Horse racing: The best may be yet to come from top dog

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WHEN SPORTING considerations go nose-to-nose with cold financial reality, it is generally Corinthian spirit which leaves the ring feet- first. In the case of Toms The Best, the Greyhound Derby winner, however, romance could yet prevail over the more functional demands of a career at stud.

When Toms The Best went clear at Wimbledon last Saturday night to become the first dog ever to win both the English and Irish Derbys, few among the thousands who had backed him seriously expected to get a chance to play up their winnings.

Like the equine Derby winners during the money-mad 1980s, it was assumed that, with nothing left to prove, Toms The Best had simply become too valuable to race. After all, when a stud dog is mated three or four times a week at pounds 500 each, the earnings accumulate very quickly.

Toms The Best, though, is owned by an old-fashioned sportsman, Eddie Shotton, whose first instinct will be to race on. Shotton is away on holiday until the weekend, but Nick Savva, Toms The Best's trainer, confirmed yesterday that his dog, already thought to be among the best the sport has seen, could continue to build on his reputation, possibly in the Select Stakes at Nottingham next month before moving up to the extended six-bend trip of the St Leger.

"He's a very sporting man, but he was so ecstatic with the Derby win that he just couldn't make any future plans immediately," Savva said. "Many owners would have retired him immediately, but knowing him, he will probably say `let's go for a little more and see what happens race-by- race'.

"My belief is that he would be even better over a longer distance, but we haven't had the chance to attempt it yet. That's what I will suggest to him."