After several years the Ballarat Gift returned to Eastern Oval where athletes and officials were met with severe heat on the first day and a tough blustery wind on the final day. However the racing was excellent with the track in magnificent condition and quick times were recorded, particularly in the 70 metres and circle events. The Ballarat Athletic Club committee undertook a huge task with the shift, a two day event, combined with fashions on the field and a massive card of little athletics, as well as the usual VAL program. The program ran close to time and the ample club officials were quick to remedy any last minute problems. Kathryn O’Dwyer, throwing the spikes away temporarily, performed an excellent rendition of the national anthem.
800m under 20s VRTA handicap.
Day one started with the straight final of the VRTA junior 800 metres where local Conor Nunn (50m) came with a late charge to win running away in the final few metres. Dylan Moore (106m) looked certain to win the event when he held a comfortable lead coming to the home turn but Nunn powered home to record the winning time of 1.55.04 from Moore and Anthony Dempster (90m). Conor was responsible for a very handy effort last season at Ballarat when he won the 400 metres backmarkers from the rising super star Sam Baird. He had also previously won a novice event at Noble Park. Conor is a member of the POD squad, with Peter O’Dwyer at the helm.
Ballarat Athletic Club under 20s 70 metres
The value of a slight downhill finish for the seventy metres was evident when the juniors were recording times that the open class sprinters would be proud of. The fastest qualifiers for the under 20s were South Australian Sam Whitbread (6.5m) from Kieran Blizzard (13.75m) and that’s the way they finished in the final with Whitbread a clear winner from Blizzard. Third was Cameron Moss (4.5m) and the winning time was 7.58
Mesh and Masonary Open 70 metres
The cream rose to the top in the open 70 metres with some of the VAL classier sprinters putting their best performances on show. The two best performed sprinters for season 2013/14, Nathan Riali (3m) and Luke Stevens (2.25m) produced heat wins with runs of 7.53, and 7.57. Bikramjeet Singh (6.5m) also ran an impressive heat in 7.58. The final was looking better for Riali when Bradley Schutz (8.25m), second to Riali in the heat, defeated Luke Stevens in the first semi with a run of 7.55. Riali made light work of the second semi by defeating stable mate Iain Douglas (4.25m) in 7.48, the fastest of the season. Bikramjeet Singh won a close contest in the third semi with a run of 7.63, the same time as the runner up, John Adams (4m). In the final Singh was penalised half a metre for breaking, effectively finishing his winning chance. In the re-start Riali began brilliantly and quickly had the race under control to defeat Schutz in 7.50. Iain Douglas was in third place inches to the good of Stevens. The winner is coached by Scott Rowsell.
Seymours on Lydiard frontmarkers 800m
The first of the distance event was the front markers 800 metres with a noticeably lift in tempo for the three keenly contested heats. Wiley veteran Chris Brown (108m) returned to his best form to win heat one from stable mate Matthew Bateman (98m) in 1.57.21. Heat two went to Nicholas Martin (40m), a Geelong athlete having his first VAL start, in 1.56.14. The final heat, the fastest at 1.55.62, went to Clint Anderson with a strong effort to run down Gary Blake (172m). The final, the first event of day two, went to Nicholas Martin carrying the red jacket in 1.53.2. Whilst Gary Blake was sailing along in front at the bell Martin was in last place, trailing Anderson with the task ahead of him. But with two hundred metres to travel both Anderson and Martin surged towards the leaders and quickly headed off Blake, Corina Kapusta (168m) and Martine Beer (160m) with Brown preferring to wait for his chances on the fence. As the field straightened Martin got the better of Anderson and Brown started to gather momentum along the fence. However in the run to the line the backmarker held on to win by three metres from Brown and Anderson.
The Gil Hills Memorial Back markers 800 metres
The backmarker’s heats were “red hot” affairs with a sharp rise in intent and the inclusion of tactics for the first time this season. There was a shock in heat one when Matthew “Tiger” Grant was unable to progress through to the final when he could only finish fifth in 1.56. Tiger has had the Ballarat 800m at his mercy since the turn of century with numerous wins in scintillating fashion. Tiger, a quiet lad at heart, may not have handled the change of venue with all the noise and lights closer to the city centre. The first heat went to Alex Bacalja (50m) with a tough win in 1.52.76 as he tracked Jacob Reed (62m) and tackled him strongly in the home straight to win narrowly. The second heat, with a run of 1.52.57, went to Michael Marantelli (34m) in a closely fought finish from Cam Clayton (24m) and Joel Donnar (44m). Darren Naismith (68m) held a slender margin in the third heat from Dan Lawlor (60m) and Drew Kowalski (62m) in 1.53.4. The final was an extremely solidly run event with Naismith bowling along in front from Reed, Lawlor and Bacalja. There was still a handy gap between the main bunch and the backmarkers, Marantelli and Clayton at the bell. Marantelli made a move around the main body of the field down the back straight, followed up by Clayton and Donnar. On the home turn Jacob Reed kicked clear and Marantelli was left floundering for a few strides before driving at the leader on the line. The finish saw Marantelli winning in 1.49.13 from Reed in 1.49.22 with Clayton third in 1.50.6. Michael is a member of the Hippo Athletic Club and Sunday’s win is his fourth at Ballarat, previously winning the 1600 metres twice as well as the 3200 metres last season.
