WHEN Michelle Meyers returned to Mudgee races at the weekend it had been 112 days since she'd been trackside.
"Not that I counted," she said, laughing.
The committed fashions on the field entrant had, pre-coronavirus, been attending at least one race meet a week, sometimes two.
"I really only do rural race meets," she said. "I just like the vibe, the smaller race clubs are just so friendly."
Ms Meyers and partner James Sheppard moved to Mudgee six years ago, to become partners in Ross Granata Motors and she manages sales, marketing and social media for the company.
She said racing was incredibly important to country towns and the entire community got behind events.
"Some of the smaller clubs only have one race meet a year, but it's incredibly well supported."
She most of the women on the fashions circuit knew each other, got along well and often caught up on social media.
"All the people I associate with take it seriously and we all appreciate each other's efforts.
"It's competitive, but also extremely inclusive," she said.
Her mother, Judy Meyers, makes all her outfits, bar the millinery.
Ms Meyers, who grew up in Bathurst, said rural towns also benefited from people travelling to their race meets.
"And it gives people a mind rest from the drought, we had dry and dusty days for a long time."
A few people dressed for fashions on the field at the weekend, yet because of social distancing there could be no line ups.
Fashion winners were picked by judges circulating in the crowd.
Of individual milestones worth noting is jockey Leandro Ribeiro's winning ride in race one at Nyngan's Saturday meeting, his first professional ride in 13 years.
The Mudgee race meeting had its own social distancing marshall. Club secretary Colleen Walker said there were 200 ticketted patrons who were all eager to get back to the races.
"A little chilly but a good day for racing in the country," she said. "So many ladies couldn't wait to dress up again with their gloves and outfits.
"We have a great set-up to cater for people in the new era." Mudgee hoped to host a few thousand people for its big rescheduled Gooree Cup meeting on August 30.
Nyngan held its first meeting back on Saturday with owners allowed. Club secretary Wendy Robb said it was just a little early to have crowds back for the day, but was hopeful in the future.
Many other clubs were also preparing to welcome patrons back, although a number of picnic and non-TAB races have been cancelled, including the famous Louth races.