Local athletes set to sprint into New Year

Cumbie Bowers winning the 2006 New Year Sprint
Cumbie Bowers winning the 2006 New Year Sprint

Local athletes are on their marks for the 146th running of the famous New Year ‘Powderhall’ Sprint, writes Shane Fenton.

Uninterrupted by war or weather the handicap race has taken place on or around New Years Day every year since it was first won by Jedburgh’s Dan Wight in 1870.

Throughout the years the race has had a few different venues but no matter where it is run, it is always referred to as the ‘Powderhall’.

The race took place at the Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh up until 1957 with the exception of 1953 when it was held at Old Meadowbank.

From 1958 until 1964 venues at Hawick, Tranent and Newtongrange hosted the event before it returned to Powderhall for a further six years culminating in 1970 with Scotland’s greatest ever sprinter George McNeil winning the centenary running of the race.

The following year Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh with it’s then novel ‘Tartan Track’ surface played host to the race and that’s where it stayed until 1999 when it moved to its current home at Musselburgh Racecourse.

In recent years there has been local success with Cumbie Bowers, Glenrothes, winning the 2006 and Graeme Lister, Kirkcaldy, triumphing in 2012.

Bowers is once again in the line up of 85 runners for the 2015 race and will run from a start of eight metres.

Billy Martin also from Glenrothes has been allocated a start of 11.5 metres with John Lowis, Kirkcaldy set to go from the 12 metres mark.

The 12 heats of the race, which carries a top prize of £4000, takes place on December 31, with the 12 heat winners along with the eight fastest runners up going forward to contest the four cross-ties, and ultimately the final, on New Years Day which will be run in conjunction with a National Hunt race meeting, which guarantees a big crowd.