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Harness Highlights: A Job Well 'Dunn' By Emerging Star

by Frank Carulli

December 31, 2019

Dexter Dunn proved to North America harness racing fans in 2019 what those in New Zealand had know for a long time.

Dunn, 29, can drive with the best of them. He won 10 consecutive premiership titles in his native country and was the youngest to reach 2,000 wins. He also won the World Driving Championship in 2015.

In his first full season in the North America, Dunn ranked eighth in wins (460) and third in earnings ($12 million). He competed primarily at Harrah’s Philadelphia and the Meadowlands, won seven races on the November 21 card at Dover Downs and handled two Breeders Crown champions at Woodbine-Mohawk Park – Manchego in the $500,000 Mare Trot and Amigo Volo in the $600,000 2-Year-Old Colt Pace.

“It’s well above what I expected coming over here,” Dunn told Ken Weingartner of the U.S. Trotting Association. “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.”

Dunn’s breakthrough into the Top 10 is remarkable considering there has been little change among the sport’s elite during a five-year sample run.

Aaron Merriman won his fifth consecutive dash title in dramatic fashion. He won seven races Monday – three at the Meadows and four at Northfield Park – to become the first driver ever with 1,000 or more wins three years in a row.

Tim Tetrick finished second with 758 wins and tops with $15.6 million in earnings, edging Yannick Gingras ($13.4 million), who had won three straight earnings titles from 2015-17 and is the only driver other than Gingras to lead in that category this decade. Tetrick ranks third all-time in earnings ($217 million) and was elected into the Hall of Fame.

George Napolitano Jr. and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. finished in the top four in wins for the fifth year in a row, while Jason Bartlett cracked the Top 5 in wins and earnings during that same span.

Hall of Famer David Miller ranks second all-time with $242 million in earnings after another Top 5 showing.

Brett Miller, Trace Tetrick, George Brennan and Chris Page rounded out the Top 10 in wins. Brennan won four races on the final night of the Yonkers Raceway season to share year-end honors with Bartlett. Page has ranked in the Top 10 for five years running.

Brian Sears, Andrew McCarthy and Matt Kakaley finished 8-9-10 in earnings. Kakaley finished in the top 10 for the fourth year in a row. McCarthy won four Breeders Crown races to put his name on the leaderboard.

Wally Hennessey won the 10,000th race of his Hall of Fame career at age 62 and led all North America drivers with a .458 UDRS rating for back-to-back titles in that category.