Incredible double for Jason

By: Andrew Brace


Incredible double for Jason

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Well, it’s all over for another year and those of us who were in Birmingham for a full week are exhausted! My good friend Lesley Chalmers arrived in Liverpool a few days ahead of Crufts and then we drove down together to the Regency Corus Hotel in Solihull which was to be our base for the week – lots of Crufts visitors and exhibitors stayed at this excellent hotel so it is sad that next year when the hotel is upgraded to a Laura Ashley flagship hotel they will not be accepting dogs in rooms and plan to double this year’s excellent rates. Thankfully, with a change of hotel manager next year we have agreed to return to the Henley Hotel which had been our billet for the previous ten years.

Hounds and terriers were shown on Thursday and there were several must-see rings. With Jack Russell Terriers being scheduled for the first time and having such a large and cosmopolitan entry I would have thought that they could have had a ring to themselves rather than wait for the Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers to finish – as it was they had to be changed to an adjacent ring with a very late start which I’m sure wouldn’t have enhanced Stuart Plane’s enjoyment of this very special appointment.

There was a packed ringside when they did eventually get in the ring and so many nations were represented. BOB went to a beautiful bitch from Italy handled by Roberta Semenzato and bred by Annalisa Asnaghi. Tony Barker owned the BOS who was bred by Kao Miichi in Japan – Kao was so excited about her beloved Jacks being recognised at last. Had Tony won the breed that would have given him an incredible hat trick as he also owned the BOB winning Lakeland and Irish Terriers. I was happy to get to Airedales in time for BOB and was thrilled to see Ch Sonorra Christmas Cracker from Russtam get the nod as he had won his first CC under me as a Junior.

Marion Spavin came for the day with daughter Marilynne and was so glad to see so many friends around the Beagle ring where granddaughter Melanie took BOB with the BIS winning Ch Dialynne Peter Piper under Mike Caple who got through a huge entry in good time.

It was busy around Smooths where Peter Julian awarded BOB to Judith Korozs Papp’s Agria Zip Code, handled by husband Andras who is President of the Hungarian Kennel Club. Scotties had a massive open dog class for Anne Dauncey and that was exciting to watch, ultimately BOB going to Ch Millingford Royal Eclipse at Chatterdale. Chatting to Nellie and Ray Taylor ringside I learnt that they had seen this puppy in the nest and when his breeder told them she was not planning on keeping a male they suggested that he needed to go to an exhibitor as he was too good to be ‘just’ a pet. Obviously their advice was heeded.

Ludovica Salamon has made many successful trips to the UK from Italy with her Gordon Setters and Irish Wolfhounds and this year won BOB under Pat Pask with the beautiful Wolfhound dog, Int Ch Donnerhall della Bassa Pavese.

Thursday was more manageable as far as crowds went and was really the day to get around and shop for those who wished to as the numbers seemed to swell over the weekend. As I was making my way to Norfolks I noticed a little crowd in the corner of the ring and it was comedian Alan Carr looking rather more tangerine than he does on the television, being interviewed by Frank Kane. As I’ve yet to see any TV coverage I have no idea exactly what the chatty man’s role was in the programme.

Watching the preliminary judging of the Eukanuba World Challenge was exciting and there were some great dogs in contention. So much depends on the luck of the draw and one section seemed to be a lot tougher than the others. Liz Cartledge, Carmen Navarro and Jean Jacques Dupas certainly had their work cut out to come up with finalists to go forward under Laurent Pichard in the big ring.

I thought Don Munro’s terrier group was strong and as we have come to expect there was a great foreign presence. I was ridiculed when I once wrote, not that long ago, when the borders opened up and dogs could travel to the UK freely, that I could imagine the placings in this most British of groups going to foreign dogs. It happened when Geir Flyckt Pedersen judged the group and all four in the final placings were foreign dogs; this year the winner was the very smart Saredon Lakeland handled by Johnny Averis but the other placers were all from overseas – the Westie from the Netherlands, the Dandie from Russia and the Kerry Blue from Italy.

Graham Hill had an interesting collection of hounds in his group and again there were several potential foreign winners. As it turned out it was Gwen Huikeshoven from the Netherlands and her Grand who triumphed, her dog certainly giving its all. Second was the Irish-bred but Scottish based Whippet, third the lovely Italian Irish Wolfhound and the British Beagle completed the quartet.

We had a jolly dinner on Thursday evening at the Corus, Lesley and I having been joined by my good friend from Spain, Ruben Sanchez Abad, and the ubiquitous Ping Ping Panda from Thailand. We met up with Nikolas Kanales, Matteo Autolitano and Paola Siciliano who had driven from Italy with Nikolas’ Old English Sheepdog, Int Ch Aryakas Pegasos, for whom a rewarding weekend was in store. It was so good to have the company of Rob and Carole Ellis, also Old English stalwarts, who left their native Wales for New Zealand more than 35 years ago. Rob is having a great run with his new dog that he brought from Italy, Nikolas having brought him back from the US where he was bred sired by one of the Aryakas males but at Crufts Rob  had agreed to handle an Aryakas bitch owned by Gareth and Helen Harris in Kent.

