GUNDAGAI-Adelong Race Club has made the difficult decision to ban the general public from this year's Snake Gully Cup carnival.
The Gundagai two-day carnival is one of the most popular in country racing and will go ahead again this year on November 13 and 14.
The carnival will go ahead but at a cost, with only members, their guests and owners of horses racing on the day allowed to attend.
Gundagai-Adelong Race Club secretary Len Tozer said it was an extremely difficult decision to make, but was the only viable option due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"It certainly was (a tough decision). We decided it was in the best interests of the club and everyone concerned," Tozer said.
"Given our situation with limited grandstand capacity and the likes, and the fact our main members area is used for the extra jockeys changeroom (as part of COVID measures) so we've got numerous restrictions that are imposed on us so we decided rather than try to make it a big event, we'd make it a small event that we can control."
Thousands turn out annually for Snake Gully Cup day with crowds of up to 4000 expected most years.
The second day of the carnival, Hair of the Dog day, draws a much more modest crowd but is growing in popularity.
By keeping this year's carnival to members and their guests, along with owners, the club hopes it will keep the crowd under 500.
"We've got about 90-odd members, with their guests, then add owners in and we'll soon get to 500 for an event like that," Tozer said.
"That's the only way we could do it that was financially viable and that could let us fulfill our commitments with COVID."
Tozer explained that it was the implications an undersized carnival will have on the township of Gundagai and surrounds that was the toughest pill to swallow.
"It was actually a hard decision, it will have a great effect on the town, who rely on it greatly but that was more or less forced on us by the COVID restrictions," he said.
"Hopefully things will be back to normal next year and we'll be back on an even keel and full steam ahead."
To the club's credit, they have decided to keep prizemoney levels the same.
Racing NSW has again made Snake Gully Cup day a showcase meeting so there will be $380,000 in prizemoney on offer.
The $100,000 Snake Gully Cup (1400m) will be supported by the likes of the $50,000 Snake Gully Flying (1000m) and the $50,000 Country Magic Benchmark 58 Showcase Handicap (1400m).
Tozer said the club will undoubtedly take a hit this year but declared that supporting the industry was of utmost importance.
"Prizemoney is going to be the same. We've decided in the interests of the industry that we should keep it there," he said.
"It's a showcase meeting again and the Snake Gully Cup will be worth $100,000. It's just the crowd that's the big difference.
"It will definitely affect the club's finances but we have to roll with the punches more or less."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.