A FAIRYTALE finish almost played out for Ballarat on Saturday night.
Richmond's Daniel Veith was the man that stopped it.
It was the SportzBiz 400-metre novice final, the stage set to polish off a successful day one to the Ballarat Gift carnival and lead-in to its marquee events on Sunday.
POD Squad teenager Grace O'Dwyer powered off the 68m mark and came tantalisingly close to victory at Eastern Oval in the Victorian Athletic League meet.
Veith (60m) surged ahead in the home straight and pipped her at the line by half a second, winning in 46.39 seconds.
The Rod Mathews-trained Alec Wiltshire worked hard off the 49m mark to claim third.
Two Ballarat runners on the podium, each with a big band of friends and stablemates watching on, and Veith was the man in top spot.
"I'm pretty excited," Veith said but, after a long hot day, did not have much else to add.
He won the 800m at Rye and will contest the mile final on Sunday, hoping to net two sashes from Ballarat.
DUNKELD native Brenton Rowe produced the run of the night, capturing the $1000 City of Ballarat 3200m off scratch.
He crossed the line about 50 metres ahead of his closest rival David Spence, posting a winning time of eight minutes, 57.13 seconds.
EMERGING sprint star Nathan Riali is quickly becoming a Gift favourite after producing some stunning running under lights.
Riali claimed the $1000 Mesh and Masonry 70m open title - and his eyes are now on the headline Gift prize.
The Greensborough impressed with a win in the Gift heats earlier, then turned up the pace for an impressive, clear win in the 70m semi-finals.
He burst off the three-metre mark to blitz the field once more to claim the 70m open sash.
"It's a great feeling to win here. I just love running at night," Riali said.
"The whole crew and my girlfriend is here cheering me on.
"Hopefully I get a nice sleep tonight for the Gift."
The sash backs up the 70m title he won in Maryborough on New Year's Day in his second VAL season.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN Mark Howson remained stunned from the moment he crossed the line in a photo finish to when he stepped off the podium.
The 3BA PowerFM 300m veteran's handicap sash was his first win on Victorian soil.
Howson (61m) has been racing for 20 years - and this was the closest finish he has ever been involved in, cutting out his fellow South Australian Peter Biggs (37m) to do so.
"I was a bit worried at the finish," Howson said.
"It's nice to have a fellow South Australian second.
"We love coming over here and mixing it with the strong Victorian competition.
"I've been coming here 15 years and this is the first time I've had any success."
Fingers crossed, he says, this could be a prelude to his first win at Stawell.
The Michael Buckler-trained veteran runs with the McKinnon Parade stable in Gilles Plaines.