By Duane Ranger
Robert Dunn’s long-time belief and faith in Robbie Burns came to fruition in the feature pace at Alexandra Park last Friday night.
Even when a six-figure sum was offered for Robbie Burns when he was a two-year-old Dunn told owner Ross Gordon, the Live Or Die gelding would make Cup Class one day.
Dunn also maintained the same belief through all of Robbie Burns’ sickness and injuries that have plagued his career.
“He’s always been a lovely little fella. He’s given me a good feel from day one and he can sustain a sprint for a very long time. That’s why I’ve always believed in him and I am so pleased Ross never sold him early on.
“The horse has been sick throughout his career and now he’s five he’s only starting to come right. There were times last season when he would strip 20kg a race.
“But he’s a new pacer this time in. He’s really starting to come right. He will stay up here and we will target the Auckland Cup with him on New Year’s Eve,” Dunn said.
Dunn believed the 5-year-old was still six months away from his best.
“Because he’s needed so much time I now believe his best season will come at six. I think he’s a definite Cup starter in 13 months. That’s how good I think he is,” Dunn said.
Robbie Burns returned emphatically from a three-and-a-half month spell with a gutsy neck win when a $2.30 favourite in the Te Awamutu Cup at Cambridge Raceway on September 22.
Then he finished a four-length eighth in the Kerry Hoggard Memorial Holmes D G Pace at Alexandra Park on October 14.
“It was the first time Tony (Herlihy MNZM) had driven him on race-day and ‘Robbie’ isn’t the type who will come back to you. I should have had a word with Tony and thought that run he put in might have been my fault.
“He just feels so much better this time in. He’s holding his weight now and I am really delighted about that. Between four and five he has put on 16kg,” said Dunn, who notched up his 13th victory of the season with the win.
As for Robbie Burns he’s now won eight of his 26 starts and placed seven times for $86,229 in stakes.
“You have to remember he finished third in this year’s Taylor Mile and he’s a much better horse six months on from that race. He seems to relax a lot better in his races now.
“He’s not too far behind some of the better horses in our stable like Franco Nelson and Say My Name – who we think is pretty special. That’s how highly I think of this fella,” Dunn said.
Dunn was especially pleased with the way Robbie Burns had adapted to standing starts. In fact he’s now won three of his five stands and placed in one other.
Robbie Burns (R92) was simply too classy for his $14,000 Tuakau Cossie Club Handicap for the 4yo and older R75-R106 rated pacers on Friday.
Starting from 25m behind in the seven-horse 2700m stand, Robbie Burns and driver John Dunn settled last early and were then in the one-one at the bell.
Dunn then asked him for a sprint at the 600m and then they loomed up outside the pace-maker, and eventual runner-up Arden’s Choice (Barry Purdon) on the turn.
At the line they head a length to spare, stopping the clock in 3:21.4 (mile rate 2:00 event) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 58 flat and 29.5.
Robbie Burns was the third favourite and paid $6.60. Hot favourite Hughie Green was one-and-three-quarter lengths behind Arden’s Choice in third.
“I’ll just potter around with him up here and find races with him until the Auckland Cup. I think he will reach his peak as a 6-year-old and will hopefully line up in the 2017 New Zealand Cup.
“I’ve always thought he was that good,” said Dunn.
(As seen on the Harness Racing New Zealand Website).