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South Western Great Dane Club League Finals

TO BORROW a phrase from a satirical programme popular in the era of the Club's formation: "That was the Week(end) That Was", writes Tony Rewston, Hon. Secretary of the South Western Great Dane Club.

Over the past 20 years the SWGDC's Top Twelve/League Finals has become established as a Premier event in the Great Dane calendar. Each year the cream of the breed have graced this event and coupled with the glittering array of Silverware and Specials on offer has produced a compelling competition.

The weekend of the 10th/11th November saw the fruition of several years of planning and hard work by a dedicated Committee, culminate in a Gala Weekend of which they could be justly proud and which judging by the large amount of positive feedback received everyone enjoyed.

The occasion was the celebration of the Club's 25th Anniversary year and Brean Leisure Park the venue. 2001 also coincidentally being the 21st anniversary of the Clubs League finals Special Event, gave added impetus to the Committee's wish to mark the occasion with something different. Their decision was a Gala Weekend.

The Committee had recognised the basic requirements for a successful weekend and these were strongly endorsed by the success of the GDC's event in August last year. However November posed several additional problems. The major one being that that time of the year ruled out the possibility of any outdoor activity as part of the event. So began the search for a venue that had all of the essential elements, a large hall for indoor rings, quality catering for a Dinner Dance and accommodation, all on the one site.

It was a long and mostly fruitless search, any venues had some of the required elements but few had all that we required. The odd ones that did flatly refused once dogs were mentioned. Then about eighteen months ago, a chance remark to a personal friend led to a phone call to the owner and then a meeting with the Management of Brean Leisure Park in Somerset and as they say the rest is history.

Brean Leisure Park is in essence a self contained holiday camp. However they set very high standards and had never previously allowed dogs in to any of their facilities and particularly the accommodation. Having inspected all of the facilities on offer, including accommodation that is also of a very high standard, the Committee was very happy to go there. However we soon became aware of a perception problem as the holiday camp jokes and references to Hi De Hi and "Maplines" yellow coats started doing the rounds shortly after we advertised the event for the first time. I even had someone ring up rather mischievously and ask if it was correct that they had to make up bunk beds in the caravans that were to be used. All of this we took in good humour because we knew the true story and all would be revealed over the weekend in question.

Having convinced the Management that Great Danes are a very well behaved breed and that most of their owners are nearly as well behaved, they agreed to take the booking. They set down only minimal conditions to our booking and these we felt was entirely reasonable. We then set about organising the event in the hope that we would be well supported. WE NEED NOT HAVE WORRIED.

After many months of planning and having spent nearly all of the week prior to the event at the leisure park, at 5pm Saturday 10th. November we finally reached zero hour. Having given my own personal assurances to the Brean owners when I met with them originally, I hoped my faith would not be misplaced and that everyone would be on their best behaviour. I NEED NOT HAVE WORRIED.

The evening commenced with complimentary drinks for competitors and guests. To set the right atmosphere the Committee were all dressed in formal evening wear and many of the large gathering had followed suit including a number of our Scottish friends who made a splendid sight in their national costume.

At about 6pm the business of the evening got under way in the traditional manner, with the parade of the Veterans and the Colour League winners. With Sheila Nicholson delivering a slick commentary on the individuals, they were followed firstly by the Premier League Qualifiers and lastly by the Super League contestants.

At 6.45pm the judges were introduced and we were ready for the judging to start.

This year's judges for the league finals were Mr Dick Finch doing dogs. For over thirty years Dick has had great success showing and breeding Weimaraners, Dalmatian and Vizslas under the "Hansom" affix and gives CC in those breeds plus GSPs, GWPs, Otterhounds and Spinones he also owns Smooth Fox Terriers. John Steel of "Seistan Afghan, Ibizan and Greyhound fame judged the Bitches. John is the first judge to be invited to do the leagues a second time having done them in 1986. He is held in very high regard and as this was an anniversary event we thought it appropriate to invite him back again. He has exhibited Afghan hounds since the early 1960s and first awarded CCs in the Seventies. The highlights of his judging career was being invited to judge Greyhounds at the Hound Assoc. Silver Jubilee in 1983 and Crufts in the Millennium year 2000.

The Referee was Nancy Evans of the Amazon Dobermanns. She awards CCs to the breed and with husband Clive has bred 17 Dobermann Champions. In addition they bred and owned the breed record holder for a brown Ch. Amazon Brahm's N'Lizt who won 24 CCs and BIS Bath 1990. In 1997 his son Ch. Amazon Sound Machine another brown, was BOB at Crufts, a feat he repeated in 1988 when he went on to second in the Group.

The SWGDC Committee made a conscious decision many years ago to appoint only top flight judges without any direct contact with the breed to officiate at these events. As can be seen from the profiles above, this year's judges were of the same high calibre as those chosen over the preceding 20 years. Despite the protestations of a very small minority of these within the breed, who would prefer "Dane Judges" or known "Faces". The Committee have stuck to that principle, as they feel that it is the level of impartiality that these people from outside the breed bring to the event, that has ensured its continuing success over the years. It is also interesting to note that these outsiders have continually managed to select the top winners despite their lack of involvement with the breed. It only proves the old adage that quality, like cream, will always come to the top.

