SO the cat is well and truly out of the bag.
Cameron Tindle (Edinburgh AC), the 16-year-old Berwick-based schoolboy is currently probably the best sprinter in Scotland bar none.
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There were gasps, followed by applause, from the knowledgeable crowd of a few hundred who had gathered for the first day of the 146th annual New Year Sprint Handicap when Tindle swept through the field from his modest start of five metres to win the 12th and final heat at Musselburgh Racecourse yesterday.
That earned him the position of odds-on 4-6 favourite to win the £4,000 first prize in today’s final, due to be held during a break in the traditional National Hunt meeting, at 2.09 pm.
But, in truth, there had been a scramble to place bets on the youngster from just over the English border from the moment the bookies set up their stands yesterday morning.
Not that Tindle still does not have work to do and, with a dire forecast of significant rain for today, the heavy grass track could become a quagmire better suited to other, more experienced rivals.
But his coach Henry Gray is quietly confident: “He may never get another chance as good as this and I believe he’ll do it.”
The youngster has marvellous cadence and effective leg speed. He weighs less than 10 stone and has still to train with weights, so who knows how good he could be in the future.
First Tindle must negotiate the cross-ties or semi-finals which are also interspersed throughout today’s race meeting, with the first at 12.35pm and Tindle’s, the fourth, at 1.15pm in which he will clash with last year’s winner Dylan Ali (Hawick), who has so far made a spirited defence of his title and also won the Invitation Back-markers event yesterday.
Surprisingly Tindle was not the fastest qualifier from the heats, that honour belonging to his clubmate Stacey Downie, who won the first heat in 11.72 secs from her start of 17.5 metres, compare to Tindle’s 11.82, but by then quite a fresh headwind faced the runners so it was difficult the assess the relative merits of the times.
Downie, a 27-year-old PE teacher at Peebles High School, had more than a metre to spare over second-placed Craig Sowerby (Seaton) who clocked 11.90 with Jazmine Tomlinson (Tweedbank 22m) going through in third place in 12.09 secs and joint back-marker Greg Louden (Lasswade, 4.25m) unusually making it through despite being fourth in 12.13.
Downie was a 5-2 bet last night, as was Ryan Houten (Cardrona, 11m) who is trained by Downie’s former coach Charlie Russell and won heat five in 11.82.
Former runner-up Gemma Nicol (Dunfermline 17.5m) looked sluggish in heat eight and was beaten by English international 400 metres hurdler Liam Collins (Newcastle 9.5m) who clocked 12.09.
Nicol was second in 12.10 to go through and then turned out again in the 90 metres events and was more pleased with her form: “I’d always intended to run all these races but I’m so pleased I did,” said the 27-year-old, who is bidding for her seventh Big Sprint final and is looking for a “tow” in Tindle’s semi-final, in which Jazmine Tomlinson also goes.
Nicol was even more delighted for the T20 disability athlete she coaches Owen Miller (Dunfermline 70m), who just held off Ruaridh Miller (EAC 70m) in a desperate finish to the brutal Four Furlongs handicap run along the rails – alost entirely into the wind.
“He really wanted to win today,” said Nicol of her charge Miller.
Several more of the Big Sprint qualifiers also turned out in the Pat Chester 90 metres Handicap with victory going to Eoin Lowther (Jedburgh).
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