Friday saw toy and utility breeds on show and again I wanted to see many breeds, several of which clashed. Thanks to the wonders of technology as I was watching open dog in Longcoat Chihuahuas – a fabulous class for David Milton to judge – Ruben kindly went live on Facebook so I could keep one eye on Standard Poodle open dog via my iPhone! I was delighted to see my favourite Longcoat, Ch Hollyel Topaz Chancer, take the CC and later BOB. I was sorry to hear that Geoffrey’s owner Lesley Adams has had a trying year with family problems so hopefully her Crufts win would have cheered her up slightly.

I had loved the Russian Toy Poodle in the World Challenge preliminaries and was thrilled to see him win BOB under Angie Harry-Griffiths. It was a mad dash to Maltese to see how Ian fared but he wasn’t quite so lucky and had to be content with the reserve CC behind Ch Zumarnik Stars N Stripes.

Chie Ejima whose Queen Bless Papillons have had so many memorable wins around the world – including a previous Crufts toy group – won the breed this year under Cathy Urquhart which would have made the long trip from Japan worthwhile. Her good friend Chizuru Kadowaki did equally well under Christine Crowther in the Yorkie ring so there were two Japanese dogs in the toy group.

I didn’t envy Chris Carberry his huge entry of Bulldogs but he got through them well and I’m sure was grateful that the Kennel Club has permitted the ramp for breed judging. Again this was a very cosmopolitan ring and ringside – as were French Bulldogs next door where there appeared to be a great sense of camaraderie and unity among the Frenchie people in the wake of recent threats of intimidation and disruption at Crufts. Chris Thomas is very watchable and his good friend Di Johnson spent a lot of time ringside in her motorised chariot where she held court with passing admirers.

The finals of the Eukanuba World Challenge drew a lot of interest in the big ring and the judge in the hot seat was Laurent Pichard who bred the American Cocker that represented Finland. Having made it through to the final selection the dog was withdrawn for obvious reasons – a pity for Finland.

No one argued with Laurent’s winner – Ian the Maltese looked stunning and performed perfectly for his gifted handler Javier Gonzalez Mendikote. Runner-up was the Russian Toy Poodle that I suspected would be Ian’s major competition.

I thought that Zena Thorn-Andrews’ toy group was disappointing and would not be easy to judge. Certainly a few of the dogs that appeared I would be hard pushed to grade ‘excellent’ had I judged them at an FCI show. As it was Zena had a decent cut and ended up placing the Japanese Yorkie in the top spot which cleared stunned Chizuru. Second was the Longcoat who never let up for a minute, third the latest immaculately prepared Pamplona Bichon and fourth a great boost for the Australian Silky breed. I thought the Bolognese also looked splendid and showed brilliantly for his handler who apparently only took him over at the last minute.

Derek Smith’s utility group was far stronger in my opinion and must have been a pleasure with no difficulty coming up with an exciting shortlist. I was delighted to see him include the Japanese Akita Inu from Spain who I thought was such an impressive example of the breed. I figured that the group would probably see one of the Poodles taking the group and as it was Melanie Harwood beat the lot with her exciting young Miniature dog who has only just titled. He looked beautiful and performed so perfectly. Second was the Stecal Akita bitch who had brought the house down when she won BOB under Geoff Corish, third the captivating little Russian Toy and fourth the French Bulldog who had won from a lower class in Chris Thomas’ huge entry.

On Friday night Eukanuba hosted their ‘Pink Party’ at the St John’s Hotel in Solihull which was their host hotel for all involved with the World Challenge. Guests were treated to a very high quality finger buffet and open bar with live music and dancing till the early hours for those whose energy is limitless. As this was the tenth anniversary of the World Challenge a special cake was cut and it was good to hear Jose Luis Ibanez pay tribute to the entire Eukanuba breeder team and especially Roxane Daunt-Nardone who works tirelessly for this event and for whom nothing is too much trouble. Roxane was presented with a well-deserved bouquet of flowers.

Saturday was gundog day and also the evening of the Crufts Facebook dinner party which was this year being held for the second time at the Henley In Arden Golf Club. Despite having posted reminders for six months not to leave booking until the last minute I was still receiving messages that morning asking for tickets – even though I had made it clear that the event was a total sell-out. Amazingly people had actually been telephoning the Golf Club direct, asking if they could book tickets!

I spent a lot of time at Pointers where Juici Cuture was back trying for her first Crufts BOB even though she has won the CC here twice before. She is not that long off a litter but I thought looked superb and obviously so did Gordon Pimblett as she was his choice for BOB.

Ken Sinclair’s American Cocker ring demanded a visit and a very happy Jason Lynn won with Miami Ink, still young and looking in fine form.

Spanish Water Dogs were having their very first CCs at Crufts and Espen Engh was the judge elect. It was a walkover day for the Egginton family’s Valentisimo kennel which was highly appropriate as Nigel has worked so hard to establish the breed in this country and maintain all its Spanish traditions. The BOB winner sired the BOS and was grandsire to the Best Puppy so a real family affair.

