The Victorian government has backflipped over its controversial call to allow a select group of spectators on course for the 100th running of the Cox Plate after an overwhelming online backlash.
Racing Minister Martin Pakula issued a mea culpa after initially announcing up to 500 racing connections would be able to attend Moonee Valley for Friday night's Manikato Stakes and Saturday's Cox Plate.
"I've spoken to the Moonee Valley Racing Club and the decision's been reversed," he tweeted on Tuesday night.
"Owners won't return to the race track until we reach the next stage of the easing of restrictions.
"I apologise for any upset that has been caused."
COVIDSafe arrangements including a 1000-person course cap, staggered arrivals, temperature checks, social distancing and takeaway only food and beverage services had been planned.
Mr Pakula said the move had been motivated by respect for the occasion and a desire to mark a small step in Melbourne's path to reopening.
"It was a mistake, given that other restrictions remain in place, and we've heard the community feedback," he said.
Mr Pakula had earlier defended the call, noting owners would "come, watch the horse they own run, and leave".
But social media users questioned if it passed the pub test amid ongoing strict caps on funerals and weddings in metropolitan Melbourne.
Melbourne footy fans are also unable to have friends and family over to their houses for the AFL and NRL grand finals on Saturday and Sunday.
Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated Victoria is well placed to bring forward the further rule easing slated for November 2 to this Monday, after this weekend's major sports and racing events.
Australian Associated Press