MUSSELBURGH racecourse was frozen so hard yesterday that the National Hunt meeting was cancelled, but the heat generated by the dramatic final of the New Year Sprint threatened meltdown after Edinburgh's Roddy Pitt was declared the winner of the 110 metres handicap.

Tipped by The Herald yesterday, and with his price shortened to 4-6 favourite, Pitt collected the biggest prize in the event's 129-year history, #6000, when he won by one hundredth of a second from Chris Gillie of Kelso, in a time of 11.30 seconds. The 32-year-old Neil Sneddon, who won the last all-professional final, in January, 1993, after which it went open, was third in 11.35.

The outcome was heartbreaking for Borderer Gillie, whom almost everyone in the stands, including myself, believed had won. He threw up his arm once through the line, and was photographed celebrating with his coach, Jim Wallace. He was congratulated not only by friends, family, and supporters, but also by Pitt's coach and manager, Davie Gibson and Bert Logan.

The official verdict, however, was a photo, and when the result was announced some minutes later, over the public address, Pitt risked pulling a hamstring as he leapt high in jubilation. He had been walking disconsolately back towards the start to collect his kit, but within minutes was being presented with a cheque which he says will help him avoid further student loans.

The Gillie school exploded. Veteran coach Wallace, believing the equine photo-finish had been used, shouted: ''We're dealing with humans, not racehorses.'' Promoter Frank Hanlon was surrounded by Gillie's supporters, and there were raised, angry voices, from punters whose investments had made Gillie second favourite.

Hanlon, however, had enlisted the services of Bill Walker, of specialist timing company, Ziska Sport. He trains all of Scotland's finish operators, has 30 years experience, and has officiated at dozens of Scottish champion-ships, both of Edinburgh's Commonwealth Games as well as at international speed-skating and cycling events.

When an enlarged version of his official photo was circulated, the result was emphatically clear. Gillie, furthest from the camera in the five-man blanket finish which was a testimony to the skill of handicapper Adam Crawford, had thrown his head forward, dipping a fraction early as he sought the line. The 18-year-old Pitt, more upright than his rivals, maintained his form under the intense pressure, and got up right on the line, having come through from behind, off a mark of 8.75m.

Shown the photo, Wallace, though mollified, clearly still thought some sorcery was at work. Accepting the inevitable, and the commiserations of Gibson and Logan with good grace, Gillie just could not bring himself to look at the picture. Someone was foolish enough to ask the 29-year-old accountancy student whether he was disappointed. ''Disappointed? Christ. I thought I'd won.''

On offer at 10-1 or better before Tuesday's heats, Gillie was backed down to 4-1 before the cross-ties, or semi-finals, and was 6-4 at the off. Pitt, Scottish indoor under-20 200m champion, was 10-1 before the heats, and still 3-1 before his semi, but was a miserly 4-6 by the final.

Looked after jointly by Logan, the Hearts sprint coach, and Davie Gibson, mentor of European 200m champion Doug Walker, Pitt is second youngest winner ever, after Tommy Urquhart, the 1944 champion who had just turned 18.

Logan spotted Pitt aged 12. ''He looked like a runner, just flowed,'' said Bert. ''I told him when he wanted to be a sprinter to knock on my door. It took two years, but he eventually came.''

Like all mortals, he had to learn to walk before he could run. ''He used to put his left foot inside the line of his right, and vice-versa, as he ran, slowing himself, so we spent six months, just walking up a line on the track, till his foot placement was properly aligned. It has paid off.''

Pitt said: ''The district and national indoor 60 and 200m championships are my next target, and then I hope to win a Scottish vest.''

None of last year's final line-up could repeat the feat yesterday, and the only other previous winner to gain a final berth was strapping Haddington farmer Jim Cunningham, who was fourth. Winner in 1997, he says he will try the district and national indoor events next month, at the Kelvin Hall, and then go back to rugby. ''I'm obviously never going to win this again,'' he said.

Cancellation of the National Hunt meeting was costly for promoter, Hanlon. It prevented the meeting being beamed to betting shops, and the crowd was admitted free, but the intimate atmosphere was a vast improvement on Meadowbank's bleak mausoleum.

History will record that Edinburgh, attempting to create a Millennium tradition, discarded a ready-made jewel. Yet Hanlon has saved the event. Musselburgh Provost Pat O'Brien and East Lothian Council leader Norman Murray, offered to back the event again for the next two years. ''This has been a huge success for us, and with horses it will be even better,'' said O'Brien. Hanlon has verbally accepted. Details:

110m ''Powderhall Handicap'': 1, R Pitt (City of Edinburgh, 9) 11.30sec, #6250; 2, C Gillie (Kelso, 11.75m) 11.31, #1250; 3, N Sneddon (Edinburgh, 9) 11.35, #600; 4, J Cunningham (Haddington, 10m) 11.38, #300; 5, J Beattie (Dunfermline, 26.5) 11.39, #250; 6, D Clark (CoE, 7.25m) 11.44, #175; 7, A Crawford (Annan, 12.75m) 11.57, #150; 8, K Turner (Edinburgh, 16.5m) 11.69, #125.

Cross-ties. One: Pitt 11.37. Two: Beattie 11.38. Three: Sneddon 11.44. Four: Gillie 11.37.

Consolation final: 1, S Robertson (CoE, 8.75m) 11.54; 2, T Benjamin (Cardiff, 4m); 3, K Hanlon (Australia, 6.75m).