I don’t know where Frank Kane gets his energy from. Apart from all his television commitments he had to judge one sex of Cavaliers and also Labradors, just one of which would have worn out the average judge.

Needing to be at the Golf Club early to prepare for the dinner I had to miss the gundog group which I deeply regretted – if only because I missed seeing Fiona Coward Scholes’ outfit that seems to have excited so many people on Facebook!

When the news filtered through we learnt that Miami Ink the American Cocker had triumphed. I was thrilled to hear that second was the wonderful Flatcoat that I judged in Norway last year, handled by the supremely talented Patrick Oware. I had made him BOB, Arne Foss awarded him the group and Jochen Eberhardt made him BIS2. The German Wire and last year’s group winning Gordon took the other placings.

This year at the Facebook party we had 142 people from 24 different countries in attendance and a new Butler In the Buff in the shape of James who is actually training to be a doctor. Many commented on his bedside manner and he was in huge demand for ‘selfies’!

Sunday dawned and everyone was a little weary but still there were breeds that needed watching even though the crowds made it difficult to get around.

Mary Davies had a very international field in Pembrokes but found nothing to beat the British natural bobtail, Thunderball. Pauline Mills was another with open classes that read like a League of Nations in Old English Sheepdogs. Nikolas’ trip from Italy was certainly worthwhile as he won the dog CC with Aryakas Pegasos. Not content with that, Rob Ellis handled Aryakas Stefania at Beauvallon to win the CC from limit, edging ahead of Pegasos’ litter sister Pandora with co-owner Alain Labous. For those who enjoy trivia, Aryakas is the name of the valley on the Greek island of Paros, near a famous beach where Francesco Cochetti was photographed in his skimpies quite a few years ago, that photo recently appearing on Facebook and setting a few pulses racing!

I was interested to see how the new guidelines on judging and handling German Shepherds would be interpreted at Crufts and thought Elmo looked superb in the dog challenge having won from veteran. To my eye the Spanish dog and handler who beat him for the CC clearly hadn’t understood what was expected whereas Steve Cox and Elmo put on an exemplary performance – even so Steve piloted Elmo’s daughter Gucci through to BOB and she too performed superbly.

I arrived at Pyrenean Mountain Dogs just as Mary Dunk had finished and was thrilled to see that her CC winners were a repeat of my results at Midland Counties, Tan Nagrecha getting the overdue third CC with Bingo the Swedish import and Pat Bayliss making up her young bitch.

I’m not sure how Sue Drinkwater managed to look so fresh at the end of her long day of Boxer judging and she put a large smile on the face of Mitch Griffiths who won BOB with Maybe, his champion bitch. The Boxer people are really miffed that they no longer have two judges.

I felt that the working group was rather patchy and some of the BOB winners that came through certainly hadn’t been expected. I thought the Russian Leonberger was exceptional and moved so wonderfully so was delighted when Meg Purnell pulled him out. Eventually the group went to a beaming Paddy Galvin with the latest Merrybear champion Newfoundland, the Leo took a creditable second, third and fourth were handled by two of our most popular young men, Josh Henderson and the Dobermann followed by Byron Williams with Romeo the Portuguese Water Dog who I’m sure he will miss terribly now that he’s gone back home to Canada.

Robin Newhouse’s pastoral group was I felt probably the strongest at Crufts and he had a fantastic shortlist. Certainly the crowd seemed to be behind the Old English which was hardly surprising as he moved superbly and looked every inch the winner. It was easy to see how Robin couldn’t resist him and in second place came a Puli of perfect size and shape. I couldn’t help wonder what our American visitors were thinking as certainly the Crufts Puli looked considerably different from their country’s number one all-breeds. Third was the new Cardigan breed record holder and fourth the German Shepherd bitch whose behaviour in the big ring could not have been bettered so hopefully this year the breed will be spared.

Friends For Life proved the usual tear-jerker and reminded us all how dogs really do change people’s lives for the better.

Jeff Horswell looked the part and got on with the job and you all know what he did … popular winners beautifully handled and prepared.

Throughout the weekend the question I heard most frequently from our overseas visitors was “how do they pick the Crufts judges?” Certainly some are not in the first flush of youth and in some cases clearly not 100 per cent fit. As is the case at any dog show some decisions appear to be unfathomable. The official line is that Crufts invitations are dependent on the frequency with which someone has judged a breed or group. Of course we all know that this is not the case when some individuals are bypassed and others leapfrogged.

The other point that many visitors made is that many judges obviously have not given any thought to the ringside, failing to manage their rings so that the ringside gets a decent view of the dogs and I heard time and again judges criticised for not moving dogs sufficiently. I have to say I have never understood how you can pluck one dog from one corner or the ring, one from the other, one from somewhere else and so on, then simply mark your book. To me it is logical and necessary to put dogs in an approximate order of merit, then send them around to see if any placements need adjusting.

Love it or hate it, Crufts has an attraction all of its own and many of us are already beginning to prepare for 2018!