Athletics events attract high-class fields

TIGHT BATTLE: Kasey Moore, right, wins the 2017 Black Pearl final. Moore is back to defend her crown.
TIGHT BATTLE: Kasey Moore, right, wins the 2017 Black Pearl final. Moore is back to defend her crown.

The 120m Bendigo Thousand is traditionally one of the highlights of the Symes Motors BMW Bendigo International Madison carnival and this year looks no exception.

More than 80 sprinters will line up in 11 heats from 2.10pm on Saturday afternoon. The 11 heat winners and the next five fastest times will qualify for Sunday's semi-finals.

Five former winners of the Bendigo Thousand are back to chase another title.

2004 winner Cam Dunbar (8.75m) and 2008 champion Daniel Steinhauser (9.5m) wil clash in heat four.

2016 winner Dean Dobric will race off 10.25m in heat six, while 2013 victor Matthew Harvey is off 9.75m in heat nine.

2011 winner Tim Rooke will race off 7m in heat 10.

One of the runners to watch is in-form Ballarat teenager Luke Mitchell. Last month the 17-year-old became the youngest winner of the Ballarat Gift. 

Joel Bee is the backmarker of the field in the Bendigo Thousand and the 400m Black Opal Classic.

Bee, a multiple winner of Gift finals around Victoria, will race off 0.5 in the Bendigo Thousand and scratch in the Black Opal.

The Black Opal has five heats on Saturday night, with the winners of each heat and the 19 next fastest times qulifying for Sunday's semi-finals.

2017 Black Opal 400m final

Reigning champion Harrison Kerr returns to defend his crown. Kerr won off 32m last year, but this weekend he'll race off 10m.

After finishing third behind Kerr in last year's final, Bendigo's Jake Hilson (10m) will run in the same heat as Bee, while fellow Bendigo runners Lonain Burnett (22m) and David Morrissey (36m) will go head-to-head in heat four. Veteran Bendigo athlete Glenn Stephens, who won the Black Opal in 2008, will race off the limit mark of 40m in heat two.

The 400m Black Pearl for women highlights Saturday night's athletics action.

2017 Black Pearl 400m final

Kasey Moore won last year's final in a photo-finish and the Melbourne athlete is back to defend her crown.

The winners of Saturday afternoon's five heats and the next four fastest times qualify for Saturday night's final.

Kirrily Burnett (34m) will fly the flag for the locals in the opening heat.