Stawell Gift in Australia this weekend.

The world’s most prestigious professional footrace is on this weekend. The Stawell Gift is a 120m handicap event on grass. The handicap limit is 11.0m, up 1m from the 10.0m limit last year.

This year’s Stawell Gift will be the 125th time it has been run since it was first conducted in 1878.

Last year, Joshua Ross won the race (for the 2nd time after winning in 2003) off scratch and pocketed over A$30,000. Because Ross won from scratch, the limit has been lifted out to 11.0m this year.

The bookmakers have installed Craig Taft favourite at 5/1, a young bloke from country Victoria, running off 9.25m. Taft is coached by the very experienced and shrewd Ken Eales.

Ross is not certain to run, having sustained a hamstring injury at the Commonwealth Games. Australian 100m record holder, Patrick Johnson has been allocated a start on Ross at 0.50m and after making the 100m/200m Commonwealth Games finals, must consider himself a great chance in his first start in the famous race.

John Steffenson had been allocated a generous mark of 3.50m, but has been advised not to run by his coach, John Smith. Acknowledging the tough challenge Stawell presents, Smith who ran in the 1978 Stawell Gift heats, wants Steffenson to return to the USA to commence preparing for the European season.

The Gift heats will be run on Easter Saturday - April 15th with the semis and final (scheduled for 3.15pm AEST) to be run on Easter Monday.

Patrick Johnson has run so much faster than Joshua Ross (9.93 to 10.1+) over 100m.

And Johnson is so much faster also over 200m (20.4? to 20.8?).

And Johnson has current form superiority (Johnson a finalist at Com Games last month in both 100 and 200) over Ross (no finals at Com Games).

How can they give Johnson a handicap advantage by starting him closer to the finish line than Ross in a 120m sprint?

Have I missed something? Does the handicapper think Ross “ran dead” at the Games so that he could sneak off with the Gift? Not that $30,000 wouldn’t be welcome in anyone’s wallet. :slight_smile:


While there is a lot to dislike or at least feel bemused about the current handicapping in the Victorian Athletic League, I think the Johnson/Ross handicaps can at least be rationalised on the basis that Ross has won two Stawell Gifts. He is a proven Gift former while there is still the unknown factor about PJ on grass over 120m. Ross had to cop a penalty for his win last year and I think in fairness, the 0.50m advantage for Johnson reflects that, despite Johnson’s credentials. PJ still has the question mark over his ability to perform under extreme pressure and there is no greater pressure than Stawell, where there are often “even timers” on marks of 7.0m plus, all chasing the big purse and the backmarker must demonstrate the ability to remain relaxed in the pursuit.

One of the runners with very good credentials and has an extraordinary mark is the young NSW runner - Aaron Vanderent. He has just come off the back of the Australian under 20 titles where he ran 21.53, to record a World Junior’s Qualifier in winning the national 200m title. 7.0m is the novice mark - reserved for athletes with very little form, normally first timers with little or no amateur experience. 7.0m for a WJ qualifier is quite remarkable and puts him in with a huge chance.

His current odds are around 20/1 -so he is an extremely good bet.

Olympic 400m relay silver medallist, Mark Ormrod was allocated 6.0m, but has decided not to run. With PB’s of 10.58/21.04 he would have just about been a certain finalist. Mark is moving to Canberra to train with Tudor Bidder, so he has other things to do this Easter.

well given that my mark is 5.25m i would say there is a little problem in the handicapping system if some like ormrod who has faster pb’s than me was given 6m


get used to it…
thats why until recently not always the best man wins this race and yet they are rewarded with a piece of immortality…

but one of the greatest track events you would ever want to compete in or just watch…

enjoy the meet.


I agree Mike, your mark is tough and you should not be giving Ormrod 0.75m start. But that’s the sport unfortunately, and until the VAL finds a decent handicapper, prepared to do quality research in order to present a fair set of marks, there will continue to be these anomalies.

Good run at Bendigo, young bud, by the way; although it has probably affected your Stawell mark. Had you not run so well at Bendigo you might have 6.0…who knows?

Ormrod ran off 5.0m in 2005 and has been generously given the 1m lift for Ross, despite not running in any SA or Vic Athletic League event since then. He should not have received the full 1m lift, if everyone, including yourself was not going to get it.

Anyway should be a great race with many runners in it with marks that put them in the mix for the final.

Have to agree about Patrick having a start on Joshua, although who has the fastest time this season?

