Luke Versace wins Stawell Gift 2014 in photo finish

LUKE Versace has won the 2014 Australia Post Stawell Gift in a photo finish at Central Park, Stawell.

Versace, 31, who had his left leg gouged by a bull in Spain 12 years ago, edged past Augustine Carty-Cowling at the line to secure victory by the narrowest of margins.

Officials took several minutes to make their verdict, before declaring the front-marker this year's Stawell Gift champion by one of the smallest margins in the race's 133-year history.

"When I came into this sport, this was the only thing I wanted to do - it was about this and only this," Versace said.

"I still can't believe what happened in that last five metres, it was unbelievable."

The Brad Anderson-coached athlete ran from lane seven with a handicap of 10 metres, saluting in a time of 12.268 seconds before taking a tumble after crossing the line.

Carty-Cowling finished 0.005 seconds behind Versace in a time of 12.273, while 2008 Stawell Gift winner Sam Jamieson ran finished third in 12.296.

The Hawthorn East resident, in his fifth Stawell Gift attempt, had to beat six opponents after an upheld semi-final protest from John Adams saw both he and Ryan Camille qualify for the final.

Versace announced his retirement immediately after the race.

“I will never ever sprint ever again," he said. 

"I am more than happy to live off this for a lifetime.”

Women's Gift: Ballarat teenager Holly Dobbyn took out the Strickland Family Women’s Gift at the 2014 Stawell Gift carnival at Central Park.

Dobbyn, 17, saluted in a time of 13.30, ahead of Sarah Blizzard, from Ararat, in second and Kate Jones, from Durham Lead, in third.

"I'm ecstatic, I can't believe it," she said.

"It's so great to be able to win a Gift at my age.

"I was really nervous for the semi-final to be honest, I sort of settled a bit for the final and composed myself."

The Ballarat Grammar student, trained by Peter O'Dwyer, ran off a handicap of 11.5 metres.

2014 Australia Post Stawell Gift, final result: Luke Versace, 12.268; Augustine Carty-Cowling, 12.273; Sam Jamieson, 12.296; John Adams, 12.356; Ryan Camille 12.390; Christopher Innes-Wong, 12.396; Isaac Dunmall, 12.444.

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