Both the men’s and women’s Ballarat Gifts have a number of candidates that could prevail over the weekend.
Speaking with knowledgeable gift figure Peter O’Dwyer, he felt there were a plethora of runners that posed a threat to the title.
In the men’s, a couple of the outmarkers look set to take some catching, Luke Mitchell (running off 11 metres) was one of the favourites in O’Dwyer’s opinion along with Darren Whittaker (12.75m) and Tim Rosen (13.75m).
While the heats will be filled with a number of class runners coming off some of the backmarkers, notably Joel Bee (off scratch), Stawell Gift winner Andrew Robinson (5.75m), Isaac Dunmall (2.75m), Jacob Despard (2.75m) and Luke Houlihan (5.25m)
In the women’s, Sienna and Sophia Fighera bode as two of the favourites, coming off 5.5m and 4.75m respectively.
Ebony Lane (5.75m), Abby Chapman (4.25m) Stephanie Richards (6.75m) and Keely Henderson (6.5m) are also ones to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile, a strong contingent of the Mick Benoit stable will take to Wendouree’s CE Reserve. Of those, Kate Jones is one to look out for in the women’s 120m gift. Jones enters her home event with some strong form behind her having won the women’s Ararat Gift and is a Bendigo Gift winner and two-time Stawell Gift finalist. Jones will not be the only one of her family competing – father John, brother Nathan and sister Bethany joining her. Nathan is a promising middle-distance runner, having won the under-20 400m at Stawell last year, Bethany finished second in the under-14 120m Rye Gift while John will race in masters 300m. The Greg Whitecross trained Sue Anderson also enters the weekend with a strong body of work.
- Ballarat Gift guide page 61