PRESERVATION Bay policeman John Howe made it three wins from three starts this season and claimed one of the big carnival sprint titles for the first time by taking out the Latrobe Men's Gift in a photo finish yesterday.
The 28-year-old Trent Nichols-trained runner was one of the pre-race favourites after making a comeback to running three years ago.
He won his heat and semi-final and backed up in the final with a last gasp lunge on the line to beat home Wynyard's Jorden Englund (9.5m) and Hobart backmarker Max Waldron (6m), in a winning time of 12.29 seconds.
It was the Penguin police officer's third gift title in as many weeks after winning the PCCCT West Park and Rosebery Gifts and he pocketed $2400 for his Latrobe victory.
``I feel pretty good now but was a bit nervous before the race,'' Howe said after his win.
``I felt the weight of expectation a little bit and haven't had much running under my belt this season.
``I didn't really enjoy it that much but I suppose it is good to be favourite to put a bit of pressure on yourself.
``It's not going to be four wins because I'm surprising myself really and wasn't expecting to get a win at Latrobe or Burnie this year which is what I've been building up to and I' m probably a year ahead of schedule.''
Howe's previous best at Latrobe was a finals spot two years ago and a third place, and said it was good to finally get a victory considering he had a sore quad from seven runs at Rosebery last weekend.
``Looking at the times, I thought I would be a chance but the two Victorians would be hard to chase down.
``And Jorden has been in all the finals I've run and I know how fast he is. I knew I was level with him on the line but had no idea if I'd won.''
Victorians Robert Spencer (9m) and Mohamad Zeed (8.25) and Burnie's Dave McCrae (8.5m) were the other finalists.