Another harness fairytale opened a new chapter on Sunday when We Walk By Faith added the Ace of Spades to his Sires Stakes triumph last month mean he has won nearly $120,000 for strike-rate kings among “one sale horse a year” owners,Dennis and Mark Dunford -and the first one was only in October!

But there had been many twists and turns even before then for the horse named by a Monsignor of the Catholic church.He also happens to own a share in Sooner the Bettor who ran third in the Derby later in the day in which the Dunford co-owned Don’t Stop Dreaming ran second.

Don’t Stop Dreaming won the Ace of Spades last year.

Though his antecedents go back through Toni Croon,National Bloodstock and Dudley Moore’s Poplar Stud, We Walk by Faith  was bred in Australia and there but for fortune-good and bad-he would have remained.

Fate had other plans.

Nathan, then based in Victoria purchased the Bettor’s Delight-Wicked Nights colt for an Australian owner but the deal fell through. He and Mark decided to call on the Dunfords as possible replacement.

“We had only had horses Mark bought at the yearling sales and we did a bit of thinking before deciding to go ahead “ Dennis said on Sunday.

First up was a name.

“We have had Faith in the name of most of our horses.  David Tonks (a son of iconic racecaller of earlier eras,Syd Tonks,and  who prefers not to  use his senior religious title of Monsignor in everyday life) has been a friend of mine for years and he pointed to a hymn which begins with We Walk By Faith as a possibility. It had nice words and I  thought it just sounded right”  

For a time though it looked like the name could be the best part of it.  

“He did a few things wrong apparently and didn’t shape up that well early on.I think the stable verdict was that they would work him up and then  a sale might be the best outcome.

Then  the word was he was improving and and discussing it with Mark later he said he was now shaping as much more than a  sale horse given his rate of improvement.From there the  news got better and better.”

By the time  We Walk By Faith made his debut with Devon Van Til in the cart at Oamaru at odds on the news had spread and it hasn’t stopped growing since.

He got a nice trip and took the short cuts yesterday but for one of his experience it heralded even better things. A trip back to his native land could be in the offing.

“Mark has said that he is considering aiming him at some races over there because being Australian bred qualifies him for some series. We leave it up to Mark and Nathan as we always have.”

No wonder.Some years ago they masterminded the great Miracle Mile win by Have Faith in Me, one of the early “Faith” name carriers.

Dennis went close to a great double on Sunday give the effort by Don’t Stop Dreaming in the Derby. He races the star three year old with his son and the estate of Ian Dobson. Ironically he was also the result of an SOS from Mark, who  had sorted the horse for the Dunfords, realised the sale ring price was going to be beyond the

Dunford budget.He stitched up a partnership with Ian Dobson in very short order otherwise those owners would not have got  the colt. 

““He went a great race. It didn’t quite go his way but it was  a grand effort “

Mark had to make an earlier move from midfield than he would have liked in the Derby because Merlin was dominating an at times moderate  pace up front without challenge and to make a run,sit parked and fight so hard was probably an equal performance to that of the winner.

Mark finished the day on his own account as a winning owner  when Oscar Bonavena outclassed his opponents in the NZ Trotting Free for All after an icecool sit on the “threepegs” possie to gain a gap late and crunch his rivals. The “second coming” of Oscar, raced in partnership with Chris Ryder,has been a feature of spring racing.

That added up to a day that had its share of frustrations for the stable but still won close to a quarter of a million dollars in stakes.

Not a bad day’s work.

Just ask Dennis Dunford.



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