Top harness racing trainer Robert Dunn pulled off one of the biggest training feats of his illustrious career when Quinellering the Group One NZ Messenger with Elios and Franco Nelson at Alexandra Park tonight.
Dunn’s two sons also produced the quinella in the $100,000 event with John Dunn and Elios diving along the passing lane to nab Franco Nelson in the shadows of the post, denying his brother Dexter three consecutive wins in the prestigious pacing event.
Norvic Nightowl (James Stormont) was 4-1/2 lengths back in third with a neck back to Mossdale Connor (Ricky May) in fourth.
“He was a good three-year-old but he has continued to get better as he has got older which is very pleasing,” said John Dunn.
Elios led early before handing up to his stablemate Franco Nelson, who showed a dazzling turn of foot to leave his free-rolling stablemate flat footed at the 1100 metres.
“In hindsight it probably worked out perfectly,” advised Dunn. “Last week he had to burn hard the whole way and got on the nickel a bit, but this time he was able to sneak a breather when in the trail down the back straight.
“A lot of the credit must go to Matt Bowden, our travelling foreman. He has done a fantastic job with these two horses up here. He also did a great job with them in Australia.”
Both pacers will now target the Harness Jewels, however afterwards they may be heading in different directions.
“Elios will probably head to Australia for the Breeders Crown, while Franco Nelson, who is very good from a stand, will spell before being set for the NZ Cup,” advised Dunn.
Elios’s win tonight was a reward for his risk-taking owners who purchased him for big money as a three-year-old despite the fact that he failed the veterinary examination.
By Mitchell Robertson