Long wait over for Ipswich race fans - just watch at home
IT'S been five months in the making but racing will finally return to Ipswich today - albeit without the fanfare of the spectators.
Ipswich will hold its first meeting since October 30 last year after undergoing what will eventually be a $24.8 million redevelopment of the Ipswich Turf Club.
Major work has been done on the track's drainage system and surface while off-course facilities, such as the stalls and carpark, have also been given a refurbishment.
The Easter Monday resurrection of the Ipswich track will see a nine-race card featuring horses from the metro south west zone - which includes Gold Coast and Toowoomba.
It follows Racing Queensland's new zoning restrictions across the state to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching was excited to see racing return to Ipswich even though it will be held behind closed doors.
"That's what this racetrack is for, it's for racing," Kitching said. "It's been down for the past five-and-a-half months and we'll be back (today).
"We're all looking forward to it even though there'll be no one here.
"I'm just standing at the 300 metre mark and staring down the straight, and it looks superb."
Despite racing in front of empty grandstands, the racing industry is experiencing an influx of interest in lieu of all other major sports being suspended.
Turnover figures across all three codes of racing was up $13.7 million in the first week of Australia's shutdown, which equated to a 21 per cent week-on-week increase for Queensland.
Kitching said many in the industry were doing everything they could to continue racing through the COVID-19 lockdown.
From temperature checks at the gate to social distancing protocols, all protective measures will be in place at Ipswich today.
"From our point of view, we'll do everything we can to keep racing going," he said.
"We've put in place the government protocols because racing as three sides to it - the economic benefit, the jobs and the social interest.
"Right across society, we're all looking for something at the moment. I'm certainly in that boat.
"There are a lot that have turned to racing (during the coronavirus pandemic).
"The turnover has increased. We understand the importance of keeping racing going and we'll do everything we can to make sure it does."
A blockbuster field of acceptances have been confirmed for today's meeting.
Star jockeys Michael Cahill and Ryan Maloney will also be in action.
You can watch the meet here.