ROBERT DUNN BRINGS UP WINS NO. 1500 & 1501
West Melton trainer Cran Dalgety, and father Jim, are delighted to acknowledge the achievement of long-time family friend, Robert Dunn’s 1500th and 1501st training wins at Kaikoura on Monday.
The Dalgety-Dunn harness racing families have forged a successful association over the last 50 years.
Robert, as a 21-year-old, first hit the jackpot as a stable employee and young driver of Jim Dalgety’s 1976 Great Northern Derby winner, and subsequent Auckland Cup winner later that year at four of the injury-plagued, Bolton Byrd.
Jim, busy with yearling sales commitments, entrusted Robert to take Bolton Byrd north and despite tie-up issues in the lead-up, won the Northern Derby from Stanley Rio.
Bolton Byrd, voted the 1976 NZ 3YO Pacer of the Year, subsequently defeated Forto Prontezza in the Auckland Cup, but had to bow to that season’s NZ Cup winner Stanley Rio for top rating overall during their 4YO racing.
On-going muscle problems led to Bolton Byrd being retired after only five 5YO starts, racing only 42 times for 10 wins (also including a Metropolitan 3YO Championship & Queen’s Birthday Stakes) and 13 placings.
Robert “R J” Dunn launched his training career with 20 wins in the 1977-78 season, winning the NZ Oaks with Lady’s Rule.
Smart young horses like Lyndon Robert, National Glory, followed in the the red, white and black silks in the 1980s, when a young Cran Dalgety learned the early side of the training ropes working for Robert.
Cran then furthered his experience heading north to work for Roy and Barry Purdon, who had also trained several of JIm Dalgety’s best horses of the 1980s and 1990s, including Melton Monarch.
The Dalgety-Dunn association blossomed when Cran offered Robert’s son Dexter the perfect opportunity to become NZ’s champion junior and senior driver in a whirlwind run from 2009-2018.
Dexter, who ventured briefly to Victoria with Andy Gath to start his driving career (too young then to begin his junior driving in NZ), accepted the position and returned to fill a role vacated by Cran’s earlier top junior driver, Mark Jones.
Robert’s training career always shone, finding champion Master Musician (1:54.1, 34 wins & $1.9 million), the 1992 Auckland Cup winner who contested a record-equalling seven consecutive NZ Cups, with his closest efforts two seconds and a third.
Some of Master Musician’s other top NZ wins included the 1990 NZ 2YO Championship, NZ Metro Triple Crown 3YO winner of the Brandon 3YO Championship, NZ Derby & Flying Stakes, 1996 Easter Cup, and 1992-93 Kaikoura Cups.
In Australia, Master Musician won the 1993 Victoria and Hunter Cups, and raced in three Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Finals, his best being a third in Perth in 1996.
Robert Dunn also developed other top pacers, Panky’s Pacer, and 2005 New Zealand Cup-winning mare, Mainland Banner, who created history herself by becoming the first 4YO mare to win the cup in the hands of Ricky May.
Mainland Banner, sold by former NZ owner Ian Dobson, to Australian interests in 2010 after leaving only one foal by natural means, is unable to carry foals because of a hernia.
However, the top Christian Cullen mare has bred on well on an embryo transplant programme, with her first seven foals, all sub 1:59 winners, including Peruvian Banner (1:52.4, US); Stunin Banner (1;56.2, Aust); Return To Sender (1:51.6, US, winner of his last two as 9YO in the US); Rocker Band (1:51.8, Aust); Glenferrie Classic (:1:55.9, Aust), Bustling Barney (1:58.4, Aust), and Island Banner (1:53.2, Aust).
Mainland Banner also numbered the NZ Oaks, NZ Breeders’ Stakes, Taylor Mile and NZ Messenger 4YO Championship, among her 17 wins for $684, 579, also finished second in the 2006 Auckland Cup to Mi Muchacho.
Robert’s brother Geoff has also made his mark in the game, having trained topliners, Tiger Tara (subsequently an Inter Dominion champ) and former champion filly, Venus Serena.
During Dexter’s time at Kentuckiana Lodge, Dexter’s brother John also established himself as one of NZ’s top drivers, while working for Robert. He has driven over 1100 winners , including many for Cran, and finished second with Mighty Flying Mac to Five Card Draw in the 2012 Group One Harness Jewels 2YO Emerald at Cambridge.
Last season, Robert branched out with a satellite training stable at Pukekohe, with John taking on the sharing of responsibilities for the Woodend Beach stable.
The 1500-win achievement with his team earning NZ winnings alone of nearly $17 million, includes five wins when briefly in partnership with former top junior driver, Paul Black, in 1984.
Robert has yet to win the NZ trainers premiership, but the stable are again second to the Allstars comination of Purdon and Rasmussen, a position they have consistently held since 2014.
With John’s assistance, Robert prepared 105 winners last term, and have their team peaking nicely for the next week’s NZ Cup meeting, with 23 wins this term, four behind premiership leaders, Mark and Natalie Rasmussen.
He brought up the 1500 and 1501st wins in style with a red-letter Kaikoura Cup day, winning the day’s $46,000 feature with Classie Brigade, training the trifecta (Heisenberg, Stars Tonight and Franco Niven) in the $50,000 PGG NZ Yearling Sales Series Aged Classic, and also winning the last with Jay Tee Tyron.
The Cran Dalgety-Nathan Purdon stable are currently third on this season’s premiership with 21 wins.