NORA the Chinese Crested has built up quite a fan club during her short but incredibly successful life and I guess can now add Brenda Banbury as a member – for Vanitonia Unwrapped was Brenda’s choice as winner from what was agreed by many spectators to be one of the best line-ups seen in the final of the Pro Plan/Dog World Pup of the Year competition.
This exotic creature, sensitively handled by co-owner Tom Isherwood, came through three shortlists to emerge in top place, followed by Jennie Griffiths’ West Highland White Terrier Karamynd Play It Again – Jennie too showing excellent handling skills in keeping her charge’s terrier spirit under sufficient control to allow him to show himself off to best advantage.
The competition, after many years in London, has had three venues in the last three years, with a slightly different format being adopted this time to allow Pro Plan to spread their generosity to all who take part – with exclusive offers for joining their breeder programme, and samples for all entrants – as well as those who enjoy the hospitality at the final.
This time we were in the classy surroundings of Ragley Hall, in Warwickshire, a popular stately home where the owners, the Marquess and Marchioness of Hertford, have managed to maintain the house and estate’s many beautiful features while at the same time opening them up to the public and to various special events throughout the year, without making the whole experience too ‘touristy’ or commercial.
As you turn the corner on the drive you can see the house on the top of its hill, overlooking an unspoilt vista of traditional English pastoral countryside. The competition had been scheduled for two weeks earlier – no doubt the landscape would have looked very different then following the severe snow, and in this case the decision to postpone had been inevitable.
Car parking for competitors and guests was within easy reach of the entrance and once you were inside the house members of the Pro Plan and Dog World teams were on hand to greet you and to direct you to the nearby benching areas, and then to a welcoming cuppa.
The competition itself took place in a marquee at the side of the hall where, as usual, Ann Bliss and her assistants Jim Peach and Dennis Rockall were in change of the ring, which this year took the form of a long rectangle.
The commentary team is the trusty double act of Frank Kane and Jessica Holm and after a brief introduction by Pro Plan’s Sam Gutsell-Forshaw they got down to their task of seamlessly welcoming each of the competitors one by one, following a lap of honour by the 2008 winner, Christine Lewis’ Beagle Ch Fallowfield Darlene.
That done, the first three in qualifcation order returned to the ring and Brenda started going over them. As each finished its turn it left the ring and one more was ushered in by the stewards so at no time was there more than three dogs in the ring, allowing the judge and spectators to concentrate fully on each dog.
Brenda, of course, needs to introduction. As one of Britain’s most experienced judges, with a Crufts BIS appointment under her belt as well as several groups at that show, she is known worldwide, and repeat invitations testify to her popularity abroad. Her own canine interests, in her and husband John’s exhibiting days, were varied, with notable success in Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, Schipperkes and Pugs.
Heats of the competition are held at 32 shows – all the general championship shows except Crufts, plus the six national group shows and the Scottish Breeds. In fact 31 were present – Kybo Over Ice, one of the two qualifying Tibetan Terriers of David Roberts and Judy Price, had jumped awkwardly the day before and injured his foot.
If one of the competitors drops out – usually through being badly out of coat – the organisers like, if there is sufficient time, to invide a runner-up from that show. The Japanese Shiba Inu Ch Jiltrain Louby Loo replaced the Manchester winner, the American Cocker Afterglow Dial M For Murder – who had also qualified the previous year; the Labrador Lembas Name Of The Game at Millerdam was WELKS’ representative in place of the Akita Redwitch Ticket To Ride of Mapekim; the Miniature Poodle Michandy Trick Or Treat, represented Bath in place of the Cocker Dillonpark Florengina; while the Kerry Blue Terrier Rimbert Queen Padme came through at South Wales instaad of the Samoyed Zamoyski Lucky Tabitha.
The strength in depth of the qualifying puppies was shown by the fact that two of the reserves made Brenda’s cut. Indeed she was spoilt for choice and her first selection consisted of 14 youngsters.
The pups present varied in age from just under the year to 20 months. Many already have enviable show records – two champions, one of them the breed’s top winner of the year, one ‘babychamp’ too young to carry her crown and others with CCs or major awards. Some have been shown just a few times with serious campaigning waiting until they are more mature.
An encouraging aspect is that a number of the finalists are shown by exhibitors from the younger age range, several of them second generation ‘dog people’. Sometimes I worry that, especially compared to other countries, our community lacks the same depth of younger enthusiasts, but I think there’s hope!
Brenda’s first shortlist consisted of:
Shiba Inu, Jill and Trevor Rodgers’ Ch Jiltrain Louby Lou, BPIS at a club show, her first CC and BOB at 11 months, her title at the breed championship show and a fourth CC at LKA, plus seven green stars. Runner-up at Manchester under Graham Hill.
Australian Terrier, Sue McCourt’s Ch Silhill Red Dragon, handled by Paul Eardley, six CCs from seven attempts including Crufts and the club show, top Aussie 2009 and twice BPIS. Won at National Terrier, Tom Johnston.
