Ascension complete with Rowe Cup win
By Garrick Knight
Sundees Son completed his swift ascension to the top of the trotting ranks with a dominant win in the Rowe Cup on Friday night.
The four-year-old followed up his surprise win in last week’s Anzac Cup with victory in the time-honoured two-mile feature at Alexandra Park for trainer Robert Dunn.
His driver and pseudo co-trainer, John Dunn, called it the biggest win of his career after the race, quite the rap given he’s reined home over 1000 winners.
“The Rowe Cup is the like New Zealand Cup for trotters and I got beat so narrowly in the New Zealand Cup, so this would have to be the best win of my life,” he said post-race.
It was a very similar win to last week’s Anzac Cup, Dunn launching his charge forward with a lap left to take the lead and, ultimately, leave his opponents battling for minor spoils in the finish.
“He settled a lot handier than I [thought he would]; I was four back the outer.
“Just a couple of gallopers early meant I could settle that close.
“Then they sort of backed off the speed a wee bit and he’s a horse that can stay and sprint, so it was a wee bit of a plan.”
Sundees Son has always shown immense potential but let himself down regularly, usually with late gallops, but Dunn says all is forgiven now.
“Every time we put him in a big race as a two and three-year-old, he let us down, so he’s repaid us big time now.”
The son of Majestic Son is proudly raced by his North Canterbury breeders, Colin and Nancy Hair, who were on course once again to witness their rising star.
Colin Hair serves as the financial chair on the Harness Racing New Zealand Board, a position he has held for many years, and one of such importance that it has probably overshadowing his breeding exploits.
He’s battled away as a breeder for a few decades now, with moderate success, and has been producing from Sundees Son family since buying his grandam, Chicquita Dee, at a mixed sale in 1996.
The first foal he bred from her was Sundees Son’ dam, Stardon, who battled unsoundness but managed to win three races and nother 14 foals have eventuated, with Uncas (10 wins) and Sunana Asset (22 Australian wins) the standouts.
But, in Sundees, Son he has found his magnum opus, the horse he will forever be able to hang his hat on.
It hasn’t come without heightened stress levels and plenty of heartbreak, though.
Hark back less than six months and the horse threw away two wins in the space of 72 hours during New Zealand Cup week.
“Cup Day he was in front when he broke not far from the finishing line and then he did the same thing on Show Day,” said Hair.
“It was just absolutely devastating, really.”
Slowly but surely, with the removable of half hopples and addition of boring poles on either side, he’s gotten braver and more resilient late in his races.
And now the Hairs are on the ride of their life.
“To be fair, last Friday night, we didn’t sleep at all, and it will probably be the same again tonight.
“You just can’t get to sleep after wins like that.
“I’m only a small breeder, breeding from a couple of mares every year.”
The Hairs used to have their horses with Bevan Heron, but made the switch to the Dunns in 2014 due to Uncas, a 10-win trotter and brother to Sundees Son’s dam, Stardon.
“The attraction initially with the Dunns was John’s driving, and that they trained on the beach.
“He had been driving Uncas well, but the horse had a few problems and was going to benefit from being out there.”
Hair, like John Dunn did last week, paid tribute to Dunn’s father-in-law, Craig Edmonds, for helping get Sundees Son towards the finished product.
“When the horse was going through a difficult time as a three-year-old, Craig would just put him in the cart and drive him around.
“Around the yards, take him down to the beach and just get him used to being in the cart.
“And that’s one of the great things about being out there at Woodend; there are a lot of people there to bounce ideas off.
“David Butt, John, Craig, Regan Todd, and Robert, too, who is down there quite a bit.”
A juvenile full brother to Sundees Son, named Tamenund, is the next foal out of Stardon, but he won’t be seen until next season.
“He’s one that John decided wouldn’t be pushed forward at this stage because we wonder whether doing it to Sundees Son was the right thing to do.”