Robert Dunn, pictured below, 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.”