Dunn not too fazed by Covid delays, for now

By Michael Guerin

A delay to the first open class race of the season won’t impact the Cups campaigns of New Zealand’s biggest open class stable.

That is the opinion of two-time premiership winner Robert Dunn whose stable will soon almost certainly be split by two different versions of lockdown.

Dunn and his training partner Jenna Dunn, wife of Dunn’s son John, train a team split between Pukekohe, south of Auckland, and in Canterbury and it looks almost certain the Canterbury team will be returning to Level 3 or even Level 2 well before the Auckland region.

“I think everybody realises that can happen so Jenna and Johnny will be a bit freer than we will be up here for a week or maybe two,” admits Dunn.

The southern team getting back to the races earlier is more important as that is where all the open class horses are stabled at the moment including those like Classie Brigade who were set to race at Addington last weekend before the meetings were cancelled because of lockdown.

“It was a shame to miss that National (Sunday’s race) but if you had to miss any race during the season an early one like this causes the least disruption,” says Dunn.

“To be honest the horses we had racing what would have been last Friday that then became Sunday could all easily have gone to another trial so that race wasn’t crucial in the scheme of things.

“So it won’t affect their preparations for the major races later on like the Cups.”

The delay may only prove to be a week with the Addington meeting programmed for Friday now moving to Sunday if — there is that word again — Canterbury is back to at least Level 3 after Friday night’s next deadline there.

Winton's "Thursday" meeting at Invercargill will now also be held on Sunday, Covid restrictions permitting, while Rangiora's "Sunday" meeting will now be held at Addington on Monday.

Sunday's meeting, if it goes ahead, will include the open class pacers in the Group Three Maurice Holmes Vase, and three of Dunn’s horses.

While Classie Brigade would be nine under the old seasonal changes he remains an eight-year-old because of HRNZ’s change to the official birthdays of harness horses and Dunn believes he will still remain competitive.

“He has come up really well and he has been a factor in the biggest races the last two years so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be a player again,” says Dunn.

Dunn is also adamant open class regulars Henry Hubert and Heisenberg will be in the biggest races this season.

“Henry Hubert hasn’t had the best gait because of some feet problems but we have been working on his shoeing and we think he will be better this season.”

Away from the established open class pacers the stable will also have Matt Damon and Steal The Show stepping into the big time while Jewels winner Need You Now could also swim with the big boys in some of the pre-Cup open class races to build her fitness for the major mares races later in the season.

“The mares races will be her main aim but we are not discounting she could end up being a factor in open class races against the boys eventually.

“She is a very good mare and follows speed well.”

The actual star of the stable isn’t even a pacer with Sundees Son firmly established as our best trotter and Dunn says he has come back even stronger this campaign.

“He looks great and he will be set for the Dominion again but what he races in before will depend on how the calendar is structured.

“While he didn’t start in the NZ Free-For-All last season before the Dominion if they hold them in the same order this year he might.

“I think he will be a stronger and even more reliable trotter this season.” That could tempt the Dunns to contemplate an Inter Dominion campaign in NSW with Sundees Son in late November-December depending on what open class trotting races are being held in the north over the summer.

“Because he is stronger this season we definitely have to look at Australia and we will sit down with Colin (Hair, owner) to see what he thinks but we definitely want to take him to Australia and the Inters might be the starting point for that.”

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