Dubbo Harness Racing Club president Len Edwards has welcomed a decision by the state government and Harness Racing NSW's governing body that will see competitors hit the track in Dubbo much sooner than originally expected.
According to Edwards, the original guidance for Harness Racing in Dubbo had been to expect a wait until September before races would be able to resume, but horses will be back on track this month after restrictions were eased.
"It's good news, it's great news at the moment, originally they advised us we could be back on June 7, but now that's going to be June 14," Edwards said.
Instead, Parkes will begin operating against on June 7 in a move that Edwards considers a coup for locally placed trainers who had been forced to travel to Bathurst or further afield to get in track time during the COVID-19 lockdown.
"It's very positive news, it's definitely good for some of our local trainers; they had to make a lot of tough decisions and some had to turn their horses out, but it's good for the trainers in general to hear this," Edwards said.
"Dubbo and Parkes will be able to travel to each other, so it suits the Western district really well for our trainers and it's been a very difficult position they've been in for quite a while."
"We were originally given that September date and a lot of the guys turned their horses out on the back of that, you can't be training horses week after week and not getting a run from them."
While Edwards is confident the races will go ahead, he's less sure about exactly what form they'll take, with fewer starts expected at each event.
"Hopefully we'll be able to commence and satisfy a full slate, but I don't think we'll get eight races at each meeting, maybe six or seven, but we'll be proceeding with racing," Edwards said.
"It'd be nice to start back with a bit of a bang, but I think those eight race meetings and fields won't be going until later, right now we're focused on getting back to racing and satisfying the horses in this western area, that's our main objective."
Edwards said it was difficult for trainers looking for competitive races to compete while also factoring in long travel times, and said that it was 'reasonable' for trainers to have competitive races available.
"It'll certainly help everyone a lot, especially with us all being in the doldrums for that long, we haven't raced since the end of February, it's a long time to go without racing," Edwards said.
Racing stewards will be on hand to ensure that all the protocols put in place with regards to lockdown rules are followed and Edwards and his staff have already met with officials to plan out their restriction measures and how to apply social distancing rules.
"We're implementing the full protocal that's been set down by Harness Racing NSW and we're going to see representatives in Bathurst in order to better educate ourselves about how best to implement the other protocols required," Edwards said.
"It's all been put to us and we're being guided by the rules and restrictions put out by the Department of Health the racing body."
Edwards said it was important for the track to maintain standards as they conduct races in the future.