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‘Victoria is back and open for business’: Melbourne Cup Carnival marks return of major events, says Racing Minister

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Victoria’s Racing Minister, Martin Pakula, says the state is “back and open for business”, as the Melbourne Cup prepares to welcome back crowds for the first time since 2019.

A total of more than 35,000 fully vaccinated patrons are permitted to attend next week’s racing carnival at Flemington Racecourse, with up to 5,500 on Derby Day and 10,000 on Cup Day, Oaks Day and Stakes Day.

Mr Pakula said the Melbourne Cup would act as the “firing of the starter’s gun” for the return of major events in Victoria, such as the Australian Open, the Formula One and live music concerts.

“I’m frankly jumping out of my skin,” Mr Pakula said.

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Melbourne Cup-winning horse trainer Gai Waterhouse welcomed the return of crowds to the carnival, saying it was important Victoria “moves forward”,

“We’ve got to get things rocking and rolling again,” Ms Waterhouse said.

“Sydney has embraced it. It’s very much the same in Brisbane. Victoria should be the leader instead of hanging back.”

Victoria’s Racing Minister, Martin Pakula, says he is excited the Melbourne Cup Carnival will mark the return of big events with crowds to the state.(Getty: Quinn Rooney)

VRC confers with government over masks

Under COVID-19 restrictions, all patrons to the Melbourne Cup Carnival will be separated into three zones, with allocated seats for the service of food and drink.

Visitors must also wear a mask at all times, despite Victoria’s outdoor mask rule being set to be scrapped this Friday at 6pm, when the state is expected to reach its 80 per cent fully vaccinated milestone.

Victoria Racing Club (VRC) chairman Neil Wilson said the organisation was engaged in “almost hourly” discussions with the state government over the rule.

“So, we’ll watch that space and see if there’s anything that needs to be adjusted, but right now our event plan dictates that we need to wear a mask outside.”

“We certainly don’t want to compromise the safety requirements we’ve signed off on.”

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