The first event took place on 14 December 1957 and was taken out by the Victorian sprinter Idle Sign, trained by Bill Conroy. Idle Sign defeated Strange Guy by three-quarters of a length with Miss Stream third in a fair 32.1 for the 580 yards (530 metres) grass circuit at Wentworth Park.
That first race was marred by the late scratching of the favourite Half Fast -a great name if you think about it, or say it with the right inflection- by order of the stewards. They believed the greyhound was lame, and despite assurances by the owners, Half Fast was scratched. The miffed owners wanted to trial Half Fast after the last to prove he had been fit, but were refused permission, so they drove all night back to Grafton and trialled the dog the next morning. He broke the track record.
The race was known as the NSW St Leger from 1957 until 2000. The last winner of the NSW St Leger was Some Secret. The race has been known as the Paws of Thunder since 2001. The first winner under that name was Suellen Bale. In that year the race was worth $100,000 to the winner.
From 1957 to 1985 it was run over 580 yards, or 530 metres, on grass at Wentworth Park. With the remodelling of the Glebe track, it was run over 457 metres at Harold Park in 1986 (and won by Memories Gate). From 1987 (won by the first champion of the new course, See Yah) it has been back at Wentworth Park, on grass over 520 metres until 1992 (won by the Victorian Iago) and on loam from 1993 (won by Leon Mal) until the present.
When Is The Race Run
From inception in 1957 to 1999 it was run in either early or mid December. In 2000 it took place in November, then from 2001 to 2011 it was run in October. With a rescheduling to January as of 2013, the event was not held in 2012.
Biggest Winning Margins
This record stands to the credit of 2010 winner Lochinvar Marlow who scored by eight lengths. The 1999 winner and Wentworth Park specialist Stately Bird won by seven and a half lengths while Might Aussie was the best of the winners on the ‘old’ track, scoring by seven lengths in 1975.
Closest Winning Margins
Victorian Leprechaun Pace holds this record, scoring by just half a head from fellow Victorian Shanlyn Prince in 2007. Miss Warcroft downed Victorian star The Stripper by a head in 1963. Five other finals have been won by just a neck: 1969, Beau Brin; 1979, Lord Raleigh; 1990, Dixie Lass; 2002, Modern Assassin; and 2003, Winsome Shot.
Most Successful Trainer/s
Three trainers have managed to win the event twice: John Finn, with Winsome Shot in 2003 and Sheikha in 2013; Don McMillan with Leon Mal in 1993 and former Tasmanian Elle’s Commando in 1997, and Victorian trainer Robert Britton scored with Iago in 1992 and One Tree Hill in 2008.
Some Beaten Stars
Victorian star Tamaroo (second, 1960), Rocket Mac (second, 1961), The Stripper (second, 1963), Roman Earl (second, 1966), Benjamin John (third, 1968), Sammie Sparrow (fifth, 1968), The Smoother (second, 1969), Pied Rebel (third, 1969), Plunder Road (sixth, 1969), Black Diro (third, 1970), Cabernet (third, 1971), Benny McGrath (third, 1972), Woolley Wilson (fifth, 1972), Tegimi (second, 1978), Turbo Top (fourth, 1983), Legendary Kid (second, 1985), Camden’s Ghost (third, 1985), Master Hilo (second, 1989), Valley Mail (third, 1989), Warren’s Flyer (fifth, 1991), Kedo’s Millie (fourth, 1996), Bobniak (second, 1997), Flash Joan (second, 1999), Big Sam Banner (fifth, 2002), Elite State (third, 2003), Sun Hero (third, 2004), Paua To Burn (fifth, 2004), Black Enforcer (fourth, 2005), Betty’s Angel (third, 2007), One Tree Hill (fifth, 2007), Mantra Lad (second, 2008), El Galo (third, 2008), Oaks Road (second, 2011).
Ebony Minda from Tasmania won the second running, in 1958.
Benny McGrath smashed the long-standing track record when he won his semi-final of the St Leger in 1972, but found trouble and finished third to Likely Light in the final. Likely Light had equalled what was then the track record in winning her semi-final earlier in the night.
Sensational New Zealand sprinter Brother Bee was scratched from the 1974 final, and a year later the brilliant Alpha Brava was a late scratching. Call Me Hobbs became the first New Zealander to make the final and actually start, in 1976, running second to Palaver. Waiwera Marika, in 1998, finally notched a win for the Kiwis.
Zoom Top won the 1968 final, trained by Hec Watt. His son, Geoff, trained Busy’s Chief to win the 1974 final, after missing out with Benny McGrath and Woolley Wilson in the 1972 running.
Fine Arama notched its seventh win in just eight starts at Wentworth Park in taking out the 1977 final in race record time.
Promises Free won the 1981 final at only her third race start. She went on to win her first 14 races in succession.
The only dual finalist has been One Tree Hill, fifth in 2007 and the winner in 2008.