50 Years ago – A whole new race

Date: 1st March 2023

Won by 28 year old Bernie L. Moss from Croydon, the 1973 Stawell Gift carnival featured a host of new initiatives.

The carnival was the first run under the new metric system, with the event changing in distance from 130 yards to its new 120 metre distance. The new VAL qualifying system was also introduced whereby runners were required to have recorded a win beforehand, otherwise they were automatically handicapped on the novice mark of six metres. Another addition to the athletics meeting was the implementation of a wind gauge for the first time in all straight events.

At the 1973 Gift carnival reigning World sprint champion George McNeill was the backmarker off 2.5m, former Australian champion Treva McGregor was off 3m and the Commonwealth champion ‘Bert’ Hutchison had a mark of 3.75m.

Conditions on Saturday were described as “bleak conditions with a following SW wind during the day, rain sodden track” and on Monday there were “diagonal wind during semis and final” as well as “37 points of rain recorded at Stawell in the preceding 24-hour period.”

The Gift winner, 28 year old Bernard Moss from Croydon was working as a draughtsman at the time of his Gift win and was the second oldest known winner of the Stawell Gift up until that time.  Moss had never won a sprint race in 10 years of professional running, but he did win a 440-yard handicap at Ferntree Gully the year before.

Bernie was the frontmarker running off a handicap of 10.75m, the backmarker was at 8m.

Trained by Alfred Winston “Tassie” Sheriff, Bernie had suffered from serious knee problems leading up to the ’73 Gift. His stable was reported to have won $2000 from successful bets, after Moss was backed at odds of 40/1 in early betting, and was still quoted at 14/1 at Friday night’s Calling of the Card betting session. His eventual odds were 10/1 and he was the favourite. Total prizemoney was $2400.

Moss appeared beaten at the 100m mark but kicked on strongly over the final 15m to defeat former horse racing jockey Hal Thomas and St Kilda policeman Kelvin Peart.

 28 heats were run on Saturday April 21, 1973 with five semi-finals and a five man field for the 1973 Gift final.


  1. Bernie Moss      Croydon   12.1 secs (-1.3)    10.75
  2. Hal Thomas      Adelaide                                 10.5m
  3. Kelvin Peart      St Kilda                                  8.25m
  4. Peter Boase       Pascoe Vale                            10m
  5. Les Ralph          Ararat                                     8m


Video of race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA4Lpf9sGiQ


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