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No trainer will start more horses in more feature events at the premier night of harness racing at Alexandra Park on Friday than Robert Dunn. One of the biggest winning chances among Dunn’s bumper team comes in the Listed Northern Mares Classic with Need You Now. The trainer has been rapt with the four-year-old since her desperately unlucky third after receiving a chequered run up the straight behind race rival Plutonium Lady in last week’s Charles Roberts Stakes. “She has trained on really well, she is bright as a button,” Dunn said. “She had had three or four really hard runs behind Amazing Dream and Johnny [Dunn] was trying to look after her a little bit last week and things just went pear-shaped.” “It looked like she still could have won but it was just one of those things.” Dunn also starts both Woodstone and One Majic Kenny in the Group 3 Greenlane Cup. Woodstone looks a strong place chance following his fresh-up third to Bolt For Brilliance, who again looks hard to beat. “I was rapt with his run last week, he hadn’t had a trial or a workout or anything since Cup Week,” Dunn said. “He loves Auckland and always settles in really well up here and he looks a treat.” “Bolt For Brilliance will be hard to beat but he should be a good eachway chance.” One Majic Kenny got things wrong behind Bolt For Brilliance last week, but Dunn is hopeful the trotter can turn that around on Friday night. “He has been really unlucky, he missed away badly last time, but I can’t fault the way he is trotting.” “If he trots he can take advantage of being off the front line and he will go a good race.” Dunn starts Dance Til Dawn in the Group 2 Delightful Lady Classic for two-year-old fillies. The filly has trained on well since her debut second behind the favourite Artisan and the trainer is expecting another good performance. “She is a very handy type and she has trained on well.” “I have been happy with her.” “She has a lot of upside to her, right from the time Ross Houghton broke her in she has been a lovely filly.” “If she can get a nice run she will be right in it.” Dunn will also start Matt Damon in the Group 2 City Of Auckland Free-For-All. He expects another honest performance from the pacer, but he is wary of what impact Copy That will have on the race. “Matt Damon needs the speed on, he is a lovely horse and he has only had a handful of starts really,” Dunn said. “He is still learning his trade as far as open class goes.” “But he needs them to go hard and with Copy That in there it’s unlikely anything else will take him on too much.” “That won’t help us but he should still go another honest race.” The Dunn stable also has I’m Your Huckleberry in the Group One Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes. The trainer is expecting more from the two-year-old after he disappointed in his debut behind Montana D J in a heat of the series. “I was disappointed with his first run, but that race has really brought him on.” “I am expecting him to go much better.” Dunn also starts yet another horse in a feature event with Off N Gone in the Group One Northern Oaks The filly stuck on gamely after working hard in her last start behind race favourite Bettor Twist in the Peter Breckon Memorial Caduceus Club Stakes. Having had that right-handed run should be a big help in Friday night’s feature. “She ran in on the bends, last week, so we have worked on her steering this week,” Dunn said. “She probably did enough work when she was getting around them, they ran quite a fast quarter when she moved.” “So it wasn’t a bad run and I am expecting her to be better this week.” Dunn also starts Mighty Looee on Friday night’s undercard, in race 2. View the full Alexandra Park fields click here!   by Jonny Turner

Harness racing trainer Robert Dunn has had a great night at the office winning both feature races on the card at Addington tonight. After a close second two weeks ago in the Maurice Holmes Vase, underated pacer Classie Brigade has gone one better and deservedly claimed the Group 3 Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup tonight in the hands of top driver Blair Orange. Orange shot Classie Brigade (Bettor's Delight - Trigirl Brigade) straight to the lead from the standing start 2600m and proceeded to run a 1-58 mile rate off the front with a blistering last half of 54.8 seconds, effectively ending the chances of the horses behind him. Di Caprio and John morrison got closest from the trail, running the winner to a half head at the line.  The race had a sensation at the start when hot favourite Self Assured broke and would not settle, eventually finishing a long and lonely last for driver Mark Purdon. The trotting feature of the night also went to a Robert Dunn trained runner. Sundees Son was back at his brilliant best thrashing a good field of trotters to win the Group 3 Alabar Ordeal Trotting Cup, a race he also won last year in similar fashion. After a good beginning from barrier one, Sundees Son (Majestic Son - Stardon) had a nice run three back on the fence before driver John Dunn moved to the parked position at the 900m mark and from there he ran his opposition into the ground sprinting his last 800m in better than 56 seconds to win by five and a half lengths at the line. John Dunn said after the race the smart trotter was back to near 100%, "He trialled up really good at Rangiora and if he feels 100% then he is a scary horse to drive. "He wanted to go and I let him run down the back. He has got a big motor and wouldn't stop," he said. Sundees Son trotted the 2600m stand in 3-16.0 with a closing 800m in a scintillating 55.63 seconds and a closing 400m in 28 seconds.   Harnesslink Media

