Season Dunn and dusted for 2020
By Michael Guerin
This is not how winning your first trainer’s premiership is supposed to feel.
But it still doesn’t detract from the countless hours of hard work Robert Dunn and son John have put in to almost certainly taking out the title for this strangest of all seasons.
The almost certainly part comes from the fact the Dunn stable sits 10 wins clear of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen (79-69) on the premiership table with effectively only two more months of racing to go IF we get back to the track early June.
Already the Purdon-Rasmussen stable has declared they are done for the season so that leaves Michael House on 60 wins as the only real danger but he would need to train 20 winners in two months without the Dunns training another one.
So take it as done (excuse the pun), Robert Dunn is the premiership winner for 2019-2020.
Like all of us Dunn has other things on his mind at the moment but when asked about the premiership he quickly races through the mental steps.
“I think we have to go close depending on when racing comes back,” says Dunn.
“But you never can be sure with Mark and Nat”
Then he pauses, remembers they are done for the season and realises he has won his first title.
“I suppose when you think about it like that, we have won it.
“Not the way you would want to win it but it is still special to win.” The reality is Dunn would almost certainly have won the premiership even if the world had never heard of Covid-19.
He and John had more winter firepower than the All Stars and the latter stable wouldn’t have chased anyway.
And nobody can begrudge them their victory, Robert having been an elite level horseman for 40 years and John probably the biggest mover in New Zealand harness racing in the last decade.
The win is built on hard work, which starts at the yearling sales and runs through two inter-island stables that race at tracks from Invercargill to Alexandra Park.
That is made possible by having the two stables, the main base with John overseeing it in Canterbury and the Auckland base at Franklin which has 14 horses and has become not only an Alexandra Park force but a huge help for making up fields at the Auckland track.
All the horses at both barns are spelling at the moment and Dunn isn’t sure when the horses at Pukekohe will be allowed back on the Franklin Park track.
But many of the southern horses are spelling on the property so once the country returns to Level 3 and race training is allowed again then the Canterbury stable could have 10-14 horses in work.
“We want to support racing when it comes back,” says Dunn.
“Our horses have been out for a week but if they (HRNZ) are looking at racing again by late May or early June then we will have horses for then.
“We have always been big on supporting racing, we send horses all over the place and we want to support this when it comes back.”
Then some time around August, when hopefully racing will be back full time, albeit with many changes, Dunn can raise a glass to what he has achieved.
“I have always wanted to win the premiership and a few times in recent years I thought I had a chance but then Mark and Nat would win 10 races in a week or something like that and I would be behind again.
“So to maybe finally get it will be special, even if it is not the way I would have liked.”