Auckland Racing Club bosses are resigned to holding their iconic Derby Day meeting without a crowd but are still hopeful it will be at Ellerslie.
Planning for one of the great days on the New Zealand racing calendar has been thrown into disarray by the latest lockdown which has Auckland at Covid-19 alert level 3 until Sunday.
The Derby meeting was to have been held on Saturday but the ARC has already decided to move it back to Sunday in the hope Auckland is at least back at level 2.
Level 2 would allow jockeys and trainers from outside Auckland to attend the meeting, whereas at level 3 they would need work exemptions to enter the Auckland region.
While the meeting can go ahead without all the trainers attending there aren't enough jockeys in the Auckland region to hold the meeting.
At level 3 no owners, members or public could attend the meeting but at level 2 there would be provision for an owners-only area that would allow people to watch their horses race live.
But that still means no public and ARC chief executive Paul Wilcox says unless there is a dramatic change in the alert levels there is no way for the public to attend.
"Unless there were indications very early that the alert levels were going down it would be impossible to put all the requirements [food, staff] needed for the public to attend in place," says Wilcox.
"So we expect at this stage to be holding the meeting without the public allowed, which is greatly disappointing, but hopefully by moving it to Sunday we can be at level 2 and have all the trainers and jockeys there as well as some owners."
A bigger problem would arise if Auckland stays at level 3 through Sunday and that raises the possibility the meeting could be moved to Te Aroha.
"That is another option and we will be seeking a track inspection there early in the week just to make sure it is ready for a big Group 1 meeting, which I am sure it will be, in case that becomes the next option."
The final and least likely option would be keeping the meeting at Ellerslie but moving it to Wednesday March 10.
"But that is the least likely of the options because it would be hard to be totally sure that we would be fine by the Wednesday and if we weren't then we can't just keep putting the day back because trainers need to know when their horses are racing.
"So we will be guided by what the Government says like everybody else but at this stage we are planning for a Sunday meeting at level 2."
Derby Day typically attracts one of Ellerslie's biggest crowds of the year so no public will prove very costly for the club, as will the week-long closure of its popular function centre.
Alexandra Park will press on with their huge Derby night harness meeting on Friday night as they have enough horses and drivers to run it but with the meeting hosting six Group races they are hopeful drivers from other regions can get work exemptions to attend.