I flew into Nice on Thursday afternoon where waiting for me was the driver who had already collected Michael Forte from Ireland and his partner Pascal. After a short drive we were settled in the lovely Columbus Hotel which overlooks Fontvieille Park and the Princess Grace Rose Garden. The Park is a perfect and elegant setting for a dog show, and judging took place in a permanent circus tent. Secretary of the Monaco Kennel Club Lilian Durando later met up with the judges who were there to judge at the two-day International show. Monaco was the first of three shows, the others being San Remo on Saturday and Nice on Sunday. In their hotel rooms judges found a goodie-bag which contained Dupont Singature eau-de-toilette, a silk tie or scarf, a set of commemorative Monaco stamps featuring dogs, a lapel badge of the Monaco Kennel Club, an admission ticket to the casino and strangely two packets of Monte Carlo cigarettes! I wonder what the judges got at WELKS this year!?
For many years the figurehead of Monegasque dogdom was Princess Antoinette, well known to British dog lovers, who sadly died in March of last year. Now her daughter, Elizabeth-Ann de Massy, has taken over as president of the Monaco Kennel Club while her grand-daughter, Melanie-Antoinette, is vice-president. On Thursday evening we had a sumptuous dinner and it was a delight to be sat with these two fascinating ladies as were Brenda Banbury, Michael Forte and Rony Doedijns who were also judging. Elizabeth-Ann is also president of the Monegasque Tennis Federation and the Monte Carlo Country Club. She has clearly inherited her mother’s great love of all animals and over dinner Melanie told me many stories of the family’s much loved Cavalier, Nelson.
On Friday morning we literally just had to cross the road to get to the showground which was so convenient, and the sun shone on the hundreds of luxury yachts that were moored around the corner. At the playground of the rich and famous helicopters fly in and out all day just like taxis.
I began the day with Boxers where my BOB winner was an Italian male, named simply Ettore. He was a substantial, well muscled, good moving dog with a decent head who had lots of spirit but remained under control. As I was going over the dog, his handler started speaking to me in Italian. My steward translated and apparently she was telling me that I had judged the dog before and liked him! Afterwards – he was nonetheless an easy BOB winner – I spoke to the handler through my steward and told her that I would prefer not to be given such information, only to be told that Italian judges appreciated it!
Rottweilers came next and here BOB went to a classy bitch, Fiona vom Calibra, who was rather hysterical to start with but eventually settled down to show off her many virtues.
Shar-Pei were interesting and of good quality. My best male was the dog who had won BOB under me at the European show in Slovenia and who had travelled from Holland. On the day he was not quite in the same form and persisted on straightening behind so BOB went to an Italian bitch, Lola My Baby Queen I Dragoni Orientali, a very unexaggerated Shar Pei with beautiful eyes, excellent skin and well up to passing any vet check – I would hope!
Bulldogs came next and here BOB was a dog apparently imported from England, Saintgeorges Lucky Man, a fit and healthy red and white who moved very well.
Just one Manchester Terrier was present but the BOB, Lantaka Kimberly, was a very pleasing specimen who evidently combines old Keyline breeding with Finnish blood. The one Norfolk present was Cracknor Cross My Heart, a typy bitch whose presentation could have been better but she still warranted the certificate. There were several Norwich where BOB went to Djuno of Ina’s White Dream; he could have had stronger colours but I loved his type, compactness and movement. Yorkies finished my breed judging for the day and after some readjusting of grossly exaggerated hairdos, BOB went to a Russian male, Good Bye Nove Kasio. His topline could have been better but for type, coat and movement he was a comfortable winner.
Later in the day I judged the terrier group, not the strongest I have seen in this part of the world, and my winner was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier from Italy, King Of Kings. He was in super condition and moved really well. He is a grandson of Ch Wyrefare Prince Naseem and has two Tornadostorm parents.
On Friday evening we were taken to the glamorous Hermitage Hotel which is an amazing building and after a champagne reception here we dined wonderfully with an interesting trio of mature gentlemen providing music throughout. After dinner some judges took themselves off to the casino for a flutter but I resisted temptation.
On Saturday I began with Griffons Bruxellois where BOB was the beautiful headed Huvikummun Red Jacket, bred in Finland but living in Moscow. It really is amazing how Russian enthusiasts turn up by the busload at all the key shows these days, regardless of distance. The BOB Petit Brabancon was the bitch, Union Grif Happy Smile, Leo Belgicus sired and Italian owned.
BOB in Lhasa Apsos was the bitch, Babouche du Chemin des Trois Joyaux, the best for type, size and head I felt. Shih Tzus had not so many sporting very flamboyant hairdos which pleased me and I liked very much the BOB bitch, Windpaw Eccho to Epsylon, very correct for type and balance with a lovely head and good tail carriage. Also she was sensibly presented. Cavaliers boasted a good entry where a Blenheim sire and daughter competed for BOB. The male was the UK bred Ch Phrenchy Bill Cody while BOB went to the better coated Lamiaalchimia dei Comte d’Eau. In King Charles BOB went to the good moving Blenheim Fairplay de Sorine who could have had a more classical head and darker eye.
Papillons fielded some quality and BOB went to the male, Connection I Know Nothing, bred in Finland but sired by the Crufts group winning Japanese import to Europe, Queen Bless JP Royal Connection. In Phalenes a standout BOB was the dog who represented Latvia at the Eukanuba World Challenge in Florida, Magic Sunrise Great Gentleman, who always pleases the eye and performs so beautifully.
When it came to BIS Lisbeth Mach was presented with a Shetland Sheepdog (who interestingly was invited to come back having won second in the group to a dog who was unable to return), Cane Corso, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Wirehaired Dachshund, Alaskan Malamute, Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen, English Setter, American Cocker, Dwarf Poodle and Whippet.
Always the height of elegance and a great crowd-pleaser, Lisbeth put on a great show and finally opted for the Poodle followed by the Grand and the American.
BIS had been eagerly watched by the beautiful Zimbabwe-born Princess Charlene of Monaco who married Prince Albert last year and it was she who presented the winner’s trophy.
After the show champagne and a delicious finger buffet were served to the judges and workers, after which we set off for San Remo.