Robert Dunn received one of the most satisfying phone calls of his career last week. It was from the famous father of the man who Dunn will beat to win his first New Zealand trainer’s premiership next month. Dunn’s 83 wins for the season will be enough to win him the title even if he doesn’t add to the number as while Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen sit in 69 wins, they are effectively done for the season. Michael House sits third in 63 and as busy as he is it is hard to imagine him training 20 winners in six weeks so Dunn is the heir apparent to the title of premier trainer. And while he admits that feels a little strange because of the enormous interruption to the season, a phone call last week made it all feel so real. “Roy Purdon rang me to congratulate me on winning the premiership,” smiles Dunn. “It was a bit awkward because of the way the season has been and I told Roy I was lucky that Mark and Nat didn’t get more of a chance to beat me. “But he said not to worry about that, it didn’t matter and that I deserved it and had been a good trainer for a long time. “That was when it hit hone to me and to be honest that phone call from a man like Roy was one of the highlights of my career.” While Dunn’s southern stable is already back and racing and is certain to be good for a few wins to add to his ultimate premiership tally, his northern team starts rolling out in public at the trials this Friday. And that is a conscious decision he made not to rush them back to the races once the Covid restriction eased. “Obviously the Pukekohe track was closed so all the horses from there were on the back foot a bit but we made the decision to bring them up a bit slower. “Once these horses get up and running they have the potential to do a lot of racing and particularly for the better ones who could be involved in premier racing, you don’t want to have them all peaking too early. “So some of them, like Passion And Power (this season’s star juvenile filly), could have been back racing but they are group one horses. So we eased off her because she has a lot of top class racing she can come back for in September, October and then for months afterwards. “It requires a bit of thinking and working out.” The first pair back from the northern team will be Mighty Looee and You Really Got Me who will trial this Friday, the week after and then race in two weeks. “We have Woodstone, who has come up a treat again and Resonate trialling in two weeks and they can race next month and then Pretty Majestic, who has been given more time.” That former Australian trotting mare has been one of the finds of the season after being sent to Dunn because she apparently preferred right-handed racing. “That is what we thought but she won so well at Cambridge one night and is such a good mare we see her as a horse who could go down to Cup week to contest the best races down there.” That gives Dunn and his inter-island stable, the southern one run by son John, plenty of open class firepower in both gaits for next season. “We have Sundees Son and Pres The Belle down south and both Woodstone and Pretty Majestic could join them in good open class trots. “And then we have horses like Henry Hubert, Classie Brigade and Sheriff for the better pacing races. “So we have some really good horses to aim at the carnivals and that is why we can give some of them time to come up.” Spoken like a true premiership winning trainer.   Michael Guerin

Jonny Turner, Harness News Desk    Inter-island trainer Robert Dunn is ready to continue his quest for a maiden national trainer’s premiership victory when he lines up a team packed full of winning chances at Addington on Friday night. Dunn went in to harness racing’s Covid-19 hiatus with a 10-win lead over Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, who have yet to be sighted publicly since the end of lockdown. Dunn’s team have not only hit the trials track, they have emerged fresh and ready to help the trainer add to his 79 wins for the season. Dunn thinks Franco Niven in race 7 has the biggest chance of helping him extend his premiership lead. “Franco Niven would be the bet of the day from our team, he is a class horse.” “He is going to keep getting better.” Franco Niven trialled well when second to Nimah Franco last week. The pacer’s progress suggests he will continue to fire up well past Friday. “We had to geld him when he was younger because he was a bit of a ratbag,” Dunn said. “He lost that real colt look he has and it has taken him a long time to start to get strong again.” “But, I think this season coming he is going to have a really good year.” Dunn also starts Kensington Bill, who trialled quietly behind at Addington before his resumption, in race 7. Carlos Bromac was a pacer on the rise before lockdown and is ready to continue his upward progression in race 12 on Friday night. The horse made an excellent start to his career in Southland, before he was spelled after being tested against some of the country’s best 3yr-olds. Carlos Bromac thrived on his summer break and now returns after the benefit of another spell during lockdown. The pacer’s excellent trial win at Addington last week was proof of that. “He wasn’t quite up to the derby horses, so we tipped him out and when he came back he really thrived,” Dunn said.  “I thought his trial win the other day was really good.” “He is a horse that is going to win races pretty quickly.” Wyatt Waller is almost certain to have gone further than any of his rivals heading in to race 3. The 3yr-old was sold and exported to Australia after running second to Italian Lad in track record breaking time at Oamaru, last September. Wyatt Waller suffered an injury after crossing the Tasman and the Dunn stable arranged the horse to be returned to New Zealand. “The buyers were good clients of ours, so we arranged to give their money back and bring the horse back,” Dunn said.  “So, we are hoping he can do a good job because he owes us a little bit.” “He is a nice horse and another good chance.” The Player went two excellent races before lockdown and looks poised build on that in race 11, despite having to take on a classy line up including star 3yr-old, Cracker Hill. The 4yr-old was given a quiet trial, tucked away on the markers before running in to sixth behind race rival Matua Tana, last week. “His two runs before lockdown for second and third were great and we were rapt with his trial the other day – just running home the last 50m,” Dunn said. Styx Kiwi in race 5, Rocknroll King in race 9 and Anamajor and Soundslikeart in race 10 Each look strong eachway chances. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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.”   By Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner Inter-island trainer Robert Dunn created history by notching his 1500th win in New Zealand in sensation fashion when Heisenberg headed a stable trifecta just minutes after Classie Brigade won the Kaikoura Cup on Monday. Classie Brigade reminded punters he has the game and manners to be a New Zealand Cup contender with a fast beginning to set himself up for a front-running win with Dunn’s son, John, in the sulky. The perfect dress rehearsal for New Zealand’s greatest harness race took Dunn to career win 1449, before the trainer made triply sure he would reach 1500 wins. When the field turned for home in the Yearling Sales Aged Classic, there was almost no chance that it would not be a Dunn runner hitting the line first. Eventually, Heisenberg sealed the trainer’s milestone win, holding out his stablemates Stars Tonight and Franco Niven. Heisenberg winning the $50,000 Aged Classic Dunn’s 1500-win record includes 19 group 1 victories spread across some of New Zealand’s greatest races. The trainer said he rates the notching his 1500 wins and the style it came in at Kaikoura as big as any thrill he has had during his career of more than 40 years.  “To go one-two-three is quite amazing,” Dunn said. “That is right up there with all of my biggest thrills.” “To have three special owners – Ross and Angela Gordon, Dean and Allen Neumann and their wives Judy and Christine and their family and friends, and Ian Dobson.” “To have three of my biggest owners going one-to-three is something you only dream about really.” Dunn’s next focus will firmly be on both the Interdominions and next week’s New Zealand Cup Carnival. Beyond that, the trainer is looking to throw back to the days of Master Musician – the horse that put him on harness racing’s biggest stages early in his training career.   Dunn’s horses could revisit some of the destinations the winner of almost $2,000,000 took the trainer during his prolific career across Australasia. “We might have to do a bit of travelling this season, we have got a lot of nice horses coming through.” “Australia could be beckoning some of our trotters – but we will get through the Interdominions first.” Dunn’s 1500th win followed a wave of success from his family that has peaked in the past month. The trainer’s son, Dexter, confirmed his status as one of hottest reinsman in North America with two wins at the star studded Breeders Crown meeting in Canada, recently. Dexter’s elder brother, John, has been keeping up the family name in lights back home, recently passing 1100 driving wins. He sealed his father’s milestone win with Heisenberg with the same kind of well rated, front running drive he produced on Classie Brigade. Father and son could enjoy their biggest thrill in racing together if the 7yr-old can win the New Zealand Cup. With the same kind of beginning he made in his Kaikoura Cup win, Classie Brigade should put himself in a position to strike.   Classie Brigade winning the Kaikoura Cup The Robert and John Dunn combination sealed their brilliant day out at the picturesque Kaikoura Cup meeting by completing a hat-trick of wins in its final three races. John produced his third consecutive front-running drive to win with Jay Tee Tyron. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner One of saddest tales around this year’s New Zealand Cup has played out more than two months before the running of the country’s greatest race. Ashburton owners Stuart and Liz Leadley will not be represented in the event after their top class pacer Alta Maestro had to be euthanised, recently. The Robert Dunn trained 5yr-old was struck down with a crippling knee injury over winter. Vets told his connections their only realistic option was to put Alta Maestro down. “He was diagnosed with real bad arthritis – it was so bad they said you’ve got no option but to put him down,” Stuart Leadley said. “They said he would never make any kind of trekking horse or riding horse.” “There was no option, he was going to be a cripple.” Alta Maestro won nine of his 32 starts and banked over $195,000 in stakes. The Art Major pacer holds the New Zealand 2yr-old male pacers record for 1700m with his 1-59.7 win in March of 2017. Alta Maestro began his career and a head strong and free rolling front runner. Most recently, the Dunn stable transformed the horse in to a relaxed staying type and it was paying dividends. Alta Maestro raced admirably in open class last season and scored his best win in the group 3 Teltrac Communications Ltd Free-For-All at Addington in March. This year’s New Zealand Cup was to be on the horse’s agenda before tragedy struck. “We had some pretty big and realistic plans this year,” Leadley said. “We genuinely thought he was good enough to be doing some pretty good things and it was a dreadful shock.” Leadley rated Alta Maestro as the best horse among the smart types he has raced. Good performers, Alta Las Vegas and Franco Cristiano, are also among his winners.   “We have owned 19 in total over about the last 16 years, he has certainly won us the most money.” “We have had a total of 53 wins, so we have done pretty well with the horses we have had.” The Leadleys are no strangers to tragically losing horses. The couple raced talented pacer Welsey Silcox, who won eight of his 12 starts in 2014 and 2015. The Courage Under Fire pacer died as the result of a freak accident. “Lightening hit a tree and crushed him.” “You wouldn’t believe some of the problems we have had with horses,” Leadley said. Alta Maestro’s demise comes at a time when the Canterbury couple’s time as owners is nearing its end. Leadley is unable to attend racemeetings due to a lung illness. “I am on oxygen tubes and morphine now and it is a problem to get to the races.” “Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with serious breathing issues and they said it will only every get worse.” “Nowadays I am confined to a wheelchair.” The owner reflects fondly on his 16-year involvement in horse ownership. “The real thing about the races was the people that we met,” Leadley said. “There are some really great people there and if we didn’t have those horses we never would have met them.” Leadley remains in the ownership of three horses in the Dunn stable. They include the unbeaten 3yr-old Down To The Bone. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ  

The man who might stand between the All Stars Stables and an almost unfathomable clean sweep of the Harness Jewels says he won't be backing down come Saturday. In what might be close to a first anywhere in the racing world, the all-conquering Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable are favoured to win eight of the nine group ones at the $1.2 million Jewels meeting, and have the second favourite in the other race. The law of averages suggest at least a couple of their charges will perform below their best, suffer bad luck or simply not be good enough but it is still realistic they could win all nine group one races. Considering the Jewels is an open raceday, with no Sires' Stakes or sales restrictions and has attracted six Australian invites, an All Stars whitewash would be extraordinary and rank as one of the greatest training performances in history. But, and it is an awfully big but, they still have to win the races and local driver John Dunn says he is going to make that as difficult as possible for them. Dunn has eight drives, all on horses trained by his father Robert, whose Canterbury team he does much of the work with and included among them is the only non-All Stars favourite in Sundees Son. He deserves to be top elect for the 4-year-old trot after stunning wins in both the Anzac and Rowe Cups at Alexandra Park four weeks ago and if he races up to that level it is hard to see him beaten, especially if he brings his manners. He did just that in a sedate trial at Addington last Saturday but trotted home a quick last 800m and has the benefit of a good draw on Saturday. "While he has had some manners issues in the past he has usually been good off the mobile and I think it won't be an issue on Saturday," says Dunn, the older brother of champion driver Dexter Dunn, who is now based in North America. "He has come back from Auckland and not missed a beat so I think he will lead and they will need to be good to beat him." As solid as Sundees Son's trial was last Saturday what was just as reassuring for punters is that he didn't roll into his usual gallop after the finish line, suggesting he is a sound, happy horse at the end of his long season. Dunn crucially has the advantage of the ace draw in the 3-year-old male pace and says he will use it to try for an all the way win with Heisenberg. "I am going to drive him like I did in the Sires' Stakes Final in November," Dunn says firmly. On that occasion, over the same track and distance as Saturday, Heisenberg led and gave both eventual winner Ultimate Sniper and Jesse Duke a lot to chase before finishing third. Ultimate Sniper is spelling but Jesse Duke is the hot favourite for Saturday's race and if Dunn is true to his word and launches Heisenberg then favourite punters could be in for an uncomfortable watch. Dunn also has inside draws with Henry Hubert in the 4-year-old Emerald and Spellbound in the juvenile fillies pace, where he opts for Tiffany Rose as the stable's better chance. But it is in the very open 2-year-old trot that he has his next best chance of upsetting the All Stars dominance. One Majic Kenny has been more interested in galloping than trotting in recent starts but has the motor to match it with the favourite if he behaves as well as he did when second at the trials last Saturday. "He is good enough but I actually want the mobile to go faster. "I think it goes too slow sometimes and that trips some horses up," says Dunn.   Michael Guerin

