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The Canterbury Jockey Club made the announcement on Tuesday morning, due to the region still being in level 2. It came shortly after organisers confirmed Addington Cup Week will also go ahead in November but without the public for the first time in 117 years.
At Riccarton, owners of competing horses, event sponsors and members of the Canterbury Jockey Club can attend. If demand for attendance is not be exhausted by the key stakeholders, limited seated tickets may be available to the public.
There will be a capacity of 2000 people on each of the three days.
"We know this news is disappointing and will result in a very different NZ Cup Meeting to what we normally enjoy. However, we are committed to complying by the current restrictions imposed to ensure the health and safety of all our valued stakeholders
while allowing us to continue to hold this important calendar of events," a spokesperson said.
"Our planning will enable attendance of 2000 people on each of the three days and is a significant reduction from the sell-out crowd of 15,000 people at last year's New Zealand Cup Day."
The club will make direct contact with owners regarding their options when the fields are drawn.
Members will be contacted directly via email and will be required to pre-register their interest in attending the Canterbury Jockey Club New Zealand Cup Meetings by October 22.
Canterbury Jockey Club chief executive Tim Mills said the decision was "soul destroying."
"That is the only way to describe it, we're going from a sell-out crowd of 15,000. We just have to work that the measures the government has put in place."
He said they had given up hope the event would run as usual by yesterday.
"This time last year we'd been in level 1, I think it was by September 21. Perhaps five or six weeks ago we were hoping for a similar miracle but it became more and more evident that that was not likely to happen."
It has taken so long to make a decision because there have been so many changing and moving parts within the Covid-19 restrictions the Government sets, he said.
"It's just taken us time to come to grips with what's required."
The club will take a massive financial hit, Mills said.
"I can't quantify it right now but no matter how you do the math, 15000 doesn't go into 2000.
"With that of course is the spend that comes with the additional people, that's not going to be here. It's going to be a significant financial blow."
At alert level 2, events can go ahead but with restrictions. Facilities, such as stadiums, cinemas and casinos, can have a maximum of 100 people in any indoor or outdoor defined space.
Addington Cup Week chief executive Brian Thompson said they were disappointed but had no option other than to allow members, owners, trainers and business partners only into the events.