The $1 million New Zealand Derby is looking increasingly likely to be run at Ellerslie with a Monday meeting the new back-up plan.
With no new Covid-19 cases in the community in the crucial last two days and with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and the Auckland Racing Club (ARC) now agreeing Monday is an option, the other option of Hastings on Sunday is looking less likely to be needed.
The Derby meeting, one of New Zealand racing's most iconic, was originally programmed to be run this Saturday but had to be pushed back when Auckland went into a snap lockdown until Sunday at 6am.
Ellerslie have now been granted an extra day to hold the Derby meeting in case the Government decides, as they often do, any change of levels should come into force at midnight.
So if Auckland's move to alert level 2 is slightly delayed until midnight on Sunday then the Derby meeting with its rich support programme will be at Ellerslie on Monday.
If there is no confirmation of a drop in alert levels at the Government announcement after cabinet meets on Friday, then the Derby meeting will be transferred to Hastings.
Hastings has become the back-up option as Te Rapa and Te Aroha are unavailable and Matamata and Tauranga can not hold races close enough to the traditional and desired Derby distance of 2400m.
"We are hopeful of a meeting this Sunday but at least we now have the option of Monday as well," says ARC chief executive Paul Wilcox.
"That is important as we know the Government sometimes implement alert level changes at midnight and if they choose to do that and we are back at alert level 2 for Monday then we would love to have the meeting here then.
"So ideally we would like Sunday, have the option of Monday, and if no firm announcement is made on Friday then the meeting will go to Hastings and definitely be on Sunday."
Wilcox says Ellerslie and the NZTR staff as well as industry reps involved on yesterday's call were reluctant to defer an Ellerslie Derby Day meeting any later than Monday as they didn't want it impacting the future racing plans of horses potentially returning for Auckland Cup day on Saturday week, travelling to the Oaks meeting at Trentham on March 20 or even with targets in Australia.
"So we are happy with the options of Sunday and Monday and would love to keep the meeting here, even though we appreciate Hastings being available," said Wilcox.
If the meeting is held at Ellerslie it would mean Auckland is almost certainly at alert level 2 and that would allow the ARC to have owners with horses racing at the meeting and some members in attendance at the racecourse.
"We would love to able to have owners along, even though it might mean coming for their horse's race and then leaving to create space for owners with horses in later races," says Wilcox.
"And we will work on getting members here in areas separate from the owners so we don't have more than 100 in any area.
"But we, like everybody else, hope to have a lot more clarity on Friday."
Regardless of where the meeting is run it oozes class, with a very even Derby but plenty of exciting gallops in the support races headlines by Amarelinha (Sunline Vase) and Entriviere (Haunui Farm Plate).