Having got in from Portugal the day before, I drove up to Tillington Hall Hotel on Wednesday in readiness for the historic Birmingham National where for the first time at a British show, German CACs were to be offered to the German native breeds over the same weekend that British CCs were available at Dortmund.
This innovation had met with mixed reactions when it was first announced – many questioning what precedent was being set. Certainly some involved with the numerically weaker breeds had the right to question why it was that some of the shows back home were still suffering from single CC syndrome when in the same breeds two CCs were on offer in Dortmund where resulting entries were no better than received in the UK.
That said, it made for an interesting weekend. At the Tillington president Meriel Hathaway was hard at work ensuring that all hotel bookings were in order and that all the German judges who were being imported arrived safely. Meriel is very much a ’hands on’ president who does more in the background than anyone will ever realise at both the hotel and the show. Chairman Martin Wyles supported by wife Vanessa played mein host at the Tillington while at the show unflappable secretary Angela Mitchell and her team had everything under control. The National is well known for its blend of experience and youth on the committee, a far-seeing policy that other major championship show events would do well to emulate.
On Thursday I had a fairly easy day which began when I was called away during lunch to referee the Golden Retrievers, my preference being for the male, Thornywait McShay at Ritzilyn. I then had the gundog group to judge which in view of its evenness warranted a few cuts. My final winner was the Large Munsterlander Sh Ch Ghyllbeck Rapax, which turned out to be a first ever group win for the breed. Rapax won his first CC and BOB under me at Blackpool two years ago when I recall telling his owner/handler/breeder Robert Hargreaves that this young dog was the sort to get noticed in groups as he had a very obvious presence about him. I don’t recall having seen Rapax since but understand he has now won ten CCs. He impressed me enormously on the go-around, his handler allowing him to move out on a loose lead, and constructionally he is really a superb dog to go over. So often some breeds get overlooked at group level when all should simply be judged against their own breed Standard on a level playing field. For me he won the group well and was followed by a trio of well known winners in the Pointer, Irish Water Spaniel and English Springer.
Marion Spavin should have judged Friday’s working group but had in the meantime made the decision to retire from judging, a decision for which she has been greatly admired and respected. I was honoured to deputise for her.
This proved to be another group that warranted a few cuts but from the start my eye was drawn to a Newfoundland I had never seen before with a handler I had never seen before. Close up he impressed me no end and it was so good to see a correctly balanced, bodied and coated Newfoundland with a beautiful head that had no suggestion of deep stop, loose eyes or hanging lips. On the move he showed true action for the breed, controlled power and great style and so Sandbears Stride ‘n Style coasted through to win the group.
I was interested to hear afterwards that after a run of 12 RCCs he had won three consecutive CC and BOBs, each time getting a group placing. Evidently owner/breeder Suzanne Blake had handled him in the breed but as she was suffering from sciatica husband Mark was called in to show him in the group – maybe someone had tipped her off that I like to move dogs ... a lot!
Behind the Newfoundland were two bitches, both of whom won their second CCs under me last year – the Rottweiler and Giant Schnauzer – and the handsome Malamute male.
Saturday was a marathon as I had three breeds with a total entry approaching 200 dogs so I opted for a sandwich at the ring rather than hold exhibitors up unnecessarily. Even so I didn’t finish until groups were being called, by which time I had learnt that resident commentatrix Kim Sillito, who had been suffering badly with a trapped nerve in her back, was unable to get to the show so I was asked to step in.
I began with Tibetan Spaniels where a comfortable winner of BOB was Ch Wellbarn Magic ‘n’ Mayhem, a very unexaggerated dog of correct shape and size who has a pleasing head and carried himself so well. I was fascinated to hear afterwards that he was one of the dogs stolen from Heather Simper and Liz Scoates’ kennel last year, but recovered after an exhaustive publicity campaign. Certainly he seemed none the worse for his ordeal and clearly has devoted owners. Reserve went to the post graduate winner, Malia The Next Verse by Starlance, who pushed hard but didn’t quite have the finish of the champion.
