Trust reaping rewards for Dunn and Jenkinson

7 min read
Trainer Matthew Dunn has placed his faith in Bloodstock Manager Neil Jenkinson for over 15 years. We spoke to Neil about their relationship and the success the two have achieved.

Trust is the key aspect of any successful relationship between a trainer and his bloodstock manager. Matthew Dunn has been placing his trust in Neil Jenkinson for well over 15 years and given the success the Murwillumbah trainer has had in recent times, it’s confidence well found.

Among his many achievements for Dunn, Jenkinson is the man who plucked star galloper Care To Think (So You Think {NZ}) out of the Gold Coast National Yearling Sale for just $16,000 in 2015.

Care To Think, the winner of six races, including last year's Magic Millions Cup, and over $870,000 in prize-money, makes his much anticipated return to the track in Saturday's G3 George Moore S. at Doomben.

Also resuming will be two of Dunn's very promising 3-year-olds, The Fire Trap (Sizzling) in the Winning Rupert Plate and the filly Vernazza (Written Tycoon) in the Listed Mode S. Both of those horses were also selected by Jenkinson for Dunn.

Speaking to TDN AusNZ, Jenkinson said that the trust between the two men has been built from a time when Dunn was first asked to move to Sydney to be Gerald Ryan's foreman.

"I had got to know him quite well and out of the blue he rang me one day to tell me that Gerald, who he'd got to know well here on the Coast, wanted someone to run his stable in Sydney," he said.

"I said to him, I hope you are already in Sydney, because if you aren’t already there, you are an idiot." - Neil Jenkinson, Bloodstock Agent

"I said to him, I hope you are already in Sydney, because if you aren’t already there, you are an idiot."

"I've known him since those days. When he decided to come back here with his family, we picked it up from there."

Matthew Dunn with his children

Leap of faith

In 2011, not long after returning, and with Dunn preparing mostly second-hand horses from Ryan's Sydney operation, the emerging trainer faced another decision. Again he turned to Jenkinson for advice.

"We had a long conversation at the time about whether he wanted to have a crack at having a big stable and being a proper stable. It progressed from there. Matthew left Gerald and took a licence out in his own name," Jenkinson said.

"If you are going to be a trainer, then you have to get new stock and young horses is the way to get good horses." - Neil Jenkinson

Neil Jenkinson

"If you are going to be a trainer, then you have to get new stock and young horses is the way to get good horses. So he moved from training all the second-hand horses, to buying a few yearlings himself and it’s gone from there."

Going from under Ryan's umbrella to out on his own, Dunn needed good people around him. He clearly trusted Jenkinson.

A steal of a deal

The relationship has been fruitful and while Madotti (Falvelon) was an early success story (an $80,000 yearling who won over $1 million), Care To Think is the one that stands out.

Jenkinson says there were a few reasons for the bargain basement price. He was from So You Think's first crop and had come without x-rays.

So You Think

"He was a very correct horse. He had a good bit of scope about him and a lovely action, he was just a really lovely walking horse. A lot of the things, I like to see in a horse. Great width at the hocks, a really athletic and nice horse," he said.

"He was a very correct horse. He had a good bit of scope about him and a lovely action." - Neil Jenkinson on Care To Think as a yearling

"Every time he came out of the box, he stood with his feet right under him, he was just a lovely balanced horse."

"I rang Matthew the day before he went through and gave him a list of the horses I liked and what I intended to do."

"The first time Matthew had laid eyes on him was after I had bought him. Matthew arrived half an hour later and went down and had a look at him and was happy with him, thank goodness."

Jenkinson admitted that he probably would have gone as high as $40,000 for the colt, even without the x-rays, but walked away with what would prove a steal at $16,000.

Selling the dream

It wasn't straightforward from there as they struggled to find people to go in the horse, as well as a Helmet colt they had bought at the Melbourne Premier Sale.

They found a reluctance to go into the progeny of first-season sires among their usual owner base and it wasn't until they combined the two as an offer that they full sold them.

"The other horse ended up being a horse called Life Saver (a winner of three from 12), who has got untold ability, but he's had a few operations. He's a good horse but he's had a few knocks and issues along the way," Jenkinson said.

Jenkinson said he can’t wait for Care To Think to get back to the track on Saturday.

Life Saver as a yearling: Jenkinson believes he has untold ability but he has had a few issues along the way

Fire ready for summer

Nor can he wait to see how The Fire Trap has developed, having beaten subsequent G3 Up and Coming S. winner Master Ash (Sebring) at his most recent start at Rosehill in July.

He first laid eyes on The Fire Trap at Lyndhurst Stud while on a Magic Millions stud tour ahead of the QTIS sale.

"That horse, he walked out at Lyndhurst from the barn and took four steps and I was going to buy him," he said.

The Fire Trap as a yearling

"He's a big strong bloke, a bit plain in the head, but he's a big brute of a horse and he walked with a bit of purpose about him."

"That horse, he walked out at Lyndhurst from the barn and took four steps and I was going to buy him." - Neil Jenkinson

"He was a standout for me at that sale and fortunately Matthew said if you like him that much just buy him."

"I thought he might have made a bit more money being by Sizzling, at $80,000 I thought he was a ripper buy and he's proven to be that."

A winner of three of his four starts and $166,000, The Fire Trap is being set for the Magic Millions 3YO Guineas.

Filly not the typical buy

Vernazza, being by Written Tycoon, was never going to be the bargain Care To Think was but she immediately appealed to Jenkinson when he saw her at the 2017 National Yearling Sale, snapping her up for $150,000.

"She was a really nice filly, I think the boys who got her as a weanling retained a big chunk of her. She turned up at the June sale. Bob Wood from Oakwood Farm prepared her and we spell all our horses with Bob and he gave us a good wrap for her," he said.

"She's not normally the sort of filly I would buy. She was big and scopey, a big long filly. Probably a little bit typical of some of the Written Tycoons, she didn't carry a lot of flesh and she is still a bit that way," he said.

Vernazza as a yearling

Vernazza has had just two starts, winning a maiden at Grafton in July, but has a bright future according to Jenkinson.

"She hasn't really furnished yet. She's still that scopey filly with not a lot of top or condition on her, but a great walking filly, I remember Matthew ringing me after her first gallop and said, we’ve got one that goes really good here," he said.

"She did a great job her first racing prep. She's nominated for the Magic Millions 3YO race, but she'll probably head towards other 3-year-old stakes races. She might be a nice filly for the Princess S. in the winter. "