Miniature Poodle, Jackie Kitchener’s Michandy Trick Or Treat, five times BP in breed and winner of several other stakes classes, decended from the family’s 1988 overall winner Ch Michandy Qui Va La. Reserve at Bath, Robin Newhouse.
West Highland White Terrier, Jennie Griffiths’ Karamynd Play It Again, shown very seldom as Jennie was campaigning another Westie to joint top dog last year. Two BP in breed and a puppy group at Bath. Won at Southern Counties, Les Aspin.
Pekingese, Philip Marin and Sean Corrigan’s Yakee Enough Said, handled by Bert Easdon, latest qualifier for this kennel which has had a previous overall winner and which already has a 2010 qualifier. A multiple BP winner. Won at Three Counties, Jill Peak.
Pointer, Joanne and John Blackburn-Bennett’s Kanix Beatrice, RCC winner and top puppy. The family has previously had an overall winning Dachshund. Won at Blackpool, Frank Kane.
Bulldog, Paul and Maria Harding’s Pringhams Eclair Glace, winner of three RCCs. Won at Leeds, Martin Sanders.
Beagle, Patricia Sutton’s Rossut Illusion, who has several BP wins. Qualified at the Houndshow, Ron James.
German Shorthaired Pointer, Sue Harris’ Barleyarch Paxo, junior warrant, numerous BP at championship shows and two breed club shows. Won at National Gundog, Fiona Coward Scholes.
Boxer, Yvonne Miller’s Walkon Mickey Blue Eyes, top male puppy, three times BP and CC and BIS at a breed club event. Won at Bournemouth, Derek Smith.
Irish Wolfhound, Pat and Peter Pask’s Baronglen The Knightwalker, twice BP including a breed show, not shown since he qualified at Welsh Kennel Club, Michael Quinney.
Wire Fox Terrier, Bill Browne-Cole’s Travella Star Lord, handled by Richard Allen, shown twice, taking BPIS at the WFT Association and also winning the puppy group at the show where he qualified, City of Birmingham, Geoffrey Davies.
Chinese Crested, Tom Isherwood and Lee Cox’s Vanitonia Unwrapped, four CCs, a G3 and G2 while still a puppy and four times BPIS at general championship shows – is this a record? Won at Midland Counties, Stuart Mallard.
Shar-Pei, Sharon Sutherland’s Witchgait Sounds Terrific, had won a RCC and took her first CC at Manchester, qualified for East Anglian Supermatch. The youngest competitor and still a real puppy, she won at LKA under Liz Stannard.
After further movement, Brenda reduced these to nine: Shiba, Australian Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier, WHWT, Peke, Pointer, Bulldog, Crested and Wolfhound; and then to six: Red Dragon, Play It Again, Star Lord, Eclair Glace, Beatrice and Unwrapped. Once round and Nora was the winner with Morgan the Westie reserve. Jennie said afterwards that she had considered selling him, but now she’s decided to keep and campaign him.
Back to the hall itself and time to bench the dogs and a quick chat before being called up the south staircase hall, with its magnificent modern murals, and then into the great hall, a wonderful, very tall room exquisitely decorated with baroque plasterwork.
Speeches were to be kept short this time, with DOG WORLD editor Stuart Baillie introducing the trophy presenters: Pat Sutton handing over the winner’s trophy, given in memory of her mother Catherine, to Tom and Lee, plus the Rossut Jasmine Trophy – this is a miniature replica of the Kennel Club’s famous Foxhound statue, which was originally given to competitors by the Daily Express which sponsored the first two POTY competitions – to Christine Lewis as breeder of last year’s winner.
Then Marion Spavin handed over the Ch Dialynne Gamble Memorial Trophy to the runner-up’s owner, Jennie.
Sadly DOG WORLD managing director Kerry Williamson isn’t too well at present and had to miss the day, so it was my duty to present our Award of Excellence. Choosing just one from the many people who have contributed so much to our sport is never easy but Frank Kane has achieved so much in so many different areas that no one could doubt that he was a worthy recipient.
Frank for once was lost for words and the assembled guests showed their approval.
Sam Gutsell-Forshaw, marketing manager (specialist) for Purina, then gave the traditional gifts to judge, stewards and commentators, and we enjoyed an excellent buffet lunch before setting off home. I guess a new generation of potential Pups of the Year are being lovingly reared as I write – if only our critics would come along and meet the ‘happy, healthy’ future of the world of dogs.
Pup of the Year winner- Unwrapped
THE VANITONIA kennel was established by Roger Stone and Graham Thompson and made up its first champion Poodle, the Standard Vicmars Boname, in the early 1970s. Many more followed and the tally now stands at 20 UK champion Standards, three Miniatures and 34 Toys. In Standards and Toys, in particular, the kennel has had an international impact, and both imports and exports have contributed much to the breeds.
Graham died sadly young and in 1991 the team was joined by Lee Cox. Lee had been brought up with show dogs, and his family was best known for Clumber Spaniels in which they had made up show champions. Lee has recently revived his interest in this breed, enjoying enormous success with his homebred littermates.
