The earlier than expected return to thoroughbred horse racing in the Central Districts at Whanganui on Thursday has both surprised and astounded officials.

Initially, eight races were to be carded and only then if horse numbers supported a go-ahead.

However, a total of 211 horses were nominated, more than double anticipated for an eight-race card.

The number forced New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) to increase the card to an 11-race programme with the first now scheduled for 10.45am and the last set for 4.21pm.

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Wanganui Jockey Club operations manager Bret Field said the club reopens for business tomorrow after Covid-19 alert measures and lockdown shut down racing.

The last meeting to be run in Whanganui was on Valentine's Day on February 14.

The club will be the first to race in the Central Districts since the return to thoroughbred at Pukekohe on Saturday.

"The club has had a massive response with an unprecedented 211 horses nominated and 11 races scheduled," Field said.

"Race times will now be 10.45am to 4.21pm with rooms open to the public from 10am. Entry is free and free parking is also available.

"We were expecting a good response to the first meeting back, but this number of nominations has totally exceeded expectations."

Field said the club was hoping to only have eight races to help preserve the track for other scheduled upcoming racing commitments.

"The demand has been such that there will potentially be 154 horses go around over the 11 races while up to 60 horses will still miss out because they are on the ballot as emergencies.

"Those horses will get preference at the next Central Districts meeting at Awapuni hosted by the Marton Jockey Club on July 4.

"We look forward to having our patrons back on course for a huge day of racing, but please note that the meeting is open to the public so we would encourage attendees to still be responsible for their own personal hygiene and health at this time and any people displaying cold-like symptoms should not attend.

"There will be sanitisers and QR codes for tracing purposes available throughout the facilities and people are encouraged to use these," Field said.

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