There are few people who have done more recently to promote and support Western Cape racing over the past two decades than loyal racing enthusiast Rodney Dunn.
Rodney has been involved in a number of activities pertaining to Cape racing – from establishing the work riders series to promoting J&B Met day, Rodney has a number of strings to his bow. He was elected as a steward in 1995 and remained a steward until 2012 and also served as a Gold Circle Main Board Director for more than 10 years.
Interested in horse-racing from an early age, he would regular spend all his pocket money (then just 5 schillings) on buying rides from a local livery stable. Living close to Kenilworth racecourse, which at the time was surrounded by a number of trainers (including Scotty Schuleman), Rodney was soon persuading local trainer, Charlie Late, to let him ride work.
Late duly gave the youngster some work, but only the easier rides and some of the fillies. Rodney would also assist the grooms when taking horses to the track, and he continued to ride work for many years.
In fact, at times when Rodney was working at the yard, during his school holidays, he would get so enthusiastic he would end up saddling the whole of the first lot!
Fortunately, his future wife Joy was also an enthusiastic equestrian. When they were first married, Rodney realised he would not be able to buy a horse for a while, citing stability as a priority.
When he did eventually buy his first horse, a Royal Prerogative filly at the 1993 National Yearling Sale, Rodney struck gold at the first attempt. Royal Pavilion, as the filly was later named, went on to become the dam of Gr1 Queen’s Plate hero and sire Divine Force!
Other successful horses bought and raced by the Dunns include Bold Approach (winner of the UCT Chancellor Stakes), Ocean Tug, Badger’s Delight, Red Rake, Tassie Belle and My Ideal. One of Rodney’s favourites was the gallant Great Heart, who raced soundly and successful until the advanced age of nine, and is currently a showjumper.
Rodney, who admits to a passionate love for the thoroughbred, has raced with various trainers over the years, including the Kannemeyers, Basil Marcus and Justin Snaith. He will also send some of his less successful horses to PE where they race for Jacques Strydom.
Silver Chord, a mare Rodney owns in partnership with Marsh Shirtliff, is a beautifully bred Silvano mare, whom her owners plan sending to the world class racehorse, Twice Over, this season. She is already the dam of the useful Snaith trained Tour de Var, a horse who is being prepared for the Cape Summer Season by his record breaking trainer.
Having raced in places as varied as Britain, Ireland and Thailand, Rodney is well qualified to comment on the quality of horse racing in the Western Cape. He describes Kenilworth as not only his favourite track – but one of the best in the world!
Following the start of the work riders series, back in 1976, Rodney and John Freeman were instrumental in turning the series into the great success it is now, they started to run these races three times a year and today there is one work riders race every six weeks running as a series.
He would dearly love to see the work riders take part in an inter provincial competition, where Cape riders would be sponsored and flown up to Johannesburg to compete with some of their counterparts in a series with a similar format to that of an international jockeys competition.
Sadly the traditional Met cocktail party has fallen away, due to the big race being held in such close proximity to the Cape yearling sales, with many studs choosing to entertain their clients at private functions.
An increasing number of international visitors have flocked to Kenilworth, especially during the Cape Summer Season. Rodney remembers traveling with a delegation to Newmarket, when the Racing South Africa sponsored trip promoted a number of local trainers and breeders to foreign owners and press.
Rodney, who is currently continuing to work on various galleries at Kenilworth, describes the sight of the mighty Horse Chestnut destroying his rivals in two Cape features as one of his best racing memories. His list of achievements in Cape racing is a long one, and includes acting as a Steward for over 20 years as well as serving on the graded races committee.
As for advice for a first time owner, Rodney, who was honoured as the Life Vice President of Kenilworth in 2012, firmly believes that he/she should enter the sport prepared to treat it as entertainment, and not to commit to anything which could allow for financial distress.
Enjoying the camaraderie and generosity of the racing community, Rodney Dunn has already given plenty of expertise and enthusiasm to the Cape racing fraternity, while enjoying plenty of success himself.