Having crossed the Italian border, in San Remo we checked into our hotel, met in the bar for champagne cocktails and were then driven to a nearby restaurant for yet more sumptuous food – this was not a weekend to be thinking of diets! At dinner I had an interesting discussion with Paolo Dondina who, as a leading Italian lawyer, told me emphatically that any procedure which does not have an appeal process would never stand up in a court of law. We were of course discussing the veterinary checks at Crufts.
Pietro Paolo Condo was in charge of the San Remo show and when I saw my assignment I was a little concerned to see that I was down to judge the terrier group – as I had done in Monaco two days before. Of course technically there was no reason why I shouldn’t judge it as this was another country but I suggested that it was hardly fair on the exhibitors as the two shows had essentially the same set of exhibitors and dogs, so Pietro put French judge Jean Paul Kerihuel in to judge the group instead.
My breed assignments began with an Alaskan Malamute specialty show where there wasn’t a huge entry and BOB and BOS went to the del Biago kennel that had won BOB under me when I judged the breed at Crufts some years ago, when they went on to win the group under Steve Hall. In Sam Remo the bitch, Ch Lera del Biago, won the breed on her excellent movement.
It was good to meet up again with Giuseppi Attisano who was stewarding for me; he is excellent at controlling a ring and I had a very efficient writer in Roberto, Pietro’s younger brother. Jilly Bennett had looked in at the Monaco show and came along again to San Remo. The owner of the Pelajilo Old English looks remarkably well having relocated to France some 20 years ago.
I then had the Poodles to judge and across the sizes and colours quality was high. Four of the BOB winners particularly pleased me. First there was the black Dwarf bitch who had won BIS at Monaco, Dior Generation Top, who impressed on close inspection as much as she had from ringside. Then there was a beautiful brown Miniature bitch from the Warming kennel in Denmark, Ch Warming Brown Christmas Rose, who was a great mover and so well bodied; I had found myself writing in critique after critique ‘needs more body condition’ as so many of the Poodles shown were skin and bone under the coat to such an extent that, had they been smooth-coated, I doubt they would have been taken to a show.
The black Toy bitch, Canmoy’s Queen Rules, Finnish-bred but Russian owned, posed me a huge problem as when she came into the ring she had such a heavy mane and topknot that her hair literally covered her face. On the table she was a joy but in the pack I found a succession of rubber bands which had me wondering whether or not there were actually ‘switches’ lurking. I failed to find any and the handler assured me she hadn’t used any but "the owner just loves long hair”! I explained that most judges, seeing so much hair obscuring a dog’s face, would assume it was there to hide an ugly head, which was definitely not the case here as she had an exquisite headpiece, a fact that I had apparently previously commented on when I had judged her in Israel two years ago when she was considerably less hirsute. I was happy to see that my advice on scissoring a mass of hair away bore fruit as she was much more tailored when she appeared in the group later where she took second.
However the Poodle that thrilled me most was a glorious ten-month-old white Standard bitch, Smart Connection Max Mara, who was bred in Russia from American lines but is now living in Italy. As soon as she stepped into the ring I could not take my eyes off her. She is a natural extrovert with poise, charisma and real Poodle attitude. She could not stand wrong (despite her handler’s attempts to prove otherwise!) and on the move she was simply electric. For me she was the find of the whole weekend.
Jean Paul judged ‘my’ terrier group and I was interested to see that his winner was a Norwich Terrier, Debeaux Zac Attack, bred by Debbie and John Willett here in the UK.
I had group 7 which was not a strong group and although I considered him somewhat over-angulated, I still felt the winner deserved to be the Gordon Setter, Ludstar Don Miguel.
Brenda Banbury then judged BIS where she chose a Russian-bred Pomeranian ahead of the well known Bearded Collie, Ch Ho In Mente te del Cuore Impavido with third going to the GBGV, Jour de Noel van Tum Tum’s Vriendjes, another bred by Gwen Huikeshoven.
After the show Sylvie Desserne and Christian Karcher drove me to our third hotel and we arrived in Nice just as the other judges were sitting down for dinner. Before eating I decided to check what breeds I had the next day and discovered to my horror that not only had I been allocated several breeds in which I had not awarded CCs but as of December 31 last year became ineligible to award CACIBs, I also had some breeds that we have never recognised in the UK and, unbelievably, I was also scheduled to judge the terrier group! There had obviously been a breakdown in communications between the three shows and again I expressed reservations about judging the terrier group for the same reasons I did the previous day. There was some reallocation of breeds and then, much to my amazement, the terrier group was given to – guess who? – Jean Paul Kerihuel who had judged it the day before! And I was worrying about having judged it on Friday? Moral of the story – shut up, say nothing, don’t worry about the exhibitors and go with the flow.
So my Monday was a lot easier than originally planned and I began with Bulldogs; although I had judged them in Monaco this was a larger and quite different entry but again I ended up with a UK exported red and white male taking the breed, this time the 18-month-old Ocobo Britanic Major Sharpe (that is how his name appears in the catalogue even though he wasn’t bred by the Davies family). I understand that he had arrived in Italy just three weeks previously but he showed like a seasoned campaigner and was a splendid example of the modern Bulldog, utterly typical, fit, healthy and great on the move.
There was a good entry of Pugs and here BOB went to Tangetoppen’s Yoyo Girl from Norway, another cobby fawn of excellent type from the highly successful Norwegian kennel.
My third breed was Boston Terriers where the BOB winner proved to be a US import and past Westminster BOB winner, Ch Tbos Regal Legacy, very smart and on his toes he was a comfortable winner.
It seemed that no-one was unduly bothered that I had given up my terrier group to the judge who deputised for me the previous day and not surprisingly he put up the same Norwich as he did in San Remo.
Laurent Pichard’s choice for BIS was a very handsome Samoyed bred in Denmark while runner-up was the Dwarf Poodle who had taken the top spot in Monaco.
The following morning I headed for home several kilos heavier than when I arrived on the Cote d’Azur, albeit with some wonderful memories of a very elegant weekend.
That gave me a day at home to catch up before returning to Birmingham and setting off for Portugal where I was judging at the Eukanuba Gold Winner competition and giving three judging seminars.