CHAMPION Victorian trainer Robert Britton is looking to win the Group 1 Paws of Thunder (520 metres) for a record fourth time at Wentworth Park on Saturday night, having qualified the smart Tap Out Rose ($12 with Bet365).
As most people are probably aware, the Paws of Thunder used to be known as the NSW St Leger, and since its inception in 1957 has been one of the most prestigious age-restricted classic races on the Australian calendar.
Only three trainers have managed to win the event on two or more occasions since 1957, with Robert Britton the clear leader, having annexed the race three times. Britton first won the race in 1992, with Iago, which exited box seven to defeat Deanne’s Dancer in 30.67 and earn $30,000 for connections. At the time, the race was still known as the NSW St Leger, and Group racing did not exist.
His second winner came in 2008 when One Tree Hill used box one to full advantage and defeated the brilliant pair of Mantra Lad and El Galo in 30.24, collecting the $100,000 first prize money. It was then a Group 1 event, as now.
Britton’s third success came in 2014 when Iona Seven overcame box six to defeat Punch One Out and Tasmanian star Buckle Up Wes. Iona Seven blazed away with 5.32 and 13.70 first and second sectionals before registering a race record 29.56, clipping 21/100ths off the previous mark, set by Pure Octane in 2005.
Whether Tap Out Rose is up to the class of Britton’s previous successes is open to question, but on form going into the race there’s no doubt the greyhound has a great chance of snaring the thick end of the prize.
Retired NSW mentor Don McMillan won the event twice, with Leon Mal, in 1993, and Elle’s Commando, in 1997. Both victories were recorded when the race was still known as the NSW St Leger, with only Elle’s Commando’s victory registered as a Group event (at Group 2 level).
NSW mentor John Finn has also won the race twice, in 2003 with Winsome Shot, and in 2013 with Sheikha. The latter victory was achieved in January 2013, the first time the race had been run under its new time slot.
Previously, the NSW St Leger/Paws of Thunder had been conducted towards the end of each year, usually in October or November.