Leading trainer joins HRNZ Board

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Harness Racing New Zealand has welcomed one of the country’s leading trainers to their board this week.

Robert Dunn has been appointed the Auckland Trotting Club’s representative following the departure of Shaun Brooks, who leaves after a change in work circumstances.

Dunn has had a lifelong involvement in harness racing and feels it is the right time to step back into racing administration, a facet of the industry he was heavily involved in earlier in his life.

“I have had a lifelong experience to hopefully do some good on the board,” Dunn said.

“I have been in the industry since I was 15, so it is coming up 52 years now.

“I have done all facets – trainer, driver, stud master, and I have been a very big owner. I owned shares in 52 horses at one point.

“I was on the Standardbred Breeders’ (Association) at the same time.

“I think I was one of the first professional trainers to get on the committee of the New Zealand Metro, and that was a good experience in itself.

“I have been on the horseman’s association, but probably dropped out of the administration side of things a few years ago.

“Whilst I was on the trainers’ (association) I was able to implement a lot of things and got support for them which I thought was to the betterment of harness racing in New Zealand.

“In this later part of my life I think I have got the time to get back into the administration side and give a lot of experience, especially on the racing side, to the board.

“We have got a lot of work to do to bring it back to how it was a few years ago.

“I think there is a lot of good people on the board now and hopefully we will be able to get this over the line.”

Dunn said he has a number of items he would like to focus on during his time on the board.

“I would like to see more horses racing in Auckland,” he said.

“I am very keen on the idea that Jamie McKinnon has of Trots Night (harness racing channel broadcast on Sky Channel 83 on Friday night’s).

“When we stopped racing on Saturday’s and given Friday night as a harness racing night, it never eventuated as there is a power of greyhounds and galloping on at the same time.

“I think it has been detrimental to a lot of our turnovers.

“I am looking forward to going down a different line to get people back looking at harness racing, especially on a Friday night, which will be good for the game if we can do that.”

Breeding numbers are also in Dunn’s sights.

“I would like to see breeding numbers coming up,” he said.

“I think the appointment of Brad Reid (to HRNZ Breeding Manager) has been great and they have got some good ideas.

“I think we need more ideas, like they are doing in Australia at the moment, to encourage breeders to breed more mares every year, but we have got to have incentives to do that.

“That is another thing that I think really needs to be pushed a long.”

Dunn is also looking to the future in terms of people and enticing school leavers into the industry.

“I would like to see more people coming into the industry, we are short on that for sure,” he said.

“We struggle with staff right across the board. We need to encourage people right from school leavers. I think that is an important part of us going forward as well - encourage them to come into the industry and support them when they do come.”

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