Robert DunnFollowing a season in which he attained his second consecutive training premiership (second in previous six seasons) and after recently having passed 1,800 training wins, induction into the Addington Harness Hall of Fame is the latest honour bestowed on horseman Robert Dunn.

The Dunn name has been to the forefront in the Canterbury area and is now into its third generation of industry involvement. Brother Geoff, sons John and Dexter together with grandson Jacob have all played their part in the region and New Zealand’s trotting history.

Robert’s father Allan was a publican in Wellington who raced good gallopers Shantung and Suttle before purchasing pacer Bound To Be with Robert in the sulky won six races before being exported to North America.

An elite level horseman for nearly five decades, Robert’s career commenced after his family moved to Christchurch and at age sixteen he began by assisting Basil Lynskey. At seventeen, after joining Kevin Ryder’s stable he accompanied horses to the USA staying for ten months working for Kumeu trainer Don Hayes at Monticello raceway. Robert returned there during the 2011 World Drivers Championships.

On returning to NZ he spent a further ten months with Jack Smolenski before moving to Jim Dalgety’s stables (both Addington Harness Hall of Fame inductees). His driving career commenced during the 1972/3 season when having five drives which included his first win on Gigi Lamour at Hutt Park on 27 February 1973. In five seasons as a junior driver he saluted the judge on twenty six occasions with Jim Dalgety providing him with the opportunity to partner Bolton Byrd in nine of his ten career wins (five at Addington). These included his first Group One** equivalent victories when still a junior driver in the 1975 Great Northern Derby and 1976 Auckland Cup as a twenty two year old (twenty fifth win as a junior driver).

** Group race system – stakes based system first introduced in 1979/80 season.

Robert Dunn’s driving stats:

An accomplished driver continuing until the 2001/1 season, Robert’s best season was 1990/91 with thirty six victories, placing him seventeenth on the leading drivers listing.

New Zealand – total of 310 wins/21 trotters (108 at Addington); stake earnings of NZ$2.464m. He drove six Group One winners (Master Musician four, National Glory, Lyndon Robert; five of them at Addington) plus another three Group One equivalent wins prior to the Group Race categories being introduced in 1979/80 (Bolton Byrd – GN Derby/Auckland Cup; Lady’s Rule NZ Oaks)

Australia - total of 18 wins (A$663,249) including Victoria Cup (final and prelude), Hunter Cup, ID heats (Albion Park; Gloucester Park two), all with Master Musician

Commencing as a trainer in the 1977/8 season Robert branched out on his own shortly after leaving Jim Dalgety’s. Over the years his training establishments have been located at West Melton, Broadfield and latterly at Woodend Beach together with his satellite stable in Auckland utilising the Auckland TC’s Franklin Park complex at Pukekohe. Currently he operates a dual stable training regime being based at Pukekohe himself with son John running the Woodend Beach operation

Robert DunnIn his inaugural season as a public trainer (1977/78), he trained twenty winners, including Lady’s Rule win in the NZ Oaks and Silky Wave in the Leonard Memorial. Best season of training wins to date was 2020/1 (124 wins), one of five seasons to attain a century of wins. Currently sitting fourth on the all-time list behind the Purdon trio of Barry (2,606), Mark (2,452) and Roy (2,020) and well clear of Roy and Barry Purdon (1,463) and Cran Dalgety (1,334) who is sixth on the list.

A skilful trainer, Robert notched his fifteen hundredth training success during the 2019/2020 season with a stable trifecta in the PGG Wrightson All Aged Classic on Kaikoura Cup day -Heisenberg, Stars Tonight and Franco Niven). In the previous race he had trained Classie Brigade to win the Kaikoura Cup (win 1,499) while he completed a trifecta of wins in the following race won by another stable representative Jay Tee Tyron (win 1,501).

Robert Dunn’s training stats:

New Zealand - total of 1,813 (662 Addington) made up of 1,692 on his own, five with Paul Black (partnership 1983/4 season) and one hundred and sixteen with son John’s wife Jenna over the past two seasons for stake earnings of NZ$22.318m. Included in these 1,800+ training wins are four instances of five winners on a race day : a) Nelson TC, 24 October 1989 b) Nelson HRC 5 January 2014 c) Marlborough HRC 10 January 2014 d) Marlborough HRC 21 January 2018

Australia - total of 26 wins (A$922,574) including Bathurst Gold Crown, Cranbourne Cup, Victoria/Hunter Cups, ID heats (Albion Park, Gloucester Park two), all with Master Musician

In NZ, Robert has trained the winners of twenty nine Group One races, twelve of which have been at Addington – Sundees Son (11), Master Musician (5), Mainland Banner (5), Franco Nelson, Elios, National Glory, Lyndon Robert, Time To Fly, Yankee Dream, Need You Now, Highgrove incorporating feature races including NZ Cup (Mainland Banner), NZ Derby/Auckland/Easter Cup (Master Musician), Dominion Hcp/National Trot/Rowe Cup twice, ANZAC Cup three times (Sundees Son), Sires Stakes, NZ Oaks, Breeders Stakes, Taylor Mile, NZ Messenger, Jewels, NZ Trotting Championship, Northern Trotting Derby.

In Australia, his two group one training wins came with Master Musician in the Victoria and Hunter Cups.

Robert Dunn will forever be synonymous with the “Master”, Master Musician. Training him throughout his career and driving him in many of his victories, Master Musician’s record showed twenty one NZ victories, 1:54.0 (Robert driver on fifteen occasions, three Group Ones, ten wins at Addington, six Alexandra Park) with a further thirteen victories in Australia, 1:56.6 (drove in nine AUS wins; one win at Harold Park/Cranbourne; two at Albion Park/Gloucester Park; three at Bathurst; four at Moonee Valley). Master Musician was the winner of four ID heats (Addington, Albion Park, Gloucester Park two) and third in Perth Pacers Grand Final.

Master Musician was placed second in NZ Cup/FFA twice, Easter Cup, Victoria/Hunter Cups, Truer Memorial twice, Australian Pacing Championship; third in NZ/Auckland/Easter Cups, Hunter Cup, Miracle Mile (also fourth); two, three and five year and older Pacer of Year, millionaire $1.926m.

Latterly, the incredible trotting performances of millionaire Sundees Son($1.218m) has maintained Robert’s pre-eminent position amongst NZ trainers - thirty two wins, eleven Group Ones, nineteen wins at Addington, nine wins at Alexandra Park, T1:56.4 (2200m Alexandra Park), also placed second NZ Trotting Championship (twice), Lyell Creek Stakes with thirds in Northern Trotting Derby and Rowe Cup, numerous NZ records, twice Trotter of Year, Harness Horse of Year and Australasian Trotting Masters (Grand Circuit) Champion.

The pinnacle of success in NZ harness racing was achieved with Mainland Banner’s victory in the 2005 NZ Cup with Robert as trainer (driver Ricky May’s third NZ Cup winner).

It is impossible to list and name all of Robert’s major winners in his driving or training capacity, but mention must be made of these – Master Musician, Mainland Banner, Sundees Son, Highgrove, Bolton Byrd, Burlington Bertie, Lady’s Rule, National Glory, Lyndon Robert, Defoe, Alta Orlando, Henry Hubert, Classie Brigade, Time To Fly, Yankee Dream, Elios, Franco Nelson, No Doctor Needed, Valloria, Lestspendanitetogetha, Spellbound, Heisenberg, Pankys Pacer, Late Lustre …. plus many other notables.

N.B. : stats to 11 September

September 2022