Day At The Track

Dunn to establish himself in North America

11:24 AM 24 May 2018 NZST
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Dexter Dunn,Harness racing
Dexter Dunn

Champion harness driver Dexter Dunn is set to try to establish himself in North America again. And he hasn't ruled out a permanent move there should his winter campaign prove an enormous success.

Dunn has won the last 10 national drivers' premierships but will relinquish his title to good friend Blair Orange this season, with the latter 28 clear on the standings after bringing up win 200 for the season at Manawatu on Tuesday.

Orange's numbers this season have been so staggering he now has Dunn's national record 229 wins for a season in his sights and barring injury or suspension should probably set a new mark.

But Dunn says the end of his premiership domination isn't why he is heading to New York in a few weeks.

"I spent a few months up there driving a few years ago and really enjoyed the experience and always wanted to come back," says Dunn.

"But the right opportunity never really presented itself until now."

That finally did come when Kiwi trainer Chris Ryder, who is now based in North America, approached Dunn about driving in the US with his support.

"Chris has been a long-time family friend and suggested the time was right and he would support me and try and help me get outside drives.

"There has been a bit of visa paperwork to get through and I still have to go for a final interview at the US consulate in Auckland in a few weeks. But if and when the paperwork is finalised, hopefully I can get up there sooner rather than later.

"Their [US] really good horses, the ones that will be racing in the better races later in the summer, are all starting to come out in the qualifiers at the moment so I'd love to be able to get some serious drives and the sooner I am there the more likely that is to happen."

Dunn expects to be away from New Zealand from around mid-June until maybe just before the New Zealand Cup carnival in November, which would mean could drive at the rich Breeders Crown on October 27. But if the trip turned out to be an enormous success he could be tempted to stay.

"I intend being back for the Cup carnival and driving like normal here over the summer.

"But you never know what can happen. Anything is possible, including basing myself up there fulltime.

"But I don't expect that to happen on this trip."

After 10 remarkable years during which Dunn has emerged from obscurity to win 10 premierships and win 2180 races in New Zealand alone, the superstar of the sulky admits the time for a new challenge has come.

"I still love the big carnivals, our summer racing and some of the special days we have, like Kaikoura for example.

"But you do have the odd time when driving so much gets stale, especially when you have been travelling as much as I have for the last five years.

"It usually only lasts a weekend and you are back fine the next week, but it does happen.

"So this will be a good freshen up for me, a new challenge and a chance to learn some new things."

Although Dunn has already seen his premiership run ended by Orange this season, any longer-term North American ambitions from him would put Orange in the perfect position to start his own premiership domination.

The pair are so far in front of their rivals in numbers of drives and races won in the last couple of years it would be hard to envisage a new serious premiership contender emerging.

So if Dunn tastes success during his upcoming US trip and decides to spend more winters there in the years to come, the national premiership would appear to be Orange's to own.


Michael Guerin

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