
Verve – a stayer from King's barn – went around at Dalby on Friday afternoon.
While King no longer resides in Miles, he is still a regular at the track to work his gallopers.
"Whenever it is raining in Chinchilla, I go to Miles to work my horses," King said.
"That track at Miles, you can get an inch of rain on it and still work the next day as it is sand."
King is keen for the club's committee to invest in new tie-up stalls and on-course stables at Miles in the future.
The 2022 Murilla Cup – to be run as an Open Handicap over 1200 metres for $12,5000 - will be the feature event when racing returns to Miles next month.
Former Miles-based trainer Bevan Johnson, who now houses his stable at Moranbah, detailed what the track is like to race at in Miles.
"It is little and tight as a track," Johnson, who has won the local Cup several times, said.
"It is a bit like a velodrome or trotting track I reckon. It is horses for courses at Miles."