Ian Horsburgh must do it all again in this afternoon’s semi-finals and final, but the Central AC veteran has already shown enough raw speed to win the 151st New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Racecourse.
Starting off on the 10.25 metres mark, Horsburgh posted the quickest time – 11.30 secs – in Monday’s heats in Prestonpans, and the Eric Liddell Trophy and £5,000 first prize could be his if he can replicate that form.
Having finished fifth and eighth in two previous finals in the late-1990s at Meadowbank, it would be a fairytale story if he could finally win the classic 110m handicap more than two decades later.
Impressive though Horsburgh was on Meadowmill’s synthetic track on Monday, today’s races take place on rutted grass, which poses a new challenge to the sprinters. The gap between the cross-ties (semi-finals) and final is a short one and theoretically favours the younger athletes, rather than one who turns 42 next Friday.
“I don’t see why I can’t run two races,” countered Horsburgh. “I’m feeling pretty fresh and only ran once on Monday because I didn’t compete in the Veterans 90m. In some ways it helps not to have a long wait between races. You don’t get cold and you don’t have to warm up again. You just have to stay loose. I’m not worried about running on grass because I train on grass during my lunch hour at work.
“I’ve kept working hard during the winter, so I knew I was in good shape, although you can never tell with the handicap system. I was really happy with my heat time, but Murray Blair ran well and Krishawn Aitken looked good too, so it’s still all to play for.”
Horsburgh goes in the opening semi against last year’s bronze medallist Alessandro Schenini, who finished behind his girlfriend Sarah Malone on Monday but progressed as a fastest loser. Aitken, now the back-marker off 4.5m following the elimination of defending champion Greg Kelly, meets 2018 winner Calum McWilliam in cross-tie two as McWilliam targets his fifth final in a row.
Malone and Giffnock’s Kyle McLean clash in heat three, while semi-final four has Kelly’s conqueror Murray Blair plus last January’s runner-up Douglas Young and local Stacey Downie, who won Monday’s women’s 90m.
l Jim Wallace, a finalist in 1944, has been to every final since but feared he would miss today’s following the death of his wife. But promoter Frank Hanlon and Musselburgh Racecourse have stepped in to ensure that the 96-year-old and his carer can attend.