Racing: Dexter Dunn takes over as trainer

By Michael Guerin

A strong showing at Bunbury tonight will help Franco Nelson qualify for the Inter Dom grand final. Photo / Peter Meecham
A strong showing at Bunbury tonight will help Franco Nelson qualify for the Inter Dom grand final. Photo / Peter Meecham

Dexter Dunn's storied career enters a unofficial new phase under the most extreme of circumstances tonight.

The champion driver will steer Franco Nelson in an Inter Dominion heat he thinks he can win at Bunbury in West Australia and, even though that may seem a little out of the way, for a driver who has competed all over the world that in itself is hardly strange.

What is different about the next two weeks of Dunn's career is that he will also be training Franco Nelson during his Inter Dominion bid.

Franco Nelson's training is already an oddity in that he is officially trained by Dunn's father Robert, but he actually runs the Auckland arm of the stable while another son John trains most of the team in Canterbury.

So, in reality, John trains Franco Nelson most of the year, but not for the next two weeks as he has commitments at home and believed Dexter was the best person to drive the stallion in West Australia.

So rather than having two of the family travel with one horse, driver Dexter becomes caretaker trainer Dexter.

"John has had Aimee Edmonds over here looking after Nelson until Sunday but now she has gone home I am in charge," says Dexter.

"I am hoping it is business as usual because he seems pretty straightforward.

"And obviously in a series like this they don't take much work between races."

Dunn's first and perhaps only major training task of the week will be trying to get Franco Nelson to accept wearing a boring pole in training. The former New Zealand Cup runner-up hung badly when third in his opening night heat at Gloucester Park on Friday and Dunn is hoping a pole will make him travel straighter.

"He raced really well but it is hard to make ground when they hang like that," says Dexter.

"I think he will be better for this race because Bunbury is a slightly bigger track and from his draw he will be going forward at the start.

"I don't see why he can't win it."

The heat also features the only other Kiwi in the series in Smolda and, thankfully for New Zealand harness fans, is tonight's first heat, so runs at a bearable 11.20pm (NZ time), rather than after midnight as all the opening night heats did.

The front line for the 2100m mobile looks very quick and Smolda's trainer-driver Mark Purdon is hoping the speed is on all the way so the leaders come back to him late.

"I as happy with his run on the first night, and while he handled Gloucester Park well, I think Bunbury might suit him better," said Purdon.

Smolda is also suited by drawing two on the second line for the seven- (front line) and three-field configuration, as opposed to being drawn the outside of the front line at barrier nine last Friday.

The opening heat looks the most interesting of the night, with first night boomer Run Oneover drawn well.

The second heat looks straightforward with series favourite Hectorjayjay drawn barrier two and set to lead and win, which could see him shorten into $2.50 to win the A$1.1 million final.

His stablemate Lennytheshark is his only challenger at the head of the market and faces a tricky draw at one on the second line in the last heat but the field lacks depth.

The final round of heats return to Gloucester Park on Friday, when the Mark Purdon-trained 4-year-old Mr Mojito will be looking for a change of luck in a support race.

He was heavily-backed on his Australian debut last Friday but had his tyre flattened by a rival early and was all but pulled out of the race.

"He took no harm from that so will still tackle good 4-year-old races in the next two weeks," says Purdon.

New string to bow

Dexter Dunn will hope to launch his training career with a winner from his first starter.

He will pilot Franco Nelson in the first heat of the Inter Dominions at Bunbury tonight.

He will clash with fellow Cantabrian Smolda in the 2100m mobile race.

- NZ Herald

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