Riali races to victory in Ballarat Gift

SWIM, eat, sleep, repeat. Nathan Riali, hyped up from a 70m open win under lights, just needed to refresh and be well rested to be a strong contender at Eastern Oval yesterday.

His formula – a cool swim and nice dinner to help him “sleep like a baby” – allowed him to carry his stellar form all the way through to his $20,000 PPT Accounting Ballarat Gift 120-metre victory.

The emerging sprint star was a little lost for words  after the race, but was relieved he had not tired as the day wore on.

Plus the headline win gave him an extra burst of energy.

“This just feels phenomenal,” Riali said. “I didn’t expect to come here and win this as well. I just love the track here.”

The Greensborough sprinter, off 5.75m, wore down outmarker Gus Carty-Cowling (8.5m), and could hear favoured Sam Jamison (4.5m) thundering down the track behind him.

Riali says he just kept running, clocking a winning time of 12.46 seconds.

It was just as impressive as when he blitzed the field a night earlier in the 70m open off three metres, relishing the balmy night air.

Riali, in his second Victorian Athletic League season, was happy to add to his sash collection – he collected his first in the 70m open at Maryborough on New Year’s Day.

There was little time for Riali to celebrate his win at the track: the Scott Rowell-coached athlete was urgently needed by his stablemates to run in a 4x200m stable relay.

It was a tough day for Ballarat athletes in Gift stakes.

Veteran Peter O’Dwyer and the returned Nathan Dixon were popular hometown winners in their heats on Saturday night.

This earned them each a spot in yesterday’s semi-finals, along with fast qualifiers Shane Woodrow, Sam Baird (later a scratching) and Joel Bee, who tore off a back mark of 1.25m in a photo finish.

Bee was edged out by inches in his semi-final by Robert Spencer (8.25m).

Defending champion Glenn Ross (8.75m), from Western Australia, bowed out in the semi-final to backmarker Luke Stevens (3.25m) while reigning Stawell Gift title-holder Andrew Robinson was bumped out in the heats.

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