Dunn On Top Of The World

Published: November 29, 2020 10:24 am EST

“It doesn’t really sink in to be honest ... I just dreamed of driving over here from when I was a young kid, so it’s pretty crazy. It’s been a crazy year, but like I said I drove [for] some great trainers and drove some great horses.”

After establishing himself as the leading driver in his native New Zealand, Dexter Dunn hasn't taken long at all to become one of the premier reinsmen on North American soil since crossing the Pacific and setting up shop in New Jersey in August 2018. And if one would need any evidence of the youthful Kiwi's place in the top tier of harness racing, they needn't look any further than his dominance in the season-ending stakes events in his new continent.

In October, Dunn won four Breeders Crowns at Harrah's Hoosier Park. He followed that success up with wins in the Matron Stakes on Nov. 12 at Dover Downs aboard three-year-old sensations Amigo Volo and Party Girl Hill, and just last weekend at The Meadowlands, he captured three of the four TVG Series finals as well as the Governor's Cup for two-year-old pacing colts. In short, Dunn has earned his place among the titans many times over. This season to date, he has won 358 races and amassed nearly $10.8 million in purses earned — not far off his 2019 marks of 460 wins and $12.6 million — and all the more impressive considering the complete shutdown of North American harness racing in the spring.

While Dunn is primed to carry on his driving career for years and decades to come, a number of the horses that propelled him into the limelight are moving on from the racetrack — quite notably champion pacer Bettors Wish and distaff trotter Manchego, both of whom Dunn drove to victory in their respective TVG events on Nov. 21.

"[Bettors Wish] was so good to me," Dunn told Michael Guerin on Wednesday's (Nov. 25) episode of The Box Seat. In fact, Dunn drove the Chris Ryder trainee to 19 of his 24 wins, including the TVG final and his 1:47.3 mark in the Sam McKee Memorial on Aug. 8.

"There's so much character about him and he did such a great job on the racetrack. A horse like him I got attached to; it was a massive thrill for him to go out a winner in his last career start. I think he deserved to. He put in some great miles over the last two years here. I'm sad to see him go, but also looking forward to the offspring."

Despite driving primarily pacers in his native New Zealand, Dunn found success with a few notable trotters since landing in North America — among them Manchego, whose 1:49 win in the 2019 Allerage Farms Trot at The Red Mile made her the fastest trotting mare in history.

"I think the trotters on the whole over here are better, and there’s a lot more of them; the breed’s pretty enhanced and the trotters over here are pretty good," Dunn said. "Driving a horse like Manchego, I definitely haven’t a trotter like her before back in New Zealand, though I’ve driven some nice ones. She was just amazing, she was like driving a pacer really. Her speed, her gait was amazing. Obviously she had a great career from right when she was a two-year-old through to this year. It was definitely a pleasure sitting behind a great trotter like that."

Needless to say, Dunn's success on the racetrack has made moving halfway across the world significantly easier — but being unable to spend time with his young daughter, Mila, is a definite challenge.

"It definitely is hard," Dunn related. "I miss her, I miss her a lot. Obviously [there’s] a lot of FaceTime every day with her. I’m hoping once things settle down and come back a little bit to normal [that] we can work something out, because I’d like to spend more time with her and [I’m] hoping that happens soon."

That being said, Dunn plans to remain in North America, where he has amply proven that the sky and the sky alone has been his limit.

"I have no plans on coming home to race horses. I’d like to keep my career going over here. It’s a great country, it’s a great place to race horses, and it’s been a new chapter in my life but it’s been an enjoyable one and one I want to keep going."

To view the entire interview, click below.



If I could ask Mr. Dunn 2 questions, they would be: 1) did you ever drive the great NZ horse Lazarus? and 2) who was the favorite horse that you ever drove? I'd also like to ask that question to Tim Tetrick, Yannick Gingras, David Miller, and John Campbell.

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