Mars 120m Women’s Gift
Celia Cosgriff (14m) recorded her biggest win on the VAL circuit when she held her competitors at bay in the $5000 women’s gift final on Sunday afternoon. Celia went into the semi finals with a quick heat time of 14.17, narrowly behind the run of 14.15 by Kimberley Geelan (9m). Whereas Kimberley failed to improve on her heat time, Cosgriff continued with her good form to run 14.18 in her semi final win. The other semi finals were taken out by Kate Jones (8.75m) in 14.54 and Cara Boustead (9.5m) in 14.30. Cosgriff was a clear favourite for the final and defeated Boustead by half a metre with Karlee Bailey (9.25m) finishing in third place. The winning time in the final was 14.27. Celia, with many wins over the longer distances had only a minor women’s gift win to her credit before the weekend. Celia is coached by Nick Feidler.
PPT Accounting Ballarat 120m Gift.
The twelve heats of the PPT Ballarat Gift did nothing to help punters find the winner with several runners clocking similar times in a very even contest. The faster heats were won by Mark Hignett (12m & 12.44), Brendan Matthews (6.25m & 12.47 ), John Adams (7.5m & 12.41) Dylan Hicks (9.75m &12.43), Luke Stevens (3.25m & 12.48) and Nathan Riali (5.75m &12.5). However Robert Spencer (8.25m), James Vine (5m), Gus Carty-Cowling (8.5m) and Joel Bee (1.25m &12.41) all qualified for the semi finals with quick heat losses. With winners only to the final, the semi finals were a cut throat affair with many of the athletes not able to repeat their earlier efforts. The first semi final was a “cliff hanger” with Stevens running 12.56 to oust Brendan Matthews by inches. The second semi final was another close call with Riali eliminating Hignett by a margin similar to the first semi in 12.52. The third semi was a minor upset as Carl Morehouse (5.25m) defeated Dylan Hicks in 12.62. Once again the margin was only a few inches. Robert Spencer, fresh from a Camden Classic win, eliminated Joel Bee in the time of 12.63. The fifth semi final saw a good win to Gus Carty-Cowling with a run of 12.50. The sixth and final semi final went to Sam Jamieson, returning to his best form for some time, with a run of 12.56. In the final Riali wasn’t the best to begin but mustered plenty of speed mid race to hit the front at the 100 metres and went to the line a clear winner. Carty-Cowling stuck to his task well for second and after a slow start to the season is sure to be in the action in major gifts before the season finishes. Sam Jamieson’s third placing was a clear sign that he is back running at his best again. Riali completed the sprint double for the weekend and added those wins to his earlier successes including the Northcote gift. The winner is coached by Scot Rowsell and the time was 12.46.
3BA Power FM Veteran’s 300m
Mark Howson (61m) after an impressive heat win was able to charge to the lead before the home turn to hold out the fast finishing Peter Biggs (37m) in the final of the veterans’ 300 metres. Biggs and Andrew Drummond (34m) had recorded the fastest heat times but Howson’s heat, although a little slower, looked more comfortable. In the final Howson recorded a winning time of 34.8 with Biggs finishing in 34.88, Drummond was third. Howson has had a very successful season in South Australia winning five events and by the authority of Sunday’s win, more wins should follow. Howson is trained by Mckinnon Parade coach Michael Buckler.
City Of Ballarat 3200 metres
Without doubt the most exciting contest of the weekend was the eight laps of the “2 miler” late on Saturday night. Brenton Rowe, starting from the scratch mark with his nearest competitor Matthew McDonough half a lap away on 190 metres, ran the race as if running repetition 400’s, without a rest. Brenton ran the first four laps by himself and from that point on gradually “picked off” the tiring runners, but without a definite chance of winning. It was only at the 800 metres point that the crowd sensed that a win was a possibility. David Spence (290m), taking his chances went for home at this point, with McDonough bridging the gap on the leader but losing his advantage on the rampaging red jacket of Rowe. At the bell Spence still had a huge lead, although diminishing, whilst Rowe was about to zoom past McDonough, the rest of the field were well and truly “damaged” property. Rowe ran to the front just after the 200 metres and kept the pressure on to finish in 8.57. Spence put everything on the line for his second place and McDonough, possibly the VAL most consistent 3200 metre runner, finished third. Not since the days of Chris Fisher and Mal Norwood have the VAL faithful been treated to such an example of sustained running. The race proved that a truly run pursuit race of 3200 metres still has a rightful place on the VAL calendar.
Hec Wilson Memorial Novice 120m
Jenna Cartledge (22.5m) and William Kerr (13.5m) had the novice to themselves after the eight heats with Kerr recording a fastest time of 12.55 against Jenna’s 12.60. The final, also carried over to the Sunday, was never really a contest with Cartledge quickly racing to the front and only Kerr able to make an impression on her lead, narrowing the gap to a metre as the finish line appeared. The very consistent Natasha McDowell (23m) finished third. The winning time was 12.73 and it was another local win for the POD squad.
