Dexter Dunn Driver of the Year - again
By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
It’s now two from two for Dexter Dunn, after another incredible year in North America.
At the weekend’s prestigious Dan Patch awards Dunn, the 10-time New Zealand champion, was voted Driver of the Year for the second time in a row.
The 31-year-old won over $11,163,638 ($NZ15.6m) and 395 races in 2020. He was the leading money-earner in the year and, considered a deadset certainty to be named Driver of the Year, he got 114 votes, with David Miller next on just 13.
During 2020 he was the regular driver of six of the champions crowned at a virtual ceremony on Saturday night. They were Amigo Volo, Bettor’s Wish, Fire Start Hanover, Kissin In The Sand, Manchego and Party Girl Hill.
There was Kiwi success among the trainers too, with expat Nifty Norman training Amigo Volo (3YO male trotter) and Fire Start Hanover (2YO female pacer) and Chris Ryder in charge of Bettor’s Wish (4YO, older male pacer) and Party Girl Hill (3YO female pacer).
Party Girl Hill also got 29 votes for Horse of the Year to finish second to overwhelming winner Tall Dark Stranger (89 votes).
Tall Dark Stranger, by Bettor’s Delight out of Precocious Beauty, is the 19th 3-year-old male pacer to be named Horse of the Year since the award began in 1947. He is only the second male pacer in 35 years to receive a Dan Patch Award at age 2 and return to be Horse of the Year at 3. The other was Somebeachsomewhere in 2008.
In 2020 he won 11 out of 13 starts and $US1.3m in stakes.
With a mark of 1:47.2, a career summary of 19-2-0 from 22 lifetime starts and more than $2.365 million in earnings, Tall Dark Stranger will head to the stud barn at Hanover Shoe Farms to begin stud duty in 2021. His stud fee has been set at $20,000.
Tall Dark Stranger’s trainer Nancy Takter was named Trainer of the Year. The colt is Takter’s second Horse of the Year winner, joining JK She’salady in 2014.
Four-year-old Gimpanzee was named Trotter of the Year, after winning eight of 11 races and nearly $1m in stakes.
After winning the US Harness Writers Association’s Driver of the Year award Dunn was immediately back into action at The Meadowlands in New Jersey, winning four races. He had 131 wins at The Big M last year, more than anyone else.
Two of his winners had Kiwi connections, Italian Delight had 8 wins from 37 starts for trainer Tony Herlihy, while Thunderfromthethrone had four wins in 19 starts for trainers Steven McRae and then Scott Dickson in this country before being exported in July last year.
For Dunn, it’s a new year – and the winners just keep coming.