 Sundees Son will be asked to add a new weapon to his growing arsenal this week and it is one that could ultimately win him the Harness Jewels. The last-start Rowe Cup winner has been the surprise package of the trotting season, his late-season group one double giving him a shot at the Trotter of the Year title. He could almost put that battle to bed if he wins the 4-year-old Ruby at Addington on Saturday week and a crucial step will be the official Jewels trials on the same track this Saturday. While Sundees Son was stunning coming from well back to win both the Anzac and Rowe Cups he can't afford to be giving the likes of Winterfell, Majestic Man and King's Landing a big start over the 1980m mobile. So Sundees Son is, draw permitting, going to be asked to use his gate speed at Saturday's trials.  "We would like him to be able to run the gate this week to give us the option to do that if he draws well at the Jewels," says trainer Robert Dunn. "If he can develop that, and he hasn't had many good draws in mobile races to try in the past, then it is another string to his bow which could be really helpful." Harness Racing New Zealand has had plenty of Jewels withdrawals this week, mainly from horses who weren't likely to make the final 12 or younger horses who have hit the wall. Hardly any major players near the head of the markets have come out. But while some horses are showing signs of wear and tear this deep into the season, Dunn says his four-year-olds Sundees Son and Henry Hubert (pacer) are in great shape. "They both had scintigraphy at Matamata after the Rowe Cup carnival and we are really happy with the results."  Dunn and son John have 11 qualified for the Jewels and expect all to be there. "The one we had a setback with last week was Spellbound, who had a really high white blood cell count after she raced at Addington," he explains. "Her heart rate was 120 bpm 20 minutes after the race and even higher 10 minutes later. "So the blood tests showed what we thought they might but she has been treated and we will look after her to get her blood right and get her back on track for the Jewels." While the Jewels trials will impact the markets of far greater importance will be the draws, set to released at noon on Friday. And in a surprise move the two hottest Jewels favourites, Turn It Up (4-year-old male pace) and Elle Mac (4-year-old mares pace) will clash in a free-for-all at Addington on Friday night. Both were expected to trial this week but will instead race against a former Jewels winner in Ashley Locaz just hours after the draws are released. Meanwhile, the chances of their stablemate Oscar Bonavena making the field for the three-year-old trot are diminishing as he still sits 14th with the trainers of those above him indicating they will start, meaning he is unlikely to even make the ballot.   Michael Guerin

Meet the new Trotting Master – Sundees Son. The rising New Zealand star has capped a great season by being crowned the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Master champion following his heroics in Auckland over the past week. Prepared by father/son combination Robert and John Dunn, the Majestic Son gelding claimed both North Island features at Alexandra Park which catapulted him to the lead passing Victorian mare Dance Craze in the process. With Auckland playing host to the two final legs of the six race series, the title was very much alive with connections of Dance Craze electing to remain local while New Zealand’s best gathered in preparation of claiming the rich prizes on offer. And Sundees Son took the lot. The four-year-old scored a brilliant victory in the $100,000 ANZAC Cup before returning a week later to take the $150,000 Rowe Cup in devastating fashion which also propelled him to victory in the race to be crowned the Totting Master for the current term. The Trotters Grand Circuit commenced in 1999. In 2012, the Grand Circuit was revamped with the Trotters competing in a stand-alone branded series, Trotting Masters. Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. In his 12 starts throughout the season, Sundees Son amassed more than $183,000 while taking his overall earnings past $243,000. Sundees Son will next start in the $125,000 Ruby on Jewels day at Addington on June 1. The six leg Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series starts in November with the Dominion in Christchurch before heading to Melbourne for the Inter Dominion, Great Southern Star and Australian Grand Prix while the series concludes in Auckland with the Anzac and Rowe Cups. The full list of Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters winners for the season were Marcoola (Dominion), Tornado Valley ( Inter Dominion), Dance Craze (Great Southern Star), Big Jack Hammer (Grand Prix) and Sundees Son (ANZAC & Rowe Cups). The top five point scorers were; Sundees Son (200 points) Dance Craze (160) Speeding Spur (143) Lemond (120) Marcoola (108) Sundees Son is raced by his North Canterbury based breeders Colin and Nancy Hair while being prepared by Robert and John Dunn.   Chris Barsby

Harness racing driver John Dunn grabbed the biggest race of his career when Sundees Son won the $156,000 Gr1 Rowe Cup tonight at Alexandra Park. Fresh from his dazzling win in the Gr1 Anzac Cup last week over the mobile sprint trip of 2200m, Sundees Son had to prove his toughness tonight over the extreme distance of 3200m from a standing start and he did so in convincing fashion. The Majestic Son gelding was away quickly from his unruly second row draw and Dunn bided his time near the back of the field before taking closer order with a lap to go. After finding the front at the winning post for the last time, all John Dunn had to do was sit quietly and the horse did the rest. Sundees Son had the field in trouble at the final turn and he cruised home under his own steam to win in what could only be described as a dominant victory for the Robert Dunn trained 4yo. For John Dunn the win meant a lot. "I settled a lot closer than I thought I would and they sort of backed off the speed a little bit and this horse he can stay as well as sprint so it went a bit to plan. "This race is like the New Zealand Cup for trotters, and I got beat so narrowly in the New Zealand Cup, so this would have to be my best win," he said. "Dad deserves this one. Last week was his first group one with a trotter so tonight will be massive for him as well," he said. Gallant in defeat was defending champion Speeding Spur who trailed and battled on well for second. The John and Josh Dickie trained trotter was having his last race in New Zealand and is now heading for a North American campaign before returning to New Zealand to stand at stud next season. Sundees Son trotted the 3200m stand in 4-06.2. The last 800m was run in 58.2 seconds and the final 400m in 28.5. Sundees Son winning the Rowe Cup   Harnesslink Media  

