In a sign the world is edging back to some normality, the Shoalhaven City Turf Club's Archer Racecourse will welcome fans back to the track for the first time in months at this Sunday's annual Mollymook Cup.
The state government recently announced crowds of up to 5000 people were allowed to attend regional racecourses, in an attempt to boost NSW's economy following the COVID-19 lockdown - with the recent meetings only featuring essential parties.
"The three racing codes should be commended for the way they operated during the COVID pandemic and it is fantastic to see crowds now returning to the track," said minister for better regulation and innovation and minister responsible for racing Kevin Anderson, whose team has pumped $67 million into regional racetrack upgrades over the past 12 months.
"As NSW races towards our vaccination targets and restrictions ease, the NSW government is focused on supporting industries which provide valuable jobs and economic stimulus.
"Racing is the backbone of many regional communities and supported crucial jobs right throughout the pandemic.
"For many towns, the annual race day is so much more than just a punt with mates, it's a day out for the family and a chance to see old friends.
"Race meets also bring very welcome economic stimulus to town and I know many communities are looking forward to welcoming tourist dollars in their tills as soon as it is safe to do so."
The timing of this announcement is music to the ears of Shoalhaven City Turf Club CEO Paul Weekes, who is excited to finally welcome pundits back for Sunday's seven-race schedule.
"We've actually been quite lucky to have so many races at the track lately, with so many races being shifted to Kembla Grange, Goulburn and Nowra," said Weekes, whose track is currently sitting at a soft seven.
"Those meetings have only featured essential personnel though, so we're excited to welcome back our loyal fans to the track on Sunday, albeit in sections to be compliant with the Racing NSW guidelines, which include fully vaccinated patrons only and different sections for fans, trainers and jockeys to protect the essential workers.
"With free entry and sunny weather on the forecast, which will allow us to make the most of the grassed umbrella areas with no masks being required, it's shaping up as a fantastic COVID-safe day - which is historically one of the club's biggest on the calendar."
Sunday will also mark the last event at the Shoalhaven City Turf Club until its marquee Nowra Cup event on December 5, due to track renovations starting on Monday.
"There's even more reason to come out on Sunday as we, unfortunately, won't be holding a Melbourne Cup due to the track renovations," Weekes said.
"Sand-grooving is an extensive process, which takes up to four days before five weeks is needed for the re-mats to set properly.
"This will go a long way to alleviate the track's drainage problems in the future because if we can offer a better track, more top trainers will be inclined to race at our venue - which will allow us to hold even bigger meetings down the line."