Tom, who had previously shown Papillons in a small way, joined Vanitonia in 2000 and he and Lee are carrying on the kennel following Roger’s death last year after a considerable period of ill health. They continue to keep up the winning record, often on more than one day at the big shows, several times winning CCs with Poodles, Crested and Clumbers at the same show, and on occasion more than one group place too.
One day Lee and Roger accompanied a friend who was hoping to buy a Chinese Crested from Jeanette Sewell’s Blandora kennel. When they met the breed they fell for it straight away, and themselves came home with a puppy, Blandora Belles Are Ringing for Vanitonia, who won a CC and is Nora’s great-granddam. Slightly later they obtained her litter brother who became Ch Blandora Rock’n Robin avec Vanitonia.
Also from Jeanette came Ch Blandora Time Bomb via Vanitonia, winner of 24 CCs, twice BOB at Crufts and the only Crested to qualify for the champion stakes final.
So far they have had nine UK champions in the breed, probably the best known being Ch Zucci Highly Provocative for Vanitonia, who was a group winner and at one time held the CC record.
There have been homebred champions two, and two of these is Ch Vanitonia Annie Lusion and her daughter Ch Vanitonia Tickled Pink who, after winning six CCs, went to Sweden to spend a year with a friend, Catalina Gustafsson. While there she gained her Swedish and Norwegian titles.
While judging in Norway, Lee gave BOB to a bitch, Ch Sun-Hee’s Temptation, bred by Helena Karlsson. She was beautifully bred, being by a dog from the famous Moonswift kennel, and Lee admired others from Sun-Hee too. Talking to Helena, he discovered that Temptation had a litter brother, Tyson, who was in a pet home and had seldom been shown, but whom also had the extrovert temperament and sound movement he admired. So before she returned, the equally showy Tickled Pink was mated to him, and in due course produced two puppies back home. At first Lee and Tom were slightly disappointed, these being a white powerpuff male and a pink-skinned bitch; sometimes the darker skinned hairless tend to be more eyecatching.
But as soon as young Nora was up on her legs it became clear that she had that little extra personality and by the time she was ready to be shown they were hopeful she would make a mark. But they could have had little idea how her career would take off.
Her first show at six months and a week was the breed club anniversary event where American specialist Dick Dickerson gave her BPIS, the RCC and RBIS. Next came Paignton where she won the CC and BOB under Dominic Browne.
Further CCs with BOB came at Darlington (Betty Flavell), Midland Counties (Geoffrey Davies) and LKA (Lisa McKenzie) but as she was still a puppy she needs to get a fifth CC to claim her title.
She quickly became a favourite in the big rings too, with no fewer than four BPIS wins at all-breed championship shows: Bournemouth (Freda Marshall). City of Birmingham (Terry Nethercott), Darlington (Geoff Corish) and South Wales (Ann Arch). In the group rings she was third at Midland Counties under Marion Spavin – a good show as she also won the POTY heat under Stuart Mallard – and second at LKA (Paolo Dondina).
Lee and Tom still have her powderpuff brother whom they hope to use in the breeding programme, while her mother made an appearance after rearing the litter and retired with her seventh CC, BOB and G2.
Incidentally, Nora is the second Chinese Crested to win POTY – in 1997 Peggy Grayson put up the powderpuff Ch Glebeheath The Gentleman, owned by Julie Guvercin who today is doing very well in Border Terriers. Through his son Ch Glebeheath The Entertainer, Nora is a great-great-great-granddaughter of Gentleman.
One of the joys of Crested is that they all get on well together and Nora is a happy part of the gang at Vanitonia. Her only special requirement is that she enjoys her exercise early and late in the day, for a pink skin needs sensible care when it’s sunny.
What the judge thought
THE FINALISTS in this competition represent many of the best of Britain’s young show dogs and certainly some will go on to follow their predecessors and have outstanding careers in the show ring. I thank the sponsors for an interesting and enjoyable day.
I made a first cut of the Shiba, Australian Terrier, Miniature Poodle, West Highland White Terrier, Pekingese, Pointer, Bulldog, Beagle, German Shorthaired Pointer, Boxer, Irish Wolfhound, Wire Fox Terrier, Chinese Crested and Shar-Pei.
Having moved them again, and once round the ring, I shortlisted the Shiba, Australian Terrier, WHWT, Pekingese, Pointer, Bulldog, Chinese Crested, Wolfhound and Wire Fox Terrier.
The six finalists were the Australian Terrier, Pointer, Bulldog, Wire Fox Terrier, Chinese Crested and West Highland White Terrier. All were close contenders and all are a tribute to British show dogs.
My winner was the Chinese Crested Vanitonia Unwrapped. She excelled on the move with her long, flowing, far reaching and driving movement and held a lovely outline. She has good proportions, lovely overall type, correct size and is well made overall. Feminine head and expression and balanced overall. She has the gay temperament and graceful activity which is so much a part of this delightful toy breed.
The runner-up spot went to the immaculate Westie Karamynd Play It Again, who has a good head, dense pigmentation and a varminty expression. He is well boned and bodied with good head and tail carriage and a strong topline standing and on the move. He has an excellent harsh coat texture and is a sound mover with forward reach and close well flexed rear. He has an alert temperament and has a good combination of strength and activity.