REIGNING Ballarat Gift champion Glenn Ross will return to defend his title this weekend.
But the Western Australian has been wound in two metres from the successful 10.75m mark he utilised to win the 2013 feature.
The veteran sprinter is one of 83 entrants for the $20,000 120m event, which makes its return to Eastern Oval on Saturday.
Victorian sprinter Matt Carter was yesterday confirmed as a backmarker and will have to overcome his tough 1m handicap to back up his Rye Gift triumph from last month.
Just ahead of the dual Maryborough Gift champion is Ballarat sprinter Joel Bee, who must be at his best from 1.25m to win his hometown race.
Reigning Stawell Gift title-holder Andrew Robinson is off 2.75m, while past Stawell winners Matt Wiltshire (3.75m) and Sam Jamieson (4.5m) are among the backmarkers.
Other notable entrants include 2012 Ballarat Gift winner David Tinney (6.5m), last year’s Stawell Gift finalists James Vine (5m) and Ryan Camille (9.5m), AFL boundary umpire and recent Burnie Gift victor Adam Coote (7.5m) and Queenslander Ben Mispelhorn (4m), who won the Bay Sheffield Gift on December 28.
A 49-runner field will also chase riches in the lucrative Ballarat Women’s Gift (120m) this weekend.
Commonwealth Games hopeful Christine Wearne is the backmarker and will start from 0.25m – more than a metre behind Maddie Coates (1.5m) and Ballarat’s Tara Domaschenz (2m).
Last year’s champion Holly Dobbyn has a 6.75m handicap, while the in-form Kiara Reddingius is one of the big-watch runners and starts from 6m.
This year has seen the race double in prizemoney to be worth $5000, with the boost in response to increased women’s registrations in the Victorian Athletic League.
Heats for both gifts are on Saturday, with finals to be held on Sunday.
Ballarat Gift contenders:
BALLARAT GIFT, 120m
MATT CARTER 1m
JOEL BEE 1.25m
ANDREW ROBINSON 2.75m
CLAY WATKINS 2.75m
LUKE STEVENS 3.25m
KHAN MARR 3.25m
MATTHEW WILTSHIRE 3.75m
BEN MISPELHORN 4m
SAM JAMIESON 4.5m
RHETT MEDFORD 4.5m
WOMEN’S GIFT, 120m
CHRISTINE WEARNE 0.25m
MADDIE COATES 1.5m
TARA DOMASCHENZ 2m
KATIE MOORE 3.5m
TAMARA HAMOND 4.75m
MELANIE PURKISS 5.5m
MELISSA HOWARD 5.75m
KIARA REDDINGIUS 6m
EMMA JOHNSON 6.5m
HOLLY DOBBYN 6.75m