Murray Bridge leads the way back for South Australia's racing industry

The racecourse at Gifford Hill has become the first in the state to reopen its gates to the public since COVID-19 hit.

This story was originally published behind Murray Bridge News’ paywall. Paywalled stories are unlocked four weeks after publication. Can’t wait that long? Subscribe here.

Murray Bridge Racecourse has become the first in South Australia to reopen its doors to the public as coronavirus restrictions ease.

A modest crowd returned to the Gifford Hill track on Wednesday to watch an eight-race event from the confines of the function centre.

Many came from Adelaide, including the group pictured above whose runner, The Brumby, had his first career win in race three.

Racing had continued uninterrupted throughout the first half of 2020, but punters had previously been forced to follow the pastime via TV and radio broadcasts.

That only changed a week ago, when Thoroughbred Racing SA announced it would allow a limited number of patrons back on course.

Spectators were required to book and pay a $20 entry fee, redeemable for food and drinks, ahead of time.

They also had to have their names and phone numbers recorded in case contact tracing was later required to isolate a COVID case.

Bookmakers and TAB staff will not be allowed back until next week.

The maximum capacity for Murray Bridge was set at 174 ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, with priority given to club members and horse owners.

Secretary John Buhagiar said about 70 people had RSVPed by the day before.

“We’ve still got to adhere to our COVID requirements, but it’s a step forward,” he said.

“We’re running racing as a sport and the venue as hospitality, so we have to make sure the two don’t mix, but we’re pretty fortunate in that we’ve built a venue that’s off the ground, so people inside can look at what’s happening.”

The next meeting at Murray Bridge is scheduled for July 4.

Anyone planning on attending should check in the days beforehand whether entry requirements will apply.

  • Contact Murray Bridge Racing Club: 8532 2310.

Photos of Frank Zotti, Dan Porter, Steve Pipicella, Daniel Hoefel, Will Pasten, Chris Zotti and Daniel Fullerton (top); and Julianne McCarty and Sue Horn (bottom): Peri Strathearn.