Mike - good luck with it.

Thanks youngy and dma and nanny, checked ur website youngy, well done with all ur guys. i never knew how big pro running was until my first race at bendigo.
ive had 2 runs now bendigo (3rd) and waverly (2nd) to dixon. nice to actually get rewarded in the sport even though as nanny said, its not always the best guy that wins

dont worry mike i was fortunate enought to win a few gifts over different distances and was by gfar not the best in the field but as you know it takes nothing away from the thrill of a win…

I remember a few years ago at stawell i sayed at a caravan park in a site next to fijian champion joe marvin… lightning quick out of the blocks and blew everyone away… the night before the heats and final got stuck into the carva with him and his mates, needless to say after i false started with joe in my heat my stawell was over the first day, he went on to win the 60m make the final in the 120m and once i got over the drink i think he got athlete or performance of the carnival or something similar…

you also doing the bill howard handicap??



im also doing the 70m, im off 3m. not going to complain about that mark :slight_smile:

Plenty of discussion on the various races at Stawell at the Albany Athletic Club forum -

An anonymous contributer who uses the alias - “Willo The Whisp” has offered the following tips -

120m Gift Tips (if they run, depending on heat draw and semi draw, in no order, Gold medal group = Sandy Brown, Silver medal group = Silver, Bronze Medal Group = Orange, Darkhorse or Outsiders are normal) /

A.Mott, C.Tafft, D.Batman, D.Burgess, S.Jamieson, P.Johnson, S.Ezard, R.Mathews, B.Robinson, C.Brown, A.Miller, A.Downes, L.Burckhardt, J.Pearce, B.Koschade, A.Jeanes, V.Oyanedel, N.Dixon, S.Boyle, N.Coull, M.Hargreaves, J.Meagher, M.Pilkington, J.Reynolds, A.Vanderent A.Ezenwa.

I would disregard a few of them - Burgess, is a lot further back than last year; Ezard won Bendigo and this is a massive step up; Matthews is 38 and no longer good enough; Brown is over rated and there are better runners than him off 7.0m; Downes is not quick enough early; Leon Burckhardt is an outside chance to make up a 5th/6th for the final; Koschade hasn’t been running well enough and has a very tough mark of 6.0m, he’s also got injury worries; Jeanes, like Koschade has a tough mark and hasn’t demonstrated any recent decent form; Dixon won Ballarat and might be an outside chance for the final but can’t win; Boyle is another with nothing special in his form this year; also forget Coull, Hargreaves, Meagher, Pilkington, Reynolds and Ezenwa as they haven’t the mark or the form to suggest they can win the Gift.

what mark did they give to batman???

Stawell Gift: Coming to grips with tricky track
Scott Gullan

DANIEL Batman isn’t the first and won’t be the last big name to learn the hard way when it comes to the Stawell Gift.

Running 120m uphill on the grass track at Central Park is totally different to anything world-class sprinters such as Batman have experienced.
The impact on the body is different to a tartan track, different muscle groups are used and there is the complex world of handicap racing.

Last year Batman arrived at Stawell not knowing what to expect but it didn’t take long for him to find out.

He was in the seventh heat on Easter Saturday off 0.25m.

His dreams of getting his hands on the $32,000 winner’s cheque were gone in little more than 12 seconds when he was comfortably beaten out of the placings.

“I didn’t have any idea,” Batman said. "Usually I run with my head down and gauge myself from the lines on the track. As there was no lines on the track I didn’t know if I was running straight or not.

"I looked up and I saw this guy eight metres ahead of me and I sort of shit myself.

"I thought, ‘No way, how can I be this bad on grass?’ "

Batman enjoyed the festival atmosphere of the Gift and learnt a lot by watching Joshua Ross write his name in the history books by becoming only the second man to win from scratch.

“Watching Josh last year helped me so much because just watching how he ran, how the key was getting a good start and then coming over the top in the last few metres,” Batman said.

“That was the first pro race I have ever seen and watching Josh made me realise there is more of an art to it than I realised. It’s not just turning up and going for a run, you have to know how to run on grass and how to run in professional races.”

Batman returns to Australia’s richest footrace this weekend confident he has figured out what it takes to run at Stawell. A lift in his handicap to 1.75m has helped his confidence, as has three weeks of training on grass in Canberra.

“Last time I hadn’t even done anything on grass, and running on grass is whole different running, different muscles and everything,” he said.

