School teacher vital cog in Dunn's wheel

Harness racing fans are unlikely to picture Christchurch Boys' High School as the site for a momentous moment in the sport's history.

Addington's home straight seems a much more appropriate place for memorable trotting moments than the halls of a secondary school.

But those long corridors are a starting point for a combination that drives one of New Zealand harness racing's most successful phenomena.

There, in the mid-2000s, history, classics and social studies teacher Mike Drury and teenage student Dexter Dunn would bump into each other and talk harness racing.

''There were a few kids around at that time who had an interest in racing,'' Drury said.

''We had Dexter here, Tim Williams, who was in the same year, and Tom Bagrie was another one around that time.

''Initially, it was just passing in the corridors.

''At the time, his father was training Mainland Banner, so it was common thread of conversation.''

Dunn had his sights set on a harness racing career at the time, which he started with a short stint in Victoria before returning home to Canterbury to work for Cran Dalgety.

While the Dalgety and Dunn combination is as famous as any, the Dunn and Drury combination is not.

Yet both Dalgety and Drury have been instrumental in helping Dunn propel himself to the record-setting, 2000 race-winning phenomenon he is today.

But being out of the spotlight is something that sits comfortably with Drury.

''That's fine. At the end of the day it's all about him, and so long as I am doing my little bit in his big cog of success, that's brilliant.''

Drury began helping book Dunn's drives as the reinsman's career built momentum during his first full season driving in New Zealand in 2008.

Since then, Dunn has won nine consecutive national driving premierships with Drury by his side all the way.

That involves Drury trawling through race fields and talking to trainers to book drives for Dunn across New Zealand and Australia.

''It was really that first season that we started to kick into gear,'' Drury said.

''It takes that time pressure off Dexter to be on the phone chasing drives.

''And there are those times when he is away and fields are coming out.''

Juggling his agent's role and a full-time teaching job means harness racing takes up most spare moments Drury gets.

''Most of the time the fields come out around early evening, which is not too bad.

''Knowing the horses and knowing the trainers helps and Dexter has a lot of repeat drives. It's a case of filling in the gaps, really.''

Around four years ago, Drury also took on the role of media manager for Dexter's father, Robert's, stable.

Among his responsibilities is keeping the stable's website and social media pages updated.

''It is a pretty cool little hobby to have on the side.''

Drury will get some respite over the next week as Dunn takes time away from racing.

Dunn is heading to Aspen to play for the West Melton Warhogs in the annual Aspen Ruggerfest rugby tournament.

The four-day competition has cult status in rugby circles and attracts teams from all over the world.

Dunn's absence means Graeme Anderson's open-class pacers Titan Banner and New Year's Jay have new drivers for the New Brighton Cup at Addington on Saturday.

Matthew Williamson has picked up the drive on New Years Jay from Jonny Cox, who switches from the mare to Titan Banner.

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