BALLARAT sprinter Joel Bee will launch his Maryborough Gift title defence in the red of heat four today.
Bee, off one metre, has the shortest mark of the field in the $15,000 120-metre handicap at Princes Park after the late scratching on South Australian Noah Geleris.
Williamstown-based Jamaican bobsledder Khan Marr (3.25m) is also tipped to make an impact when he starts in heat four.
Looming in Bee’s heat is Ballarat sprinter Nathan Dixon, who continues his return to the Victorian Athletic League circuit after an extended break from competition due to work.
Dixon, the 2006 Ballarat Gift winner, turns 30 next week and coach Rob Lehmann said it was great to bring Dixon back to the grass track.
“He’s now got more time to dedicate to competition, has always been training well and put in a solid winter training,” Lehmann said.
“He’s slowly getting there but it will take a season to really harden up for competition again.”
Dixon will run off 8m.
Veteran Ballarat sprinters Peter O’Dwyer (10m) and Evan King (11.75m) are also in the Gift mix.
King, the 2001 Maryborough Gift winner, has a tough race in heat two, which features perennial performers Benjamin Weaver (6m) and Cam Dunbar (7.25m).
O’Dwyer will run in the black for heat one, while his young charge, Sam Baird (6.25m) – named in the white for heat eight, is unlikely to start, instead keeping his focus on the open 400m.
Baird won the Australian 400m Professional Title in the Devonport Gift carnival on Monday night.
In-form O’Dwyer-trained sprinter Tara Domaschenz has a big assignment from heat three in the $1500 Women’s Necklace 120m handicap.
Domaschenz has the shortest mark of the women’s field.
She will line up against Ballarat’s Jacqueline McCann (9.75m), the 2008 Women’s Necklace and a past Stawell Women’s Gift winner, and Ballarat teenage novice Jess Lehmann, who has the tight mark of 6.75m.
Reigning Ballarat Women’s Gift winner Holly Dobbyn, also trained by O’Dwyer, looms as a strong chance for a spot in the final off 6.75m in heat four.
Stablemate Nadia Domaschenz, a Stawell Women’s Gift finalist this year, is the first Ballarat hope in action off 7.75m in heat one.
Decorated veteran Narelle Lehmann – a Women’s Gift finalist and women’s/veterans 300m winner at Ararat on Monday – will follow in heat two.