THE 1982 final of the National Futurity, run over the 530 metres trip on the old grass circuit at Wentworth Park, bore witness to a sensational finish featuring two of the mightiest bitches to have ever raced in Australia.
Promises Free, a blue bitch by Temlee out of Tara Silk, had carved an undefeated swathe since winning her maiden at Warrnambool in September 1981. She had been ‘put away’ by breeder-trainer Jack Pringle after that victory, only to reappear to contest the NSW St Leger (now Paws of Thunder) series at Wentworth Park in December. With good early speed Promises Free had annexed the final and then gone on to win over 457 metres at Harold Park and 507 metres at Bathurst, in a heat of the Tooheys Draught Trophy. She won the final, held at Harold Park, a week later, downing former champion Victorian stayer Bianca Lee by six-lengths.
Prior to the National Futurity, Promises Free had scored a magnificent seven-length victory in the Bi-Annual Classic (now Peter Mosman Memorial) at Harold Park to stretch her unbeaten record to 10.
Winifred Bale, also sired by Temlee, out of Emiline Bale, was one of the stars of the Allen Wheeler kennels. The fawn and white bitch was whelped in August 1980 and began racing at just 16 months of age, winning a maiden over 400 metres at Richmond, with her smart litter sister Gwendalyn Bale, third.
Since then Winifred Bale had raced a further 13 times for six wins and two placings, making the final of the Appin Opal, but being scratched due to injury from the event.
She had failed in her first five city starts, all at Harold Park, before finally breaking through. Her Wentworth Park Futurity semi-final was to be her debut at the Glebe course.
Semi-final night, 19 June, began for the Wheeler kennel when their charge Hi Taxi defeated My Alisha.
The second semi-final saw Promises Free make it 11 on end when she overcame box five to be second at the first turn and then reach the lead at the end of the back straight before going on to down Swift Talent by six-lengths in 31.02.
Winifred Bale had box two in the third semi-final and reached the lead at the first turn to go on and win by two-lengths from Boston Mist in a strong 31.09.
Mighty Renae won the last semi-final, using box one to full effect to beat Cleo’s Magic with Gwendalyn Bale third.
When Promises Free came up with box one for the Futurity final she was considered unbeatable, and punters sent her to the boxes as a 1/2 ($1.50) favourite, especially following the scratching of Mighty Renae which reduced the field to seven runners. Winifred Bale, at the time, was not considered in the class of the favourite and from box seven she went out at 20/1 ($21.00), easily the longest price of her 15-start career.
When the lids lifted though, it was Winifred Bale who stepped brilliantly and raced across to the lead, followed by Promises Free. The pair raced like this to the home turn, with Promises Free at one point checking off Winifred Bale’s heels.
Into the home straight and Winifred Bale held sway but Promises Free dug deep and lunged at her rival right on the line to snatch victory by a head, with Swift Talent just three-quarters of a length away third.
Promises Free repeated her semi-final time of 31.02 to notch her 12th successive win and pick up $6,000 prize money.
Promises Free and Winifred Bale never met again on the racetrack, but they did ‘clash’ at the end of the year when both were announced as among the four finalists for the 1982 NSW Greyhound of the Year title, the other pair being Bobby Rich and champion stayer National Lee.
Promises Free went on to win her first 14 starts, an Australian record for the start of a career, and was retired after winning 16 of her 18 starts, including another major event, the Richmond All Stars. Winifred Bale finished the year with 18 wins and 14 placings in 41 career races. Her efforts to take the NSW St Leger, NSW National Sprint Championship, and Sandown Laurels as well as being runner-up in the Futurity and third in the Vic Peters Memorial Classic, Young Star Classic and Richmond Oaks tipped the votes in her favour and she was named Greyhound of the Year.