“Since the Commonwealths I’ve trained every day on grass and have just started to get used to it over the past few days. I’ve watched a couple of tapes, but actually watching Josh last year was the best experience for me.”

Batman is keen to move on after the Games, which he described as “terrible”.

After being run out in the semi-finals of the 200m, Batman was a member of the 4 x 100m relay team that was disqualified in the final.

“It was a pretty bad Games in terms of results for me. They were terrible for me,” he said :eek: .

“I just have to be more optimistic about the future.”

Batman will be joined by his wife, Nova Peris, who won the 200m at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Peris will run the last race of her career in the women’s Gift off 5m.

“She started her career in the pros and she thought it would be great to finish her career there,” Batman said.

National champion Sally McLellan is the main drawcard in the women’s Gift.

AND THEN THERE’S THIS . . . Stawell Gift: a decade of hits … and near misses


TO CELEBRATE the 125th Stawell Gift, the Stawell Athletic Club has put together the 125 greatest moments from Australia’s richest footrace.

Australia’s leading athletics statistician Paul Jenes, Stawell historian and starter Murray MacPherson and professional running legend John Toleman have ranked the best moments, with the top 10 to be announced at a gala function in Stawell on Saturday night.

Moments from the past decade that should feature towards the top of the 125.

  1. Joshua Ross wins from scratch in 2005

Ross became only the second man in history to win from the back mark. He also became only the third runner to win two Gifts, having won the great race off 7m in 2003.

  1. Cathy Freeman wins the 400m from scratch in 1996

Those who witnessed this incredible performance still talk about it in awe. Freeman started from scratch and gave some of the field up to 50m start, yet got up for victory in the last few strides after wobbling around the home turn. She stopped the clock at 50.8sec, a remarkable time for a run on grass.

  1. Linford Christie leaves town in 1999

The Olympic champion was one of the biggest names ever to appear in Stawell, but after being beaten by eventual winner Rod Matthews in the heat and losing his repechage, Christie and his team hired a fleet of cars on the Sunday morning and bolted.

The great English sprinter was unhappy with the handicapping and left despite having qualified for the semi-finals as the fastest loser from the repechage.

  1. Jarrem Pearce becoming the youngest winner in 2000

Pearce lost his heat and made it through to the Monday via the repechage, but the 16-year-old Wodonga schoolboy created history by winning the Gift off 8m.

  1. Jon Drummond and his catsuit in 2000

The American showman visited Stawell twice. In 1998 he was run out in the semi-finals. Two years later he returned and arrived at the start line in a full-length hooded lycra bodysuit.

  1. Greg Saddler’s near misses

The American sprinter became a favourite son of Stawell after making four Gift finals. He finished second in 1998, second in 2002 and a heartbreaking third in his record fourth final in 2004.

Can somebody explain the Stawell Gift? Why the handicaps? What’s the significance/history of the race?

Of Stawell’s 125 greatest moments - I have numbers 125 to 100 listed on the YGTS website -

My top 10 might include -

  1. George McNeil winning the 100th Stawell Gift in 1981 at the age of 34, running 11.9 off 4.0m, a phenomenal effort given it was George’s 9th & final attempt to win the Gift.

2, Jean Louis Ravelomantansoa winning from scratch in 1975 in 12.00s on a wet track. The first time the race had ever been won from scratch.

  1. Ferg Speakman training his 5th and final Stawell Gift winner in 1985 at the age of 85, after training his first winner in 1932. Ferg holds the record for the most Stawell Gift wins by one coach. He died in 1990. (A bit of bias in this one)

  2. Allan Pollack winning the 1976 Stawell Gift in the greatest boil over in Stawell history. Raging favourite Neil King had run 11.7 in the heats on Easter Saturday, with Pollack running 12.2. The unbackable favourite, King had approx. 5 yards up on his nearest rival but two days later, went to water in the final, succumbing to the pressure, beaten by the more composed Pollack. It was Jim Spain’s third (& and last) Stawell winner in 6 years, after Treva McGregor (1971) and Peter Durham (1974).

  3. Bill Howard winning his 2nd Gift in 1967 - the first man in history to win Stawell twice. After being re-handicapped 3 yards from the year before, he ran over 8 yards inside evens to rein in the frontmarkers and produce one of the greatest performances of all time.

  4. Barry Foley winning his 2nd Stawell Gift in 1972. His old time trainer, Butch Roberts only trained one Stawell Gift winner in a 50 year coaching career, but he did it twice - 1970 and 1972.