In bitches I was captivated by a particolour puppy with the highly inappropriate name of Mennimoonz Sleepy Slug. She was anything but sleepy and put on an extrovert performance in the pink of condition. I am sure she has a great future; in the puppy group she had many admirers. Reserve to her was Bruesown Marla, so typical of this long established kennel in that she is so very correct and in no way extreme. I just wished she appeared to enjoy herself more and put a little more into her performance.
Next came Boston Terriers and here another open dog walked off with BOB. It seemed to be a popular win for Yakee This Is It and turned out to be his third CC. He is a great combination of substance and elegance, has a very typical Boston outline and handled himself very well. Apparently he is his owner’s first and only Boston though she has had a champion Rottweiler in the past. Reserve to him was an exciting youngster who just needs to body up, Glenauld Gianfranco, apparently from the successful Boxer kennel’s first homebred Boston litter. He was one of the best movers I judged all day and must have a great future.
In the bitch challenge the more I looked at the junior, Coppergold Simply Surreal at Tigrato, the more she grew on me and she ended up winning the CC. Although not full-collared she impressed with her overall correctness. Reserve to her was the open winner, Aprika Reno Wynele, who gave away a little in topline but did everything else right and was so perfectly schooled. Of the puppies Wildax Augustus Brown impressed me greatly and when he fills out his frame he should have an exciting future. He did the breed well gaining fourth in Michael Coad’s puppy group.
Finally I came to the King Charles Spaniels and I am sure the exhibitors were well and truly fed up with having to wait so long. Here I found what I considered to be a clear BOB winner in the post graduate dog, Baldragon Royal Warwick of Chacombe. A square, cobby, open-marked tricolour with a masculine but typical head, he moved around with great style and is as sound as a pound. When he has a little more bodyweight he will be even more impressive. Reserve to him was the well known Ch Amantra Cheers who seemed to be having something of a bad hair day, but his many breed virtues more than warranted the RCC.
In bitches I loved the junior, an exquisite black and tan also bred by the Amantra kennel, Amantra Queen Of Clubs at Diggle, who is a real toy spaniel with a glorious head. Apparently her owner made up a Sussex Spaniel back in the ‘80s and has now returned to the ring with King Charles. Reserve to her was Ch Paulian Prudence for Beewye, a very composed tricolour who didn’t quite appeal so much in head as the junior but I gather both bitches had travelled together so hopefully they had a pleasant journey home.
Of the puppies Nouveau Reign Check impressed me most and I was intrigued to discover that he is a New Zealand import. I am not sure what breeding lies behind him but it may well be that he brings with him some welcome new blood. A smart moving tricolour, he later did the breed proud by placing third in Ernie Paterson’s puppy group.
By comparison my Sunday was a walk in the park with just the Good Citizen stakes to judge and the commentary for the final groups and best. In the stakes class there was no getting past the stylish tricolour Basenji bitch, Tokaji American Dreamz of Silverbriar, who looked a picture on the move. It was interesting to see that in the past both of her American imported parents had won the CC and BOB under me.
Robin Searle had the honour of judging BIS at this historic show and I was obviously delighted when he pointed at the Newfoundland, now back with his original handler who stood up to the job well. Reserve was the latest Irish Terrier starlet who is making heads turn.
On Saturday night at the judges’ dinner Christofer Habig had responded to Vince Hogan, who obviously fancies his chances as a stand-up comedian, by stressing how strongly the German Kennel Club stood behind the 15 high profile breeds and reminded us all how many breeds Britain and Germany created. He gave everyone food for thought, and it was somewhat ironic that during the same month that this massive example of international co-operation took place, the VDH in its official magazine published a damning criticism of the present veterinary checks which was reproduced in a recent DOG WORLD cover story. Sadly the outcome of the KC AGM days later proved that our governing body is not budging on this matter.