Veteran Ware in belated Stawell Gift win

·2-min read

Thirteen long years after making his debut at Central Park and a decade since finishing a narrow second in the Stawell Gift, veteran sprinter Edward Ware has finally saluted in the famed 120m handicap event.

Racing off a mark of 9.75m, Ware surged to victory in 12.19 seconds on Easter Monday ahead of Sebastian Baird (8m) and Munashe Hove (5m), who was pushed back a metre after he false-started.

Ware pocketed $40,000 for his Gift triumph and then added another $950 to his winnings an hour later when he triumphed in the 200m Jack Donaldson Handicap, becoming the first man in more than half a century to complete the sprint double at Central Park.

"Some people said I was mad to try and run the Stawell Gift and 200m double, well 'sucked in'," said an elated Ware.

"The first time I came to Stawell in 2008 I won the Bill Howard Handicap and then I came second by about one hundredth of a second in the 2011 Gift final (to Mitch Williams)," he added.

"I made the final again in 2016 and came fourth to Isaac Dunmall.

"So it's something about every five years, it just seems to work out that way.

"I'm 32 and I turn 33 in a month, so it's not getting any easier and I knew there was probably only one crack left.

"I'm just so glad it happened to be this year."

The Melbourne sprinter said he had benefited from the enforced discipline required by COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.

"I tend to go out on the town quite a bit on Friday and Saturday nights so when you can't do that, you are kind of forced to go to bed early, get up and put on the spikes the next morning," he said.

Runner-up Baird clocked 12.23 and Hove ran 12.32.

The women's Gift was won by 27-year-old South Australian Hayley Orman, who has fought back to full fitness after suffering a groin injury in December.

The cheese affineur (or cheese ager) powered to the line in 13.88 seconds off a handicap of 9.75m.

"I'm a trained food technology teacher and was just struggling to break into the education life so I took a bit of a detour," said Orman.

"I love food, it's my second love to running and it just happened to fall out this way.

"So that's what I do. I age cheese and I run fast."

Middle-distance superstar Stewart McSweyn stormed home to finish fourth in the 3200m invitational race.

Running off scratch, McSweyn - the Australian record holder over 1500m and 3000m - reeled in most of the 13-strong field to cross the line in eight minutes 20.36 seconds.

But his training partner Tom Thorpe (200m) held on for the win in 8:10.55.