The 2015 winner Cameron Tindle will again be the back-marker for the 2016 New Year Sprint, the final of which will be held at Musselburgh Racecourse.
The prodigious Berwick-based 17-year-old, who won the £4,000 first prize last time from a start of five metres, has had his handicap trimmed by three metres for this year’s heats which will take place on Wednesday, December 30, controversially two days before the final.
The heats will also be held and at a different East Lothian venue this year, Meadowmill Sports Centre, which has a ‘tartan’ all-weather surface but very little protection from the elements should there be bad weather.
In last Wednesday’s draw, Tindle’s name came out in heat five of the 12 heats, immediately followed by Ryan Houten (Cardrona), who was runner-up in the final last time, just .03 of a second behind Tindle from his mark of 11 metres.
Houten’s start has been cut by only two metres to nine metres this time and he may well emerge as one of the favourites.
Tindle is trained by Berwickshire’s Henry Gray who has high hopes for another athlete from his stable, Greg Gillan from Eyemouth.
Gillan is off 8.5 metres and will be the backmarker in heat seven where he faces Hawick trio Leon Ali (11.25m), Gordon McPherson (14m) and Glyn Desport (10).
Joint second back-markers off five metres are Dylan Ali (Hawick), the 2014 winner, and Moro Bajo (EAC), who was a finalist last time.
Pitreavie veteran Francis Smith, off 9.5m, Dunfermline’s Wendy Nicol, off 32.5m, and Michael Olsen (EAC 6.5m) are in heat nine with potential finalist Rachel Robertson ( 21.5m)
But Wendy’s daughter, British internationalist Gemma, will not be making another bid as she recently had a baby. Dolphinton brothers Steven (8m) and Jordan Charters (11m) clash in the same heat eight, while a third brother Ryan (11m) is also in heat nine.
Heat winners and the eight fastest losers progress to the four cross-ties (semi-finals). Cross-tie winners and the four fastest losers make up the eight strong final.
Heats will be staged on Wednesday, December 30. The cross-ties and final are due to be held on Friday, January 1.