The carnival attracts crowds of up to 90,000 for major races and is highlighted by the A$8 million ($5.7 million) Melbourne Cup, which is raced on the first Tuesday in November and known as 'the race that stops the nation'.

"While we are very disappointed not to be able to welcome our members and racegoers to Cup Week, we understand the government's commitment to keeping our community safe," VRC chairman Amanda Elliott said in a statement.

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"What is certain is the Melbourne Cup Carnival will go ahead with viewing audiences watching from across Australia and around the world."

Elliott said the VRC were still negotiating with the Victoria state government about the possibility of a small number of owners attending.

A top Australian sports official was forced to apologise and reverse a decision earlier this month to allow a limited number of people to attend the A$5 million Cox Plate at nearby Moonee Valley.

Victoria on Sunday delayed an expected announcement on the easing of lockdown restrictions in Melbourne due to a recent outbreak after a months-long battle to curb a second wave of infections.

The carnival, comprising Victoria Derby Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Oaks Day and Mackinnon Stakes Day, is due to start on Saturday with four Group 1 races, including the A$2 million Victoria Derby for three-year-olds.

($1 = 1.4043 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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