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Horse or hound?

IT MIGHT not be exactly fair to compare this race to the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, but when a Greyhound and a Horse went head to head there were such comparisons being made – although the result was a bit of a shock for seasoned racegoers from both track and course.

The promoters of a race between a Greyhound and a Horse would have punters believe that the outcome would finally lay to rest the debate over which four legs in competitive racing was the quickest.

The smart money went on the horse, a six-year-old bay gelding called Tiny Tim. It had been a runner up in its last two starts. This total swiftly became three, because Simply Fabulous, an eight-year-old greyhound brought out of retirement, beat the horse by seven lengths.

The race, staged at Kempton Park last Saturday, proved little except that over a carefully selected distance of two furlongs the greyhound is the quicker.

Another furlong, said the jockey Fergus Sweeney ruefully, and the horse would have won. "Tiny Tim was only just getting into his stride."

The race was welcome publicity for greyhound racing, the poor cousin of the sport of kings. It was no accident that David Hood, who, by coincidence, is the press officer for William Hill bookmakers, owns Simply Fabulous.

Nor was it a coincidence that last Saturday, William Hill was sponsoring the Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon Stadium, an event overshadowed by the Vodafone Derby at Epsom on the same day.

The race caused some excitement among racegoers at the evening meeting at Kempton. Whether they can be persuaded to put down their binoculars and don flat caps instead remains to be seen – although Greyhound Racing nowadays attracts an ever more moneyed clientele.

"Most of the money was on the horse," said Mr Hood, 36, who was once a jump jockey, but now owns several greyhounds. "The biggest single bet on the horse was £11,000 with £200 being the biggest sum put on the dog."

Simply Fabulous, winner of 14 out of 35 starts before being retired 18 months ago, was quick out of his trap, chasing the hare down the outside with Tiny Tim trying to gain ground on the inside.

Mr Hood, who said that his dog's favourite meal was sausage and mash, was delighted with the result, and honest enough to admit that the whole thing was "a bit if a stunt". "Yet today has demonstrated just what wonderful athletes these dogs are. They are the ultimate racing animal and go from 0 to 40mph in a second," he said.

Mr Sweeney said: "I am a little bit disappointed and a bit surprised. I think I was closing the greyhound down and would have won over a longer distance. But it was just a bit of fun."

The winning time was 23.29 seconds, with the horse crossing the line in 24.63 seconds. The winning distance translates to 15 greyhound lengths. "Not a bad effort from an old dog," said Mr Hood.

He was careful, however, not to suggest that it had been a one horse race….