RYAN HOUTEN, last year’s runner-up, is the 4-6 favourite to take the £4000 first prize in the 147th New Year Sprint when the semi-finals and final are held at Musselburgh Racecourse tomorrow.
Houten, of Cardrona, 17, was only beaten by .03 sec by Berwick schoolboy Cameron Tindle in last year’s final. He turned the tables on his rival yesterday when he won heat five of the famous 110 metres handicap impressively on the all-weather surface at Meadowmill Sports Centre, East Lothian.
His time of 11.46 secs, from a start of nine metres, was easily the fastest time of the 12 heats, which were severely affected by near gale force winds and showers.
By contrast, Tindle, in the same heat, appeared to be struggling into the fierce wind and finished well back in third place, though he afterwards revealed his starting blocks may have slipped at the start.
Nevertheless, the 17-year-old Edinburgh AC member clocked 12.00 secs from his backmarker position of two metres and did progress as one of the fastest losers for the semi-finals, behind Sarah Malone (Edinburgh AC), who was second in 11.94 secs.
Tindle then went on to win the Invitation Backmarkers 110 metres handicap from scratch in 12.50 secs, narrowly holding off a previous “Big Sprint” winner Dylan Ali (Hawick, 3m), who closed him right down at the finish in a race held in the worst of the conditions.
Not to be written off is Jordan Charters (Dolphinton, 11m), who charged home unchallenged in heat eight in 11.58 secs for the second fastest time of the day. Ryan is the youngest of three Charters brothers to have been entered – the other two Steven and Ryan both withdrew with injuries. The 20-year-old Lasswade AC long jumper is now second favourite at 5/4.
Sandy Wilson (EAC 7m) showed good form to win heat six in 12.32 secs while Jazmine Tomlinson (TLJT 20.5m) won the “heat of death” heat four in 11.79 secs, with Kevin Wilson (Kelty 12m) and Stacey Downie (EAC) also going through.
Sadly, Rory Muir (Dundee Hawkhill) was a no-show for the 800 metres open handicap as he had arrived home the previous day from South Africa with a cold.
In his absence, Cal MacLennan (Edinburgh AC 90m) won with a powerful finish which the joint backmarker Craig Robertson (Logierait, 40m) was unable to match in the straight.
Kieran Reilly (Lasswade AC 9.5m) won the Pat Chester 90 metres handicap and first prize of £300 from 16-year-old Earlston High schoolgirl Emily Dagg (EAC 18.5m), who also qualified for the 110m semis.