Former New Zealand harness racing trainer Chris Ryder believes Dexter Dunn has all the skills to succeed in the United States and Canada - it's just up to him whether he wants to stay for the long haul and put his God-given talents into practice.
“At the end of the day it’s what Dexter wants. He has it pretty good back in New Zealand and leaving family behind is never easy. But he has the brains, dedication and the self disciplined skills which he has developed over the years.
“He has a great ability to look over fields and check opposition drivers and horses out. I think he will do well he because he has both natural talent and he does his homework. It’s just the type of kid he is.
“I’ll certainly be giving him every possible chance and I know there’s other trainers up here like Nifty Norman etc who will be doing the same,” Ryder told Harnesslink.
Dunn leaves New Zealand on Monday (New Zealand time) and will arrive at Ryder’s Allentown stable in New Jersey on Monday night (USA time).
The record-breaking Kiwi’s departure was brought forward three weeks following a call from Ryder. It means Dunn will leave his homeland after the second day of the Marlborough meeting in Blenheim on Sunday (June 19).
Ryder said there would be plenty of drives for the gifted 21-year-old especially when the stakes season started, meaning more of the top drivers would be away ensuring local drives at Harrah’s Chester, Pocono Downs, Yonkers Raceway and the Meadowlands would become available.
“John Campbell does some of my driving and now that he’s been injured there will be even more opportunities for Dexter. I’m not saying Dexter will be an instant hit over here but once he gets the hang of it I’m sure he has the skills to do well. It’s all up to him really,” Ryder said.
Fifty-five-year-old Ryder has been training in America for more than two decades. The former Cantabrian (New Zealand’s South Island) has a stable of 30 with about a dozen racehorses currently doing the rounds. He also has about nine 2-year-olds poised to qualify.
He said Dunn was no stranger to the Ryder family.
“I have watched him grow up from afar and monitored his success closely. I have been a long-time friend of Dexter’s father Robert. I grew up with him. He used to work for my Dad (Kevin),” Ryder said.
“I was back in New Zealand last December for a week and caught up with the Dunn family then,” he added.
Since 1982 Ryder has driven 281 wins ($2.9 million) but it is his prowess as a trainer that has him widely respected in North America.
He has trained 1,027 winners and netted more that $27 million in purses since 1992.
Dunn on the other hand is only in his sixth year of driving and has already saluted the judge 738 times for $7.1 million in stakes. He is about to win his fourth national driving premiership with 146, 204, 168, and 218 (so far) wins in the last four years respectively.
In fact his 213 victories is a national record, which no jockey or driver has ever accomplished in one season in New Zealand.
Dunn will compete in his first World Driving Championship in the United States and Canada from July 31 to August 5. Originally Dunn’s plan was to return home not long after the series and then embark on another season in New Zealand.
The plan at this stage is to come back," said Dunn.
"But I have also got to have an open mind and be realistic. If things go well up there and I start to get serious drives then I would stay.
"Simply the money for the best drivers is bigger up there and it would be a great time to try and make my mark, so if the opportunity arises I will stay for a while, maybe for good," he said.
Ryder said now was as good a time as any to break into the American scene. He said Dunn would start driving in qualifiers almost immediately.
“He has a clearance to drive and one of the first things I’ll be doing is introducing him to the judges so they are aware of who he is. That way they can use his services when they are short of drivers. “Sometimes they are scratching to get reinsman and I want them to know he is readily available,” Ryder said.
Ryder regarded Tim Tetrick as the best driver in the United States – and he’s just 29.
“The top drivers look after themselves and when Dexter competes against them he’ll know what I mean. They don’t hold back. It’s a lot more aggressive over here.
“In saying that I know Dexter is up to it and from my point of view I will be giving him every possible chance. And he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t rest on his laurels. He always seems to have a plan A, B and C. That’s a sign of a quality driver.
“A lot of people don’t do that. Maurie Holmes was one driver who certainly had contingency plans and we all know how good a driver he was – one of New Zealand’s greatest,” Ryder said.
FOOTNOTE – DUNN IS GETTING NATION-WIDE ATTENTION:
Dexter Dunn appeared on last week (Friday June 10) national television in New Zealand with the country’s other young racing superstar – jockey James MacDonald.
by Duane RANGER (editor)
(1) In The Sulky With Chris Ryder (Feb 3, 2011):
(2) The Chris Ryder Stables:
(3) In The Sulky With Chris Ryder (May 14, 2010):
(4) Dexter Dunn interview – Inter Dominions 2011:
(5) Dexter Dunn Interview – May 24, 2011:
(6) Eye On Harness Racing – Dexter Dunn interview: