Albury-Wodonga Gift champion sends a warning

Shane Ezard, pictured last year with his daughter Jorga, is back to defend his title this weekend.
Shane Ezard, pictured last year with his daughter Jorga, is back to defend his title this weekend.

REIGNING Albury-Wodonga Gift champion Shane Ezard has warned he won’t be giving up his crown easily after confirming his place in Sunday’s sprint.

Ezard, who took out last year’s $10,000 feature in 12.164 seconds, will return for another crack at the Border’s richest footrace.

The 40-year-old said he couldn’t wait to return to Albury Sportsground.

“I know the track and have got fond memories, obviously, which gives me reason to go there confident,” Ezard said.

“I’m probably not going as quick as I was this time last year because of a few sore spots, but you never know.

“I’ll be dangerous, put it that way.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

However, Ezard conceded it would be tough to go back-to-back.

A record number of entries have been received for Sunday’s carnival, which is now in its third year since being resurrected by Stawell Gift winner Tom Burbidge.

A total of $22,000 will be up for grabs across all events, with the $10,000 feature held in the twilight of Australia Day sure to capture the most attention.

Seventy sprinters have entered the 120m Gift.

“Obviously a few of the guys must have seen an old bugger like me win it last year and thought they’d come up,” Ezard said with a laugh.

“I must have set a trend.

“I don’t know too much about the field at the moment but it sounds like it’s a bit bigger with a few more guys coming up.”

Ezard is also bound for Wangaratta on Saturday night, looking to take out the 400-metre race.

He said he’d likely test his luck in the 400 at Albury on Sunday as well, if things didn’t go to plan during his heats for the Gift.

This year’s field looks the strongest yet, with reigning Stawell Gift winner Andrew Robinson one of several confirmed starters.

Multiple finalists at Stawell, including 2008 winner Sam Jamieson, have entered.

Gates open at 10am on Sunday, with the final to be run at 7.30pm.