IT WAS third time lucky for East Kilbride’s Calum McWilliam as he claimed victory in the 149th New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Racecourse on Monday. 

The 22-year-old, who finished fifth 12 months ago, produced a superb performance to take the title and the £4,000 first prize, seeing off a strong field in the process.

A delighted McWilliam said that victory was “still a bit surreal”, adding: “I never thought it would come true.

East Lothian Courier:

“I’ve been in the last three finals here, so it was third time lucky.
“It all worked out perfectly this time.”

Another East Kilbride ace, Greg Kelly – the 2017 winner – had been hoping to become the first repeat winner since Willie McFarlane in the 1930s but finished in fourth place.

McWilliam won his qualifying heat at Meadowmill on Saturday before he shocked Ryan Houten – among the pre-event favourites – winning a photo finish in the semi-finals on Monday morning.

That meant he was the quickest of eight qualifiers and in the final he quickly overtook William Hutchison and Kieran Reilly before holding off Kelly’s late challenge to take the title. His winning time was 11.80 seconds, with Huchison second and Houten in third.

Race promoter Frank Hanlon was delighted with how things panned out. 

“It all went well again,” he told Courier Sport.
“The crowd was great and the runners all really enjoyed it with more than 6,000 people there – it gives it a good atmosphere."

East Lothian Courier:

The promoter, overseeing the race for the 26th year, praised the efforts of McWilliam, adding: “He beat the favourite in the semi-final and his timing in the final was spot on.”

The day also saw a packed card of horse racing, including the Hogmaneigh Hurdle Handicap and Auld Reekie Handicap Chase. 

To celebrate the 150th running of the New Year Sprint next year, Hanlon plans to double the prize money for the final to £8,000.

The promoter said he was “looking forward” to the anniversary race, adding: “It’s been run every year since 1870 – through both wars – I don’t think there’s another event like it in the world.”