Four year old trotter Sundees Son put on a powerful display to win tonight's Gr1 $102,000 H R Frisken & Sons Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park. Trained in Canterbury by Robert Dunn and driven by John Dunn, Sundees Son looked a forlorn chance in the feature trot after he settled last in the 13 horse field while another classy Canterbury trotter Marcoola ran smart sectionals at the head of the field. Still a clear last at the 900m Sundees Son showed dazzling speed to loop the field to the death seat at the 600m before putting a gap in them at the turn and running home to win easily under his own steam. Lemond went his usual honest race for second with Majestic man running home well for third. Sundees Son (Majestic Son - Stardon) trotted the mobile in 2-41.6 only 0.3 outside the New Zealand record of 2-41.3 held by Marcoola. The last 800m was trotted in 57.6 with a closing 400m in 28.4 seconds. The mile rate was a slick 1-58.2 for the 2200m. John Dunn put his improvement this season down to the hard racing the gelding had as a two and three year old.  "He got harded up as a 2yo with a lot of racing and then at three he backed up with more racing. It really mentally and physically toughened him up," he said. "It was a good effort for a four year old to take on the open class trotters and beat them. "A lot of credit has to go to Craig Edmonds. He has done a great job around home mucking around with his shoeing and mentally getting this horse ready as well, so credit to him," he said. Sundees Son is currently at the top in the 4yo Harness Jewels Ruby Leaderboard with Majestic Man sitting in second place.   Harnesslink Media

The Robert Dunn filly Spellbound continued on her winning way yesterday in the Caduceus Club of Southland/Alabar Fillies Classic but she was pressured at the finish by first starter Stylish Memphis. Spellbound lead from the start and was allowed to get away with some soft sectionals. Stylish Memphis, a half-sister to the 2016 winner Delightful Memphis, got within a head of the winner but the post came up just in time for Spellbound. “That horse (Stylish Memphis) had trialled well so it wasn’t a surprise. It was a stroll around and a sprint up the straight. Halfway down the straight I was confident. The last wee bit I wasn’t” said driver John Dunn whose father Robert trains Spellbound. She was sold at the 2018 Sale of the Stars for $17,000 as Major Return, but was renamed Spellbound. The the Witches Of Westview Syndicate share in the ownership of the Art Major filly with the Westview Racing Number 19 Syndicate.The syndicates have some Southlanders as members, including Bruce Sutherland, local breeder Mark O’Connor; his brother Stephen O’Connor, Mike Pero Real Estate Agent Daryl Spence and the Manager of McCallum’s Dry Cleaning Paul Harrington. The winning syndicating watching her come into the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart. The official group photo - Photo Bruce Stewart    She’s out of the Armbro Operative mare Return To Gold which won four races and it's the filly’s third win in as many starts. It was the second time father and son have won this race. Yankee Dream won the classic in 2009. “Right from day dot she showed a bit. She’s well gaited and has good manners and that’s why we’ve had a go at these early two year old races. She’ll have a wee break now and we’ll look at a Sires Stakes Heat.” Dunn’s second win came in the $40,000 Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Cup with Henry Hubert. After bungling the start Henry Hubert finally settled into his gait with only favourite Funatthebeach behind him. Royal Bengal lead early before Smokin By took over. Alta Maestro was then taken to the front ensuring there was plenty of early pace in the 2700 metre feature. Smokin By then popped out of the trail and took up the running again with 1600 metres to go. With a lap to run the one off line started to form lead by Tact Maggie, Eamon Maguire, AG’s White Socks and Henry Hubert got onto the train. Funathebeach took up the inside running line. With 600 metres to run Henry Hubert was last and nothing in front was wanting to move. So in what turned out to be the winning of the race Dunn let Henry Hubert run and he showed sharp speed to move within striking distance of a battling Smokin By and Tact Maggie. Dunn pinched a bit of a break at the top of the straight and held on to win. In a driving finish Henry Hubert and John Dunn on the inside hang on to beat Ricky May and A G's White Socks - Photo Bruce Stewart.  “I couldn’t really get him going early in the race after missing away so I had to wait for the 600. He felt super once he got pacing and to hold off A G’s White Socks was a good effort,” he said. A G’s White Socks got within a head of Henry Hubert with Funatthebeach a further three and a quarter lengths back in third. Dunn says the horse will go home now and head towards the Easter Cup. “We just have to get that standing start ironed out. We’re also looking at perhaps the Taylor Mile and The Messenger then the Jewels.” The winning time was 3-20.6, 0.5 outside the race record held by Isaiah. The win was the four year old's fourth this season and puts him in the top five for the end of season Harness Jewels.   Bruce Stewart

