THE annual Hay Races have been cancelled for 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving avid racegoers and socialites devastated.
Set to be held on November 21 this year, organisers made the difficult decision to be safe rather than sorry.
Hay Jockey Club Vice President Ali McLean said they looked at every possible way to keep the event safe before deciding to cancel it.
"It was probably possible from a physical perspective, but most of the horses and jockeys come from Victoria so it was hard not knowing what that situation would be like by November and if they'd be allowed into the state or not," she said.
"We also felt that, given social distancing rules, the amount of social policing we would have to do would have taken the fun out of the day, it just wouldn't have the same feel to it."
From a community perspective, Ms McLean said the club also didn't want to risk putting themselves or anyone else in danger.
The ultimate decision to cancel the races was unanimous, and meant a key milestone would be missed.
"It was meant to be our 150th year this year," Ms McLean said.
"We're still going to celebrate it though, just next year, and it will be massive so mark it down in your calendar."
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Hay's businesses will also take a hit from the cancellation, according to Ms McLean, who said it was an important factor they considered when making the decision.
"The races are a real economic boom for our town, it has a massive impact on all businesses each year," she said.
"Hay has taken a bit of a hit with the drought too, and now COVID-19, so it really is such a shame we can't give them the boost they need."
Next year's Hay Races are set to be held on the third Saturday after the Melbourne Cup in November.