Sundees Son "a champion" - Michael Guerin
By Michael Guerin
What happened at Addington on November 11, 2022 is exactly how a great horse should end his career.
That great horse, a champion, was Sundees Son. And the $300,000 Renwick Farms Dominion was the race he never should have won.
If you were there or have seen it, you will never forget it. It unfolded like this.
The bigger, faster Muscle Mountain got the drop on little Sundees Son with driver John Dunn sweeping to the lead early then handing up.
After Sundees Son worked his way to his favoured pacemaking role he was the hunted and when Ben Hope let Muscle Mountain slingshot into the passing lane at the 200m it was clear Sundees Son wasn’t going to win his third straight Dominion.
The new kid on the block, maybe the new king, went straight past Sundees Son. Older and no doubt feeling the effects of 72 starts, Sundees Son floundered and exhaled. He was done.
There is no really telling what drives a horse to do what Sundees Son did next.
Horses don’t need money, read race reports and don’t have egos. So why would Sundees Son stretch out his little neck and strain every inch of his body to try and win something that would mean nothing to him but so much to us? The only answer is because he was, and forever will be, a champion.
A champion. A three-time Dominion winner against all odds and now, officially, retired. That Dominion thing of beauty was his last race.
The people behind Sundees Son have conceded that while his heart is still that of a warrior, those battles have taken their toll. Sundees Son’s body needs a rest and he will get what he deserves.
So he retires. Reigning Horse of the Year and one of the favourites for that title again in Christchurch tomorrow night.
He retires a horse who lives in our hearts.
He wasn’t our best ever trotter, Lyell Creek owns that.
But he rivals Lyell as the bravest.
Sundees Son was always talented, always fast but as a youngster he would get excited, get things wrong, as teenagers often do.
Then one night at Alexandra Park, in a race driver John Dunn lists as one of Sundees Son’s best three performances, the boy became a man.
Sundees Son came from last in the Anzac Cup, roaring down the Alexandra Park back straight and leaving Lemond, Majestic Man, Speeding Spur and Marcoola in his wake.
He has been our best trotter from that moment until he retired on Friday.
“That was the first time he showed us that level and it is still a very special win to me,” says John Dunn, who did almost all Sundees Son's driving.
Sundees Son won the Rowe Cup after that Anzac Cup arrival and has been close to unbeatable in anything past 2200m since.
He has his Achilles heel, with a sharp sprint sometimes better suited to Majestic Man, Bolt For Brilliance or Muscle Mountain.
But once the race became about stamina, relentlessness and heart Sundees Son has stood alone for nearly four years.
He heads to retirement the winner of 34 of those 72 starts, for over $1.4million and had times been different and he ventured to Australia that number could be a lot closer to $2million.
Owned by breeders Colin and Nancy Hair he ended thoughts that sire Majestic Son was a sire of young speedsters and gave him his first champion, one that set nine New Zealand records.
If you are concerned that a warrior like Sundees Son will be lost without battles to win, don’t be. He is already getting on with life.
“We brought him in on Thursday morning when he realized his career might be over and Laura, who works for us, put a saddle on him to start a new phase of his life,” explains Dunn.
“You never know how they are going to cop that but he was straight to work, he loved it.
“So this morning (Friday) he has a saddle on down the beach.
“He will have an active life, here where everybody loves him,” says Dunn.