A WINNING athlete could begin the year £25,000 richer if they break a world record set 50 years ago.

The 151st New Year Sprint is held at Musselburgh Racecourse tomorrow (Wednesday) and the winner could begin the year with a bang – and a big boost to their bank account.

The main event will see sprinters attempt to win the 120 yards (approximately 110 metres) race.

It is now 50 years since George McNeill, from Tranent, set a time of 11.14 seconds in the race – a mark which has never been beaten.

Ahead of the main event on New Year’s Day, heats took place on the synthetic track at the East Lothian Athletics Arena at Meadowmill Sports Centre on Monday.

The sprint semi-finals and final on Wednesday will be incorporated into the traditional New Year National Hunt horse-racing meeting.

The sprint final is due to be televised as part of ITV racing’s coverage of the day’s events.

Frank Hanlon, who has been organising the New Year Sprint for more than quarter of a century, was looking forward to the big day.

He told Courier Sport: “It is quite a unique event.

“It has run each year since 1870 and it has never been broken.

“There is nothing else to match it in those terms.”

The £5,000 first prize makes the sprint easily the richest race in the professional calendar, reinforcing its position as the sport’s premier event.

The first prize has been increase by £1,000 from two years ago; prize money for all minor placings has also increased.

And to top it off, the promoter is putting up a huge £20,000 bonus for any scratch runner who can beat the world professional record of 11.14 seconds over 120 yards set by McNeill back in 1970.

A time of 11.24 seconds will earn a £2,000 reward and a time of 11.34 seconds will earn a £1,000 bonus.

Mr Hanlon said: “Anybody can break the record. It is there for somebody to beat.

“The times they are running nowadays, you would think they would be knocking on the door.”

The semi-finals for the New Year Sprint will take place at the racecourse, with the main event taking place shortly before 2.15pm.

Races for entrants with four legs also take place at the racecourse on Wednesday.

Doors open at the racecourse at 10.30am, with the first horse race getting under way two hours later.

The Betway New Year’s raceday, which is close to a sellout, includes a £100,000 racing card, while new for 2020 are enhanced bar facilities and more pop-up bars.

Visitors can also enjoy live ceilidh music, a DJ set, heated marquees, an extra 65m covered area along the side of the track, and plenty of seasonal food and drink.

For information and tickets, visit musselburgh-racecourse.co.uk