Sandford and Dunn marching on

By Rob Courtney

The Bob Sandford - Geoff Dunn partnership goes back to the early 1990s and through that time they have been together for 100+ wins.

Last Friday at Addington, Action Major (3g Art Major – Triple Sec), a $42,500 purchase at the 2022 yearling sales, duly added to that total with the prospect of more to come. It was his first win at just his second start, a week after finishing fifth on debut.

"My late brother Brian and I both had the horse bug when we were younger but he was more into the breeding and selling than I was," says the 82-year-old Sandford.

"I preferred to go to the yearling sales and buy one. He had the supermarket in Cheviot and I had the Placemakers franchise in Riccarton.

"I was looking for a trainer and one of our work reps (we had many on the road at that time) played rugby with Geoff and the suggestion was made to give him a go and as they say, the rest is now history.”

At its pinnacle, the partnership were taking home three to four yearlings from the sales each year with the formula remaining pretty much the same over the years, according to Bob.

“I would select the ones I liked and then Geoff would inspect them, reducing the list to those we wished to bid on.

Inspiring Dash was one of those horses and went on to win five races.

At the same time, Sandford had acquired some land at Clarkville in North Canterbury and breeding horses was then an option

At stud, Inspiring Dash was even more successful as a broodmare initially leaving Rona Lorraine then leaving seven time Group 1 winner Venus Serena (16 wins + $796k). The latter had not reached her reserve at the yearling sales and Sandford had made the decision to keep her.

As luck would have it in the same year, Geoff Dunn had been made aware of the ‘on the market colt’ (Bettor’s Delight – Tara Gold) being let go by North Canterbury breeder Ray Anicich.

Tiger Tara won 13 races for the partnership and just under $1m in prizemoney. Sold to Australia, he raced up to the age of eight, winning another 24 races and in total $2.5M in stakes. He now is resident in NSW, Australia, doing stallion duties.

Sandford remembers the time well.

“In 2014 Geoff and I were NZ Owners of the year. In the space of a week, Tiger won the Great Northern Derby and Venus won the Great Northern Oaks” he fondly recalled.

Tiger Tara also won a NZ FFA and was runner up in the 2016 NZ Cup to Lazarus for the Sandford/Dunn partnership

“Rocket Reign won 14 races for us when every second 3yo win was penalty free and his half brother Cullen’s Reign (8 wins) was possibly the best horse we ever had but he was unsound”.

During this time, the Sandfords got to know Southland breeders John and Judy Stiven really well as their filly Rocknroll Arden was a consistent rival of Venus Serena and ironically it would be the Southland breeders who would eventually buy Venus Serena and add her to their broodmare band.

The Sandford-Dunn combination had bought Triple Rock at the 2021 sales and after winning one race, was sold to Australia where he has won three on end just recently. Action Major, their latest winner, is a half brother.

Back at the 2024 sales, they were at it again, buying Lot 197 for $13k, a colt by Downbytheseaside from Karamea Dreamin, already the dam of six winners.

“At my age, I need a horse going around to have something to look forward to,” Bob enthused.

He currently has four in work including Action Major. Nobilo is a Southwind Frank half to Highgrove who went to his first workout last week. The Falcon (8 wins + $182k) and his 3yo half sister Millie Lou make up the balance of the racing team. Melody Arden (Art Major – Venus Serena), raced together with the Stivens, has just gone amiss and will join the Arden Lodge broodmare band.

Sandford admits to having had a lot of pleasure from his racing interests and says he owes much of that to his ‘partner’ Geoff Dunn .


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