THE PORTUGESE Kennel Club held its annual Eukanuba Gold Winner competition at the huge exhibition centre in Santarém. Similar in many ways to the NEC, the CNEMA regularly hosts pop concerts, trade fairs and the like. The judging system is unique but worked remarkably well in practice. All the qualified winning adults of the previous year compete under three of six judges – in this instance Jose Vidal Montero from Spain, myself, and Portuguese judges Luis Catalan, Rui Oliveira, Manuel Loureiro Borges and Francisco Salvador Janeiro. The dogs are brought into the ring individually, stand, move and receive points up to 100 for each of four categories – type, head, body and movement – and it is very fast. The judges don’t have the opportunity to handle the dogs until the final round of the competition but despite this the cream still managed to rise to the top.
I had flown into Lisbon on the Friday when Rui Oliveira had collected me at the airport and driven me to the very pleasant boutique Plaza Hotel in downtown. That evening Kennel Club President Carla Molinari, judges, KC officials and helpers all dined at a typical Portuguese restaurant and then on Saturday we drove out to the exhibition centre. I was blessed in having Catarina, Carla’s lovely daughter, as my ring steward and she kept my paperwork up to date.
Once all the dogs had been seen by three judges, their points were totted up until there was a top scorer in every breed present, these meeting later at group level.
We then had the Eukanuba Veteran Gold Winner where all the entrants competed under one judge who had been randomly selected when we were all asked to pull a ball out of a bag, and it was Jose who had the pleasure of sorting out the Golden Odlies, his winner being the South American bred Weimaraner bitch, Juscanis Meta Optata ad Colsidex, with the Golden Retriever bitch, Cory Canin do Valle da Fonte, taking the runner up spot.
The Gold Winner proper then resumed with ten standard group competitions where points were given up to 100 by all six judges. This resulted in ten group winners who competed for the Eukanuba Gold Winner title. At this stage we were allowed to handle the dogs, move them extensively and then had to place them one to ten. The quality was extremely high and I felt that the standouts were two males - a Samoyed and a Skye Terrier. When all the points were collated it was the Samoyed who won by a considerable margin with the Skye Terrier in second place and a Bullmastiff third. The Samoyed turned out to be the Crufts BOB winner, bred in Denmark by the same kennel that interestingly had bred the BIS winner in Nice the previous weekend. The Cabaka kennel has certainly made a huge impression internationally.
All involved with the day’s proceedings sat down to an excellent dinner at the CNEMA afterwards where informality was the order of the day.
On Sunday Carla and Rui collected me for a sightseeing tour of Lisbon; although having visited the city many times it has usually been a case of seeing the airport, show venue and hotel but nothing of the real Lisbon. We took a tram and got to see many parts of the city whose architecture is quite magnificent.
That afternoon I had been asked to give my seminar – Judging Dogs – an Introductory Presentation – at the KC for existing and aspirant judges. There were around twenty people in attendance who seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards we headed for a Madeiran restaurant where yet another delicious meal did nothing for the waistline.
On Monday Rui showed me some more sights on the waterfront which included a visit to Casa Pastéis de Belém, famous for its Pastel de Nata, a traditional egg custard kind of dessert for which Lisbon is famous. I don’t generally have a sweet tooth but in this instance made an exception!
We then drove to Carla’s beautiful home where I had the chance to see her Podengos and also a couple of the Căo de Gado Transmontano, the mastiff-type native breed which is undergoing something of a revival. There had been two competing at the Gold Winner and also several Barbado da Terceira, another breed not yet recognised by FCI but one that I can imagine taking off. Carla describes them as being somewhere between a Bouvier and a Bearded Collie and one in particular at the Gold Winner had really impressed me. Carla has many beautiful works of art at home, many of them dog-related and having seen a number of his paintings at both the KC offices and at home, I can see she is clearly a fan of the hugely talented artist, Martial Robin, also famous for his Menuel Galopin Afghan Hounds. At the KC I had fallen in love with an American Cocker painting while at Carla’s home it was not surprising that it was a Podengo piece that caught my eye.
We then drove to Cascais and made a return to visit to the Mar do Inferno where they serve the best crab in the world! This is a veritable shellfish heaven and is understandably hugely popular with tourists and locals alike.
That evening we returned to the KC where I was giving two breed seminars, one on Pekingese and one on Shih Tzus. I was touched that Jose Homem de Melo had abandoned his original return flight from Manchester (he had been judging at the Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire Basset Hound Club Championship show) and booked an earlier flight to attend the seminars. Obviously Jose is well up to speed with all that has happened in his breed following the Crufts vet check and told me that at the club show where he was judging the bitch CC winner did not compete for BOB, as a point of principle, even though there are no mandatory vet checks at breed shows. He had every sympathy with the owner’s decision.
We broke between the two breeds and nipped around the corner to a cafe which provided traditional tasty Portuguese fare and kept us all going for the second half.
We finished before midnight when Rui kindly dropped me off at the Plaza. Pedro Costa Macedo, who works full time at the Portuguese KC, collected me for lunch (what else?) on Tuesday before driving me to the airport so I could overnight at Dialynne before moving on to Stafford for four days at the Grand National and the Festival of German Breeds.