Dexter Dunn was hoping to enjoy a little success on the Grand Circuit this year, but the young stakes season has already exceeded his expectations. Dunn, who captured 10 consecutive premiership driving titles in New Zealand before moving to the U.S. last summer, has won Grand Circuit finals with three different horses and finished second in six other events.
Last weekend, the 29-year-old Dunn won the Fan Hanover Stakes for 3-year-old female pacers with Treacherous Reign for trainer Tony Alagna. In May, he won the Art Rooney Pace for 3-year-old male pacers with Bettor’s Wish for trainer Chris Ryder and the Confederation Cup for 4-year-old male pacers with Done Well for Ron Burke.
His runner-up finishes include the North America Cup with Bettor’s Wish, the Blue Chip Matchmaker with Bettor Joy N, the Dexter Cup with HL Revadon, and Maxie Lee Invitational with Pinkman.
“It’s well above what I expected coming over here,” Dunn said. “It’s a dream come true, really. I can’t say how much I appreciate all the help I’ve received that’s gotten me to the stage I’m at now.
“When I first came over here, Chris and Nifty Norman and a lot of other trainers helped me out a lot. They put me up when they could have chosen much more established drivers over here. (Driver) Andy McCarthy has helped me a lot. He’s gotten me in with some trainers and when he went home for the winter, I did a little bit of work for his clients.
“I’m lucky, really lucky.”
Dunn ranks No. 3 in earnings, with $3.51 million, among all drivers in North America. He is second in the driver standings at The Meadowlands and third at Harrah’s Philadelphia. On Saturday, he will have six drives in Grand Circuit eliminations at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, including with Treacherous Reign in the third of three elims for the James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old filly pacers.
“She’s a big strong filly and she’s got a great attitude,” Dunn said about Treacherous Reign, who is unbeaten in four starts this season. “She wants to race.”
Treacherous Reign won the Fan Hanover by a nose over Warrawee Ubeaut, who was last year’s Dan Patch Award winner for 2-year-old filly pacers and also unbeaten this season heading into the race.
“I was confident, but Warrawee Ubeaut had been so good, and she proved not only this year but last year that she’s an outstanding filly,” Dunn said. “As much confidence as I had, there was a bit of an unknown.
“It was a battle in the stretch. I stayed (behind Warrawee Ubeaut) for a little bit to try to keep the momentum going at the top of the stretch and come out a little later. My filly probably just wore her down more than anything. It was a tough performance and she really dug in, my girl. It was great.”
Treacherous Reign is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line in her elimination. Warrawee Ubeaut is the 5-2 favorite. The top-three finishers in each of the three Lynch elims return for the $300,000 final on June 29.
Dunn also has drives in the two remaining Lynch divisions, with Philly Hanover in the first and Odds On St Lucie in the second. Philly Hanover, who has won four of five races this year, is the 2-1 favorite in her elim while Odds On St Lucie, who won her only start of the season, is the 5-2 second choice behind 2-1 Zero Tolerance.
Philly Hanover, trained by Ron Coyne Jr., suffered her only setback to Warrawee Ubeaut.
“She’s really nice too,” Dunn said. “I think she’s still untapped. She’s just winding up. There are some nice fillies out there.”
Dunn’s remaining drives in Grand Circuit eliminations Saturday are Odds On Boca Raton in the first of three elims for the Max C. Hempt Memorial (3-year-old male pacers), Rockin Ron in the first of two elims for the Ben Franklin (open pace) and Goes Down Smooth in the second of two elims for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial (3-year-old male trotters).
“I sort of had in my mind that if I picked up one stakes horse, maybe a nice 3-year-old, I would be happy,” Dunn said, reflecting on his outlook during the winter. “Honestly, that’s what I thought. It’s just picked up. I’ve been lucky.”--By Ken Weingartner/USTA