Full steam ahead for top trainer
MATTHEW Dunn normally has a naval officer's cap sitting on his head - appropriate headwear considering he runs his Murwillumbah thoroughbred racing stables as taut as a battleship.
A power-laden battleship that is landing successful salvos as the trainer battles to turn his "ship" into the most powerful in the fleet.
Admiral Dunn, his two executive officers, his partner Keira Calland and Ben Rodgers and a well-drilled crew of stable hands and track work riders, are succeeding at full-steam ahead.
Dunn, formerly an assistant trainer with one of the nation's leading mentors, Gerald Ryan, cut loose from the apron strings last June and has hit the ground running.
Since the start of the new racing season on August 1, the Dunn stable has led in 29 winners and numbers in the stable have grown from around 30 to a "house full" 51 gallopers.
Mr Dunn's winning strike rate - the best in the nation at 23.6% - ensures his phone is ringing hot throughout the week as owners down the eastern seaboard take note of his amazing win ratio to runners and enquire about sending him a horse.
"Success breeds on success and normally a day doesn't go by without someone contacting me to enquire about sending us a horse," Mr Dunn said.
"We've been very lucky with our achievements this year - no, take that back.
"Each and every one of us has worked bloody hard to achieve what we have done.
"I am blessed to have such a wonderful group of people working for the stable. The stable hands and track work riders - so very important in a racing stable - are all first rate professionals and each of them has made a major contribution to our success.
"I'm also in the happy position of dealing with some of the most astute and patient owners it has been my pleasure to work with."
Mr Dunn says he is also fortunate to be training at Murwillumbah - his stables are just across the road from the racecourse which makes life a lot simpler.
"The training facilities are excellent as well. Barry Sharman, who as well as handling the saddling on track mornings for me, wears another hat as the racecourse curator," Mr Dunn said.
"Barry does a tremendous job to keep the course proper and training tracks in tip-top order and it is his skills and that of his staff which have also made a major contribution to the stable's success."
Admiral Dunn is free in his praise of his crew but the admiration is mirrored by his staff.
"We all just love working here with Matt, Keira and Ben," said Peter Murphy.
"Matt certainly knows what it takes to gets the best out of a racehorse and he has been smart enough to gather around a group of people who have the expertise to enjoy taking the ride with him."