IN-form sprinter Lee Forrest faces a mammoth task to win this weekend’s Stawell Gift.
The Border athlete, winner of the Maryborough and Stonnington Gifts this summer, is the sixth backmarker in the marquee 120-metre sprint at the Easter carnival.
But despite an official protest from coach Marcus Arnold, the 18-year-old will still run from 3 metres, giving other Border hopefuls Daniel Steinhauser and John Adams up to 5 metres headstart.
“The handicapper has screwed him,” Arnold said.
“We lodged an official protest and were told he was lucky he didn’t get an even tougher mark.
“A novice handicap at Stawell is 7 metres and that is what Lee was off at Maryborough and Stonnington, which are seen as probably the second biggest professional running races.
“But now he goes back four metres against what is a much tougher field.
“He’ll run on Saturday and we’ll see how he goes but in theory if he gets beaten he should be lifted next year.”
Stablemate Steinhauser will run from 7.5 metres.
“He is sound at the moment and injury free, so he should put up a good fight,” Arnold said.
“But just getting into the final at Stawell is an achievement — it is the grand final for many of these runners and some have been targeting this meeting for several years.
“On disclosed form Lee and Daniel have some hope but it will be those runners that seem to come out of the woodwork at Easter, who haven’t been sighted for a couple of years but suddenly produce outstanding times in the heats, who are the likely dangers.”
Albury’s John Adams, a six-time semi-finalist at Stawell, is hoping to break through for a final berth and a chance at the $40,000 first prize.
Adams won the backmarkers’ event at Stawell in 2006 and this year has been in finals at Queanbeyan, Wangaratta, Alb-ury and Burramine.
“It has been a pretty good year for me and the 8-metre handicap gives me a chance,” he said.
“I’m into the taper at the moment and feeling good.
“But I’m also entered for the 70 metres on Saturday morning but not sure whether to run or not — it is a good hitout with the heats of the gift in the afternoon.”
The semi-finals and final of the Gift will be run on Easter Monday.