Harness Racing nominates four for rural sports awards

Nominations for the annual Norwood Rural Sports Awards close today, and harness racing will be represented by four of its best.

The awards, which celebrate the best of rural sport - from shearing and woolhandling to timbersports and dog trials - will be held at the Awapuni racecourse on Friday, March 10 during the New Zealand Rural Games weekend in Palmerston North.

This year the quartet whose names have been put forward are Dexter Dunn (Sportsman of the Year), Nicky Chilcott (Sportswoman of the Year), Luk Chin (Lifetime Legacy) and Carter Dalgety (Young Rural sportsperson).

Now in their seventh year, the awards have featured previous harness racing-related winners including top junior driver Sarah O'Reilly for outstanding young rural person, Ricky May and his lifetime legacy award and Kidz Kartz founders Deneece and Murray Goldsworthy for their outstanding contribution to rural sports.

Here are excerpts from the nominations :

Sportsman of the year Dexter Dunn

Ex-pat Kiwi Dexter Dunn is rated as the best harness racing driver in the world. Based in New Jersey, 2022 was his most spectacular season yet in which he accrued stakes earnings of more than $US15m. At the prestigious Dan Patch awards he was voted Driver of the Year for the fourth straight time by the US Harness Writers Association. He had 308 wins during the year.

His year will always be associated with the world record-breaking deeds of Bulldog Hanover. Together they won 11 of 12 starts including his famous victory in 1:45.8 at the Meadowlands which made him the fastest pacer of all time. Dunn also became just the fifth driver to twice win four Breeders Crowns in the same year.

Dunn went to the States after being New Zealand's champion driver on ten occasions. He was always destined to make a career out of the sport, his father Robert is a top trainer with two premierships to his name, and his brother John is also one of New Zealand's top drivers.

In the USA in 2021 Dunn also bought Christen Me, the star pacer who helped propel his career, to ensure the horse would have a fitting retirement.

The horse had been exported to North America in 2017 after being a multiple Group 1 winner for Dunn in this country.

Dexter Dunn is now established as one of the superstars of the sport globally and he is still only 33.

Sportswoman of the year - Nicky Chilcott

On September 23 2022 Nicky Chilcott made harness racing history. She became the first New Zealand woman to both train and drive 500 winners. She already had the distinction of being the first New Zealand woman to drive 500 winners and, as of January 1 2023, her tally is 671. Her 500th training success came with Phoebe Majestic at Alexandra Park. She also drove the horse that night. She is just the 15th New Zealander ever to join the "Double 500" Club.

She remains the most "winningest" female driver in this country, ahead of closest rival Samantha Ottley.

Chilcott has not had the richest owners buying the best stock at the sales. Rather she has relied on getting best out of average horses and cast offs and enriching the lives of many ma and pa owners along the way.

Her sole Group 1 winner was Disprove in the 2001 Easter Cup at Addington.

Lifetime Legacy Award - Luk Chin

Now 80 Dr Luk Chin has been involved in harness racing for more than four decades and still works fulltime as an anesthesiologist, either at Waikato Hospital or privately.

The octogenarian trains a team of horses from his Tamahere base just outside Hamilton. Almost all his horses are bred, owned, trained, raced and driven by Luk himself.

In 2021 he had two runners in the prestigious Harness Jewels at Cambridge (Voronov, and Jasinova) - that's no mean feat for a hobby trainer.

And in April 2022 he had a career highlight with three of his horses winning within 24 hours. Safrakova won on Friday night at Alexandra Park, with Voronov and Alana both winning on his home track at Cambridge the previous night. Not bad for someone with only four horses in work!

Luk Chin is an inspiration to many. He is what sport is all about - still doing it for all the right reasons - he loves horses, harness racing and being involved. And still gets up at 5am to work his horses before going to work where he literally helps change and, in many instances, save lives.

As of January 1 2023 Luk Chin had driven 135 and trained 161 winners after starting out in 1980.

That's 42 years of holding a licence, with no signs yet of him slowing down.

Young Rural Sportsperson of the year - Carter Dalgety

The 19-year-old, who is the fourth generation of his family to be involved in harness racing, has had a breakthrough year in 2022. Two highlights stand out - he had his first drive in the biggest race of them all, the New Zealand Cup at Addington in November and then secured his first Group 1 triumph with Krug at the Invercargill Cup.

Krug is trained by Carter's parents Cran and Chrissie Dalgety, who both come from established and highly successful racing stock.

As of January 1 2023 Carter had driven 34 winners and is now seen as one of the country's promising talents in the sport.

He is very personable and approachable and has been studying a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Supply Chain management, at Lincoln University.

A budding entrepreneur, he also has his own clothing label, Fuego.

The categories for the awards are as follows :

· The PTS Logistics New Zealand Rural Sportsman of the Year Award
· The Skellerup New Zealand Rural Sportswoman of the Year Award
· The Fonterra Young New Zealand Rural Sportsperson of the Year Award
· The Levno Outstanding Contribution to New Zealand Rural Sports Award
· The Courtesy Ford Lifetime Legacy Award
· Future Post Rural Sportsperson with a Disability

Nominations close today Jan 23, and finalists will be announced in February 2023.


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