  5. The 1947 dead heat between Arthur Martin and D J Gardiner. Judges couldn’t separate them, so they had a run off between the 2 runners with Arthur Martin winning only the 2nd run-off in Stawell history. (There was a run off in 1879)

  6. The 1918 fiasco when A Roach won the Gift but a protest by 2nd place Denison against Roach for incorrect performances was initialy dismissed. However Denison threatened Supreme Court action, so the protest committee decided to disqualify all placegetters and re-run the Gift the following year.

  7. Goldie Heath being attacked in 1933 by an unknown assailant. Heath had run the fastest heat and was the favourite, but fortunately suffered no injury. On the Easter Monday he was surrounded by a team of body guards - local farmers when he entered the ground. He duly won the Gift, winning thousands of pounds in bets for his supporters.

  8. Jim Bradley - is believed to be the only coach in history to have 1st and 2nd when he won the Gift in 1991 with Steve Brimacombe. Brimma was the first person to ever break 12s in heat, semi & final on the electronic watch at Central Park and went on to represent Australia at Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games & World Championships. (Another biased call but significant nonetheless)

  9. American Warren Edmondson winning the Gift in the Stawell Athletic Club’s centenary year of 1977. He won from 1.25m in 12.0s.

This “leg” of athletics is pretty much confined to Scotland and Australia. It is also restricted to running events, the most important being the sprints. The Stawell Gift is way older than even the Olympic Games and, from around 1986, the prizemoney pro runners became eligible to participate in IAAF events following the demise of the “shamateur” era. The fact is there are events on the Golden League and at the IAAF majors which carry much more money for winning (US$60,000 for the world title) than the purse boasted at Stawell. From the second Edinburgh Games in 86, a couple of Stawell Gift competitors (winners??) named Chris Perry and John Dinan (20.2 for 200m) represented for the first time in an “amateur” team and ever since the “pros” have been an excellent “farm” for Australia’s international athletics team - the most recent example being Joshua Ross, who was a 100m semi-finalist in Helsinki 2005. kk

Give backmarkers a go, says promoter
Email Print Normal font Large font By Martin Blake
April 18, 2006

JOHN Toleman was fuming as he watched the Stawell Easter Gift yesterday. He had Warren Edmonson, the American who won in 1977, alongside him and Edmonson, a brilliant former Olympian, encapsulated what Toleman was on about.

The Victorian Athletic League lifted the outmark for this year’s Gift to 11 metres after Joshua Ross won the race from the scratch mark in 2005, reasoning that with Ross going for a third Gift victory, the other athletes needed a lift.

It was a decision opposed by the Stawell Athletic Club, which wanted to continue encouraging higher-quality runners to compete in the 120-metre handicap race. Toleman, the veteran promoter who brought the likes of Edmonson and Jean-Luis Ravelomanantsoa — the Madagascan who was the first to win the Gift off scratch — to Stawell, believes the VAL made “a joke” of Australia’s premier footrace.

Toleman said that, of 166 athletes who entered, 51 had been given 10.25 metres or more on the handicaps, and 37 were off the outmark of 11 metres.

He said this caused a situation where not one bona fide backmarker reached the final, while 35-year-old Evan King made the final off 10.25 metres and Andrew Muhlhan ran in the final off 11 metres. The backmarker in the final, Rod Buchanan, was off 6.5 metres.

“For 30 years I fought to get the limit at 10,” said Toleman. "Stawell Athletic Club didn’t want the limit lifted and the VAL have overruled it, and I’m bloody savage on it. There’s not a backmarker in it. The people in the crowd say, ‘What’s going on?’ They’ve got nobody to barrack for. The only person they know is the favourite, and he’s 7-1 on ($1.15).

“It shouldn’t be like that. I’ve said it again and again. If the backmarker gets up from scratch, they should leave the bloody field the same and make the others improve. They’ve got to go back to 10 and give the backmarkers a real go.”

Go back to ten??? WTF. What sort of pro sport is it where members aspire to eventually get good enough to turn “amateur”?
Encouraging lumbering clods to think they’re good cause they can win a race with an eleven yard head start while discouraging the best by ensuring they have no chance is not a recipe for excitment.

but u dont undertand the aussie mentality.
they would always rather the underdog, frontmaker, slower running have a chance.
these race’s get so much more coverage and anttention to any amatuer race’s, including the iaaf grand prix they sometimes have here.

its pathetic!!!