Box draw settles a grand St Leger final for likely type

It was a final containing three current or former track record holders of the 580 yards (530 metres) distance at Wentworth Park, a rarity that had not occurred before in an age classic and is unlikely to happen again, but the race very nearly fell to one of the rank outsiders.

The 1972 NSW St Leger final (as the Paws of Thunder was then known), conducted on December 16, had looked to be a race in three between the Geoff Watt-trained pair Benny McGrath and Woolley Wilson, and the John Wright-trained Likely Light.

The trio had dominated their respective semi-finals and although the box draw favoured Likely Light, which had come up with the rails alley, Benny McGrath (box six) and Woolley Wilson (box five) possessed the brilliance and race experience to overcome their poor draws.

As it happened, punters rallied to the best-drawn greyhound, Likely Light, and she went into the boxes as a solid 2-1 ($3.00) elect.

Likely Light, a sleek black bitch, had raced just four times for two wins and two placings when she first appeared at Wentworth Park, on November 11. Despite box five she raced away to score by nine lengths and set the greyhound world abuzz by registering 30.8, equalling the track record first set in March 1967 by the great Roman Earl. It had since been matched by Red Zero and Pied Rebel (both in 1969), Tara Flash (1971), and Spanish Dancer, Lord Galaxy and Woolley Wilson, all during 1972.

Likely Light had run only fifth at her next start at Wentworth Park but then easily took out her non-betting heat and quarter-final for the NSW St Leger series.

Drawn perfectly in box one for her St Leger semi-final, Likely Light scored by eight lengths from Arctic Scott and again registered 30.8, equalling the track record again. She thus became the only greyhound to equal the track record at her first start on the course and the only one to equal it twice.

The next semi-final featured the outstanding sprinter Benny McGrath, perfectly drawn in box one. Sent out a long odds-on favourite, the brindle speedster flew the lids and raced away to score by 12 lengths in an incredible 30.7, finally breaking the track record.

A few races later and now the former equal track record holder Woolley Wilson, a veteran of 39 starts, exited box eight to win his semi-final in a fast 31.1.

The other semi-final had been won by Tivoli Scout from Millaska, in 31.3.

When the lids lifted for the final, the 33-1 ($34.00) outsider Millaska (box two) speared out of the boxes and raced to an early lead, chased by Tivoli Scout, Arctic Scott and Likely Light while Benny McGrath and Woolley Wilson bumped each other and effectively knocked each other out of contention.

In the back straight Millaska opened up a break of five lengths on Likely Light and looked to be going strongly, but Likely Light cut that lead to just more than a length as the field swept on to the home corner.

In the straight the huge crowd roared as Likely Light stormed home down the outside to collar the weakening Millaska and score by one length in 31.1. Benny McGrath snared third, six lengths further adrift, with Woolley Wilson a close-up fourth.

Likely Light took her racing tally to five wins, one second and one third from only eight starts. She went on to take out the 1973 National Futurity the following April but later suffered injuries which eventually led to her early retirement after just 27 career starts.