Sportzbiz Novice 400 metres
Once again the popularity of the Sportzbiz series was demonstrated with five heats, sixty entries and some very competitive heats. Daniel Veith (60m) looked the likely winner after clocking a quick 46.57 in his heat, the closest to Daniel was Danielle McDowell (92m) with a time of 47.31. In the final, the girls McDowell, Grace O’Dwyer (68m),Loryn Savoia (86m) and Katilyn Bryce (93m) cleared out with a good break but Veith quickly had them in range before the 150 metres mark and sweep to the lead as he entered the home straight. The danger to Daniel came from the local, Grace O’Dywer who after being passed before the turn mounted a strong challenge in front of the home crowd to make Veith earn the win. Daniel finished with a three metre advantage over O’Dwyer and Alec Wiltshire (49m) another local in third place. Daniel clocked 46.39 in the final and is another winner for the Hippo Athletic Club. Daniel having his best VAL season won the Rye 800 metres earlier in the year.
Mars 1600 metres Open Handicap
David Spence (120m) made up for his gallant second in the 3200m the previous night with a solid run to win the Open 1600 metres on Sunday afternoon. In the early stages of the event Stefan Catalano (305m) bowled along in the lead from Wayne James (270m) with a good gap to Ash Snowden (220m) and Matthew Bateman (225m). The order remained unchanged for a fair portion of the race with the backmarkers not making much of an impression on the leaders. At the bell, as the front markers began to tire, Gordon Muir (185m), Daniel Veith (175m) and then Spence started to work into the finish with Muir and Spence drawing away from the rest as they approached the home turn. In the run to the line Spence defeated Muir by three metres with Daniel Veith (175m) running third, the winning time was 4.08.6. Spence added another win to the Hippo Athletic club tally with their stable earnings for the season currently at $35,700.
120 metres Veterans’ Handicap.
The veterans’ sprint race, with a title as long as the race, is sponsored by “Cressbells Drycleaners and Tanya Daniels, The Good Guys” and has a handy prize total of $1000 for the “oldies”. Two of our more in form senior citizens, Rob Lehmann (3m) and Tom Hecimovic (18.25m) clocked the fastest heats at 13.45 and 13.43, which gave them a clear margin over their competitors. And these times held up in the final with Hecimovic having a good win from Lehmann in 13.18. It wasn’t all bad news for Rob, as he did still finish in front of his wife Narelle (16.25m) who was placed third. For a bloke who at every presentation says “I can’t run” the “hitman” certainly has built up a formidable list of wins. The race was yet another win for the John Henry stable
North Ballarat Sports Club Frontmarkers 400 metres.
The 400 metre events at Ballarat are always great races to watch with the entries divided into front and back markers divisions. In the front markers Tara Domaschenz (60m) set the standard with the fastest heat time of 47.16, ahead of Lawrence Coop (46m & 47.38) and Tiffany Boatman (80m & 47.66). Domaschenz, the favourite for the final, was penalised two metres for breaking and was then forced to chase hard down the back straight to make ground on the leaders with Coop trailing her. On the home turn Narelle Lehmann (75m) and Boatman reached the lead from a spent Domaschenz and Coop pulling to the outside of the track for his run. However in the home straight it was Justin Templar (40m) from nowhere, after finishing fourth in his heat, who was able to get a late split through the field to take the prize right on the line. He defeated Coop and Lehmann in 47.48.
Val Stewart Memorial Backmarkers 400 metres
A quality field lined up for the final of the backmarkers 400 metres, named after Val Stewart one of the great Ballarat trainers from days gone by. Unfortunately Ryan McNamara was disqualified from the final field after being found guilty of causing interference in his heat. The fastest heat winner was David Fenollar( 29m) with a quick run of 47.10. The backmarker for the final was Iain Douglas (9m) after a solid run of 47.8 from his tight handicap. Fenollar starting near the front in the final made his intentions known from the gun with a quick start and maintained the pressure as he went for home, turning three metres clear. Cam Clayton (26m) made a fast run down the back straight to move into second at the half way point and battled on strongly to hold that placing to the line. Andrew Wilcox held third all the way, finishing only about two metres from the winner. The winning time was 47.16. Fenollar has had a great VAL season, commencing with a win at the Melton harness racing in November, a St Albans gift win and now winning one of the “plum” 400 metre events on the calendar. The win was the 18th for the John Henry stable with an impressive season’s prize money tally of $33,000.
GMC Osteopathy, Women’s and Veterans’1600m
Gregor Dingwell (240m) made a procession of the women’s and vets 1600 metres at Ballarat as he always looked to have control of the event from the gun. With 800 metres to travel he was sitting comfortably in eighth place but made a quick move after this point to have the lead at the bell and increased the margin in the last lap. Justin Murphy from the tough handicap of five metres was able work his way past the rest of the field but was no match for the winner. Martine Beer (305m) was able to hold on for third a margin to the good of Shane Thiele (10m), another to make a great deal of ground off a tight mark. Gregor is another winner from the McKinnon Parade stable of Michael Buckler. The winning time was 4.16.34