Skyvalley gelding War Admiral scored a deserving win in testing conditions in the main trot today(Sunday) at the Wyndham Harness Club’s meeting on the grass at Cromwell. Driver Sheree Tomlinson settled the gelding at the rear of the field and with 800 metres to run War Admiral was still six lengths off the lead. From that point Tomlinson elected to stick to the inside running line and on straightening she was right behind the leader Gorilla Playboy giving her rights to the passing lane. From that point Tomlinson held War Admiral together and he trotted up the inside to beat Playboy’s Brother by two and a quarter lengths. “The plan was to not let him go. To be honest I thought that at some part he’d make a mistake. She’s a good wee driver. She said he trotted really well and she hung on and made sure he kept trotting,” said Gore trainer Tony Stratford. The heavy track was a major concern for a lot of trainers and at his last start War Admiral had broken when looking likely. “I was pretty confident he would have won at Roxburgh if he hadn’t made a mistake so it was nice to see him get a win today.” The win - War Admirals second this season, elevates him to third on the Four Year Old Ruby for the end of season Harness Jewels at Addington. “We’ll plan round that. I’ll be surprised if you don’t see him at the Jewels in June.” As a three year old War Admiral showed immense ability, winning three of his seven starts and Stratford says he’s more consistent this season.    “He’s a bit of a rattle head and a hard horse to work with but when you get him in the cart and get him out on the track he’s certainly a lot more mature than last season. Clearly he’s trotting a lot better.” And he says he may start at the Wyndham meeting in a fortnight. “We’re better off just ticking away. I’ve learnt that when a trotter’s in form you’re better off keeping them going. He won’t be turned out but he’ll have a few easy days.” When asked if he’d consider travelling, Stratford pointed out that he may not have to. “We’re racing for such good money down here. Today’s raceswas worth $14,999 which was the same as the main pacing race. Most races he lines up for in Southland he’ll be racing for $10,000 or more. Providing we are not too far back in the handicaps there’s nothing wrong with racing down here.”    And on the conditions at Cromwell today? “The horses were coming back caked in mud. That’s as bad as I’ve ever seen (track conditions).” Meanwhile Canterbury visitor Zadaka proved his toughness when he won the Havtime Breeding/M&S Little Cromwell Cup. Due to the heavy track conditions his time of 3-42.6 was the slowest recorded in the twelve year history of the race. Devil May Care’s 3-37.4 in 2014 was the previous slowest (recorded on a Dead track). The race and track record of 3-20.8 is held by Glencoe VC. This was the third time Robert Dunn has won the race. He also won it in 2009 with Luckisaladytonight and in 2010 with Niraadi. The day was full of twists and turns and the Stewards had their busiest day of the season: --Because of a programmed TAB Website change and the introduction of their new App at 12 midnight tonight the Cromwell meeting started early at 10:38am. --Persistent rain starting falling from 8.00am in Cromwell and the track conditions were down-graded during the day to Dead after Race Three then to Heavy after Race Six. --There were ten late scratchings due to track conditions. --The mobile vehicle lost traction after the dispatch of Race Four and the later mobile starts programmed for Races Seven and Nine became moving starts. --The Clerk Of Course’s horse bolted leading to some scary moments. Both horse and rider were replaced with Otago trainer Amber Hoffman taking over the role. --During the day a variety of winning running lines were chosen by the drivers. Sheree Tomlinson chose the inside path in Race Eleven to win easily while in Race Twelve Mark Hurrell came  hard against the outside fence to gets Raksbets home by a half a length. --Winners were often hard to find with only four favourites winning during the twelve race programme. Many horses failed to handle the conditions.   Bruce Stewart

Robert Dunn feels like he has already won going into harness racing’s biggest day of the year. Because taking 17 horses to New Zealand Cup day at Addington on Tuesday, five of them for the $800,000 holy grail itself, is beyond what Dunn could have realistically hoped for at the start of the season.  “Back when we nominated our ones for the Cup I knew we would get two in, all going well, and would have been thrilled to sneak another one in,” admits the inter-island trainer.  “But to get five into a New Zealand Cup is special. I know there have been a few horses pull out but we can’t control that. “All we can do is train our horses and get them ready and hope they are fit and healthy.  “So to achieve that, and you have seen how many horses who didn’t get there, I feel very satisfied for our owners.  “And I like the fact the owners aren’t scared to get out there and take on the All Stars and those bigger name horses. That is why you race horses, to have them in the best races.” Dunn and his son John have serious winning chances in several of the support races tomorrow with horses like Sundees Son (race three) and Henry Hubert (race four). “They are both flying and Sundees Son’s manners have really improved,” says Dunn.  “So I think he can really test Winterfell in his race while Henry Hubert had no right to win at Kaikoura last start because he didn’t handle the track  “He meets a good field but I’d be keen to see him in front and if they are good enough to beat him so be it.”  