CAPTION: Dyna Villa, pictured here winning at Sandown, won the 2015 edition of the Paws Of Thunder for trainer Andrea Dailly. (Photo: Clint Anderson, BlueStream Pictures)
By GARY CLARK
THE Paws Of Thunder was introduced in 2001 when the National Coursing Association turned a long-standing classic race into a major Group One feature that has since provided some of Australia’s great sprinters with the ultimate glory.
Going back to 1957, the St Ledger was conducted at Wentworth Park and some great names appear on its honour roll, including Black Top in 1962 and Zoom Top in 1968.
In 1982 one of our all-time great bloodlines started when Alan and June Wheeler’s Winifred Bale won successive GOTY titles – the first dog since Zoom Top to achieve this.
With the St Ledger placed into retirement in 2001, the Paws Of Thunder was introduced as a Group 1 with $75,000 going to the winner – the second largest prize behind the Easter Egg.
The race opened in a blaze of glory with the ‘Bale’ name taking out the first running of the race.
Suellen Bale (Acacia Ablaze x Merrilee Bale) , raced by Paul Wheeler and trained by Graeme Bate, had an amazing career. She won 53 races from 121 starts and was involved in a long list of Group races against the best for most of her career.
She won the Group 2 Geelong Cup, the Perth Cup Consolation and was runner-up in the Group 3 Gold Collar at The Meadows.
Suellen Bale was a finalist in the G1 Brisbane Cup, G1 Easter Egg, G1 Melbourne Cup, G2 Tweed Heads Galaxy. Her career ended when she fell in the Topgun and was retired.
She set the standard for the new race and the following year (2002) a powerful chaser in Modern Assassin won the POT for another Victorian, Mary Mugavin Brown.
Modern Assassin won 40 races from 75 starts, including the G1 Perth Cup and G2 Geelong Cup. He was placed in two Group finals at Albion Park and was a finalist in the 2002 Melbourne Cup before retiring to a successful stud career.
Victoria continued its success in the race in 2005 when Pure Octane won for Darren McDonald.
He had a short career with just 37 starts for 21 wins and $184,000 in prizemoney.
Classy bitch Cindeen Shelby won $443,000 in prizemoney coming from 32 wins from her 55 starts.
Besides her POT victory she also won two G2s at Wentworth Park and the G2 Black Top at Newcastle.
She took out the 2009 G1 Crown Classic at Sandown before winning the Topgun that year. She failed in the 2008 Topgun but made amends 12 months later. She also made G1 Brisbane Cup final.
Then one of the great nights of the Paws Of Thunder came in 2014 when tears flowed for the Sidrak family of Sydney when their bitch Iona Seven, trained by Robert Britton, won the race.
Francios (a plumber by trade) and Michelle Sidrak bred the chaser and were your average country trainers who enjoyed racing their small team on the weekends.
But this was a bitch that was to take them beyond all their dreams. They started out winning her first two races at Goulburn in February 2013. The family knew that she may be something special and elected to send the bitch to Britton after seven starts.
She made the Melbourne Cup final that year, and won 15 races from 44 starts and $181,000.
Even For Robert Britton, who has a long list of Group 1 wins over the past few decades, the win brought tears to his eyes.
Francios and Michelle’s daughter was involved in a car accident close to home one morning on her way to work. She is wheelchair-bound but was always at the meetings with her family.
To see them at the presentation reminded everyone of what a greyhound race can do for a family that has suffered tragedy but continued on with life hoping one day that some small miracle may occur – and it did.
The Dailly kennel scored with in 2015 with Dyna Villa (54 starts for 27 wins and $722,000) and Shima Bar two years later. Shima Bar had a short career with 17 wins from 21 starts.
Last year’s Paws Of Thunder turned out to be a devastating story for owner/trainer Karina Britton. She won the race with her outstanding sprinter Wow only to lose the race later in the year after returning a positive.
The race went to the runner-up Winlock On Top for Jodie Lord. Wow was subsequently transferred by Karina to Danielle Matic’s kennels.
The 2022 Paws Of Thunder is ready to be contested by the best chasers from the eastern states this month. What story will unfold when the lids fly at Wentworth Park on January 22?