News & Events

Dunn's $2m mission

By Michael Guerin

Champion horseman Dexter Dunn has put his North American driving aspirations on hold.

But don’t mistake that for the young harness hero lacking motivation - just check out the two non-tote races at Cambridge tonight.

Dunn will fly from Canterbury to Waikato for the low grade winter meeting predominantly to partner Bit Of A Legend and Chanelle Bromac in their heats of the Australasian Breeders Crown.  The race are worth just $5500 each and because of the tiny fields won’t even have TAB betting, so will be watched by just a handful of spectators before the main racing action starts.

But that won’t bother Dunn as he is on a mission to become harness racing’s $2million man. His drives have won $1,950,125 this season and Dunn wants to break the $2million barrier for the first time.

“Only a few drivers have done it in the past and I have been close the last three years but just missed out.”

“With less than $50,000 to go I want to get there so that means more to me than reaching 200 wins for the season now.”

Only three other drivers have reached the $2million mark - David Butcher, Ricky May and Mark Purdon.

Dunn has radically rewritten the records books in the last five years, driving 220 winners last season before heading to the United States for a successful three-month stint, including the World Drivers Championship. But he says while returning to North America may sound more glamorous than a cold night at Cambridge, the figures don’t truly add up.

“One of the big differences is they don’t pay losing driving fees in the States,” explains Dunn.

“I usually drive over 1000 horses a year here and some in Australia and get paid for every one of them.

“And then I am consistently winning about $2million in stakes every season.

“Which means to earn in the States what I am earning here, I would need to drive the winners of about US$3.8million, which would be nearly impossible.

“And the States is a really hard market to crack. I had great support last season but for now I am better off here so I won’t be heading back to the States any time soon.”

Dunn’s motivation is boosted by the fact he drives at most Alexandra Park major meetings and also makes appearances at Australia’s major carnivals, helping negate the fact Canterbury has hardly been the most fun place for a young man, or anybody for that matter, in the last two years. He will return to Melbourne next month with hopefully four serious Australasian Breeders Crown contenders in Bit Of A Legend, Chanelle Bromac, Onlyforyou and Texican.

“Onlyforyou, Abraxas and Texican race in ABC heats this weekend so we should have a good team for the Breeders Crown,” said Dunn.

Having four likely ABC heat winners this week along with a strong book of drives at Addington should see Dunn push well past his current seasonal mark of 179.

But he says while he would like to get to 200 winners again, with his personal best of 220 out of reach the stakes barrier is more important.

While he chases the $2million mark, his main source of equine firepower, trainer Cran Dalgety has already reached one of the most significant milestones of his career. He trained his 100th winner of the season at Timaru on Sunday, making his only the fifth stable in New Zealand to achieve that feat.

“It is a big honour when you look at the other names on the list,” said Dalgety.

“And to be honest I never thought I’d get to  100 wins in a season.

“But we are buying good stock, which requires good owners, and I put good drivers on. But I am thrilled to get there.”

The other trainers who have trained 100 winners in a season are Roy and Barry Purdon (five times), Mark Purdon and Grant Payne (four times including this season), Peter Blanchard, and Catherine and David Butt. Roy and Barry Purdon hold the national record, training 168 winners in 1994.