That is Dunn’s attitude to his two well-drawn runners in the $170,000 Sires’ Stakes Final, the first major three-year-old race of the season.  Stars Tonight (1) and Heisenberg (2) have the barriers to attempt to lead and trail early and Dunn says John driving will not be intimidated by the Purdon-Rasmussen stars who so often dominate the Sires’ Stakes.  “Heisenberg is a natural front runner so if we lead he will stay there and run them along, we won’t be handing up,” he offers.  But for all their chances in the support races, including Woodstone in the $100,000 NZ Free-For-All Trot, Cup Day is about the Cup and Dunn says Aussie raider Tiger Tara holds the key to the race. “Him drawing the second line has made the race,” offers Dunn.  “If he (Tiger Tara) had drawn to go forward and lead early then I think that would have been the end of the competitive part, the horses around him would have run one, two, three and four and all of his us back in the field would have had no chance.  “But with him drawn the second line I have no doubts he has to launch and try and get the lead. I don’t know if he will or not but it should ensure there is some real speed in the middle section of that race.”  Dunn says that gives his best chance, Alta Orlando, some hope of coming into the race over the last lap and running past those who have expended too much energy making him at least a place chance.  “He is the best chance of our five, while Captain Dolmio has improved in his work and so has Letspendanitetogetha.  “So we have two trucks full of fit horses to take to Cup day and we can’t ask for more than that.”   Michael Guerin

Wow.....where do we start with the 2018 Gr.1 $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup? As the second leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit, the Kiwi feature is steeped in tradition after first being staged back in 1904 when Monte Carlo proved victorious while many great names line the pages of history. And another great pacer will etch their name into the record books on the famous second Tuesday in November at Addington. The build-up has been intense and absolutely relentless as we draw closer to the 3200m stand start feature. The early scratchings of Australian star Chicago Bull and local ace Ultimate Machete have only added to the pre-race drama. In fact, the race has seen more moves than a 1980’s disco dance floor! And so many questions need to be answered. All the normal types like who has the Best Stamina? Endurance? Willingness? Desire? And Hunger? But what about answers to the following; Can the All Stars win another Cup? The Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen combination has won 3 of the last 4 editions (Lazarus x 2 & Adore Me) and this year is represented by Thefixer, Cruz Bromac, Eamon Maguire and Dream About Me. Can Dream About Me become the latest mare to claim the Cup? The last mare to score in the Cup came from this stable with Adore Me triumphant four years ago. At this point, Dream About Me is the only mare starting in the Cup although Queen Bee Bardon is listed as the third emergency. Thefixer is facing the starter for only the 16th time, only Mainland Banner has had less starts prior to winning the Cup (it was her 12th start). Can the All Stars prepare the trifecta in the Cup? Back in 2016, they prepared 1st, 3rd & 4th (Lazarus, Titan Banner & Smolda). The biggest number of starters in a New Zealand Cup from All Stars is five (2012). Respected trainer Robert Dunn has the biggest representation in the Cup with five starters; he will gear up Alta Orlando, Captain Dolmio, Letspendanitetogetha, Billy Badger and Zadaka. Can he train his second winner of the event? Dunn scored with wonder mare Mainland Banner back in 2005. Can Ricky May score a record 8th Cup victory when he partners the Greg and Nina Hope trained A G’s White Socks? The next best is Cecil Devine who won 6 Cups. Can Aussie raider Tiger Tara join the likes of Steel Jaw, (My) Lightning Blue and Arden Rooney as an Australian trained winner of the Cup? Prepared by Sydney horseman Kevin Pizzuto, the $1.59 million earner will be handled by regular reinsman Todd McCarthy who is taking his 3rd Cup drive. Now an eight-year-old, Can Tiger Tara join Monkey King (2010) as the most recent winner of the Cup at that age? Tiger Tara is starting in his 4th Cup. Champion reinsman Tony Herlihy is chasing his 4th Cup victory and will partner the highly regarded Auckland trained Star Galleria for trainer Steve Reid. Can Barry Purdon train his 4th Cup winner when Jack’s Legend takes his spot in the Cup? If successful, it will be his 1st outright victory after preparing his trio of winners in partnership with his legendary father Roy. Can Zachary Butcher (Jack’s Legend) join his father David (Changeover – 2008) as a Cup winning driver? Oddly, Changeover (Geoff Small) was the most recent North Island trained winner of the Cup. Can Natalie Rasmussen (Thefixer), Sam Ottley (Forgotten Highway) or Sheree Tomlinson (Locharburn) join Kerryn Manning as a female winning driver of the Cup? Can super sire Bettors Delight claim his 5th Cup after winning the past 4 editions? This year, the record breaking stallion is represented by Thefixer, Dream About Me, Jack’s Legend, Forgotten Highway & Tiger Tara. Can 1998 Cup winner Christian Cullen produce his 2nd winner (Mainland Banner – 2005)? The wonder horse is represented by Locharburn and Baileys Knight (2nd emergency). Interestingly, the horse that has claimed the title of APG Grand Circuit champion for the past two seasons has won the Cup…..the one and only Lazarus! So, all this and more will make sense late on Tuesday afternoon. Because then, at 5.12pm Local time, it will be time for answers.   Chris Barsby

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