Dunn on top of world
By Michael Guerin
Champion Kiwi harness driver Dexter Dunn may be on top of the world but he says there is one race victory back home he still craves.
But Dunn, who set a world record for a harness racing mile on Saturday night, says the lure of the New Zealand Cup isn’t enough to bring him home yet.
Dunn drove Bulldog Hanover to pace the fastest mile in harness racing history with his 1:45.8 time winning the US$500,000 Haughton Memorial at The Meadowlands in New Jersey on the weekend, adding yet another milestone to Dunn’s unbelievable career.
Dunn won 10 straight premierships in New Zealand before heading to North America where he is widely regarded as the best, or one of the best, reinspeople in their industry.
He regularly drives multiple winners on a card at The Meadowlands and is sought after for all major races but there is one race ingrained in his Canterbury DNA which he has yet to win and fears he may never get the chance to.
Like any harness racing participant growing up in New Zealand, but even more so Canterbury, Dunn would love to win the New Zealand Cup, or quite simply The Cup as it is known.
But being at the top of the tree in North America and able to win far more money than he could in Australasia, Dunn says the lure of that missing Cup isn’t enough yet to bring him home.
“Id love to win the Cup, I’d never say no to that and that desire will never change,” admits Dunn.
“But I don’t see myself returning to New Zealand to drive, either part time in the off-season or fulltime any time soon.
“There are some things that would need to change for that to happen and to be honest I can see myself growing old here in the States.
“It is busy, especially in the summer, but in the off season there are some great places to holiday like Florida so I don’t think I’ll be back driving in New Zealand or Australia.”
Dunn says while he won’t be moving home, or even returning on a working holiday any time soon, he still closely follows Australasian racing.
“Obviously my family and plenty of my best mates are back there and doing really well so I follow it pretty closely.
“I even still follow the Australian gallops and the good races out of places like Randwick and I really enjoyed seeing James (McDonald, a fellow Kiwi) have such a massive season and winning that big race at Ascot.
“So while I am busy here I definitely still know what is going on back home.”
Dunn gets paid no driving fees in North America so only earns when his drives finish in the top 5 but last season his drives won a US$12,925,000 in stakes in North America, helping Dunn just beat out Tim Tetrick for the top driver on money won title.
Bulldog Hanover’s supersonic time on Saturday surprised Dunn because even after the early burn he still only felt like a 1:46-something mile was coming up, “but he showed great speed at the end too.”
The usually Canadian-based Bulldog Hanover has been trained for his New Jersey campaign by Australian ex-pat Noel Daley and returns north of the border now but Dunn will retain the drive.
“I got a call last week to ask if I’d stick with him and I’d be mad not too and he comes back to the States for his next race in Indiana anyway,” says Dunn.
Dunn’s epic US success headlines a remarkable time for his family with his father Robert, who now trains in partnership with Dexter’s sister-in-law Jenna, having won the trainer’s premiership the last two seasons, while brother John is second only to Blair Orange on the national driver’s premiership.
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