Capital sprinter Ben Robbins (Edinburgh AC) is the 3-1 favourite for the 2013 New Year Sprint following the draw at Musselburgh Racecourse.
Robbins, a previous youths winner at New Year and a promising 400 metres sprinter who is ranked sixth at under-17 in the UK with a best of 49.11, was drawn in the tenth and last heat in this his first tilt at the 135-year-old professional race.
Still only 16, Robbins, who scored two tries for George Watson’s College in the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schoolboys Under-18 rugby cup final last week, has been allocated a start of 7.5m for the famous 110m handicap which carries a first prize of £4000. “It’s a great draw for Ben,” said his coach Dave Goodall.
Robbins, who is tipped to have a great future in rugby and is already in the national development squad, should qualify comfortably from his heat, which also includes the oldest man in the field, septuagenarian Jimmy Bryce of Lochgelly, the 1956 winner, who has a start of 34m. Bryce has had replacement surgery for both knees and a hip but is always desperate to support the meeting, something a number of active former winners have not done this year, the total entry being down to 70.
The back marker off 3.5m is Robbins’ EAC clubmate Morro Bajo, another 16-year-old who goes in heat seven where he faces mother and daughter Wendy and Gemma Nicol, both previous finalists who in the past have just failed to break the male monopoly of the race.
Depending on her training and competition schedule Gemma, who will be bidding next year to qualify for her third Commonwealth Games, may not compete. But there are serious challengers for the honour of becoming the first ever female winner including Amy Clancy (Peebles), Susan Young (Dundee Hawkhill) and Fiona Cleat (EAC).
Clancy, who is coached by Charlie Russell, and off 18.75m, is in a cracking first heat with backmarker Kieran Kivlin (EAC) 4.50m, Ewan Dyer (Pitreavie) 6.75m, and Jordan Charters (Lasswade) 9.25m.
Young is off 19.75m in heat two where she faces 400m specialist Jamie Bowie (Inverness) 4.75m, who captured the 100 yards sprint at Braemar this year and Cleat, runner-up two years ago, is in a fierce heat five where Hawick’s Dylan Ali, off 9m, is the fancied runner.