This year's judges went about the business in their individual styles and having selected their winners they completed each League by presenting the individual winners with their trophies.

The results of the Leagues are detailed below but to confirm the previous comment, in the SuperLeague Dogs, Mr Finch selected as his one, two, three, the top three points winners in the League and Mr Steel's winner of the Premier League was also the leading point scoring bitch in that league.

Once the serious part of the evening was over it was time for the fun to start but not before the judges and Referee were presented with commemorative gifts by the SWGDC Chair, Gwynneth Keehner.

As stated earlier, we need not have worried about support. There were in excess of ninety people staying in the accommodation and nearly a hundred and twenty booked for the meal so after a short break for some to change or see to dogs the festivities could start. Brean Leisure Park is well known for its fine food and the three-course meal that included a lavish carvery was of the finest standard. During coffee the draw was made for the winner of the number of the "Lucky League Finals Programme" The prize was a large puppy model and the lucky recipient was Ann Merwick. Shortly after that we had the presentations of the silverware by Sally Lewis to the winners of the Annual Trophies. As if to highlight the special nature of this year, the contest for the top points winner in the Dog SuperLeague had produced a unique tie for the Hecklehaze Hector Cup, between Mr & Mrs G Allan & Mrs J Greig Ch. & Irish Ch. Turlum Tartan Special to Morardane Messrs. G Hooker & J Lockey Ch. Turlum Trail Blazer to Garsak. They could not be separated however the equation was approached and therefore agreed to share the trophy.

With Sheila again doing the introduction, the presentations were completed in good time and after an enthusiastically supported wine raffle and the introduction of a photographic completion the music began.

The in-house DJ was obviously very accomplished at "reading his audience" as he managed to set the right tone from the start. The evidence of this was the packed dance floor from the first record and it continued to be so, throughout the night. In fact there were boo's of protest when he called time at the bar and an even louder protests when he finally closed down at 1am. The national fervour of the Scottish contingent was much in evidence and greatly enjoyed by the onlookers, as were the previously hidden Rock & Roll talents of a well-known brindle owner who shall remain nameless. However the same owner put to good use his obvious athleticism when winning the brace class the following day. Fear of litigation prevents me from naming many others seen "strutting their stuff" on the dance floor but I have to say that for some of our fellow Dane enthusiasts, the opportunity to dance obviously opens up a whole new side to their characters.

Sadly, 1am came far too soon and brought to an end a fabulous night that had not only surpassed the expectations of even the most optimistic members of the Committee but had been truly memorable for all those taking part. It is fair to say that a number of the participants partied until the very early hours. However, true to form, they were up early (infact I think some had not made it to their beds) and ready for a hearty breakfast and the start of the Championship Show. Again the Leisure Park supplied an excellent variety of options for breakfast and then it was forward to day two.

All the results and reports for the Ch. Show are contained elsewhere within this Special Feature, therefore I will comment only on the events that surrounded the day.

Cathy Joel (Dogs) & Sheila Ritchens (Bitches) both giving the "Big Green Cards" for the first time, showed no nerves as they went about the business of sorting out their winners and both finished in excellent time. For the award of BIS they agreed to differ and the Referee Mrs Susan Cottrell was called upon to make the decision in favour of the bitch, Ch. Yacanto Strong Promise. All other decisions were unanimous.

The convivial atmosphere of the previous evening was carried throughout the day and all elements were well supported including Dane Rescue who had a stand at the show. Bill Patterson was in charge of the raffle as usual, and as usual used his charm to great effect in getting people to part with their money. He had gathered together a wonderful array of prizes and the winners were drawn in early afternoon as was the winner of the "American's Choice" photographic completion. The format for this competition with a 25 prize that ran over the two days, was very simple, but created an enormous amount of interest. Some months ago the photographs of seven Great Dane Champions, now deceased, were sent to the well known American Breeder /Judge Brucie Mitchell (Von Raseac). They represented all five colours plus one additional Brindle and Harlequin. They were unnamed and only identified alphabetically A to G. She was asked to select her leading five in her preferred order and return the results sealed and signed in the envelope provided. This sealed envelope was displayed along with the A3 size photographs of the seven Danes in question and of the judge. The competition participants were invited to try and match Brucie's selection.

Brucie's selection was as follows: 1 Ch. Drumview Trade Secret (fawn bitch), 2 Ch. Bencaross Beau Brummel (fawn dog), 3 Ch. Leftwich Lotta Bottel to Yacanto (brindle bitch), 4 Ch. Devarro Direct Descendant (brindle dog) and 5 Ch. Batworth Obsession for Marridane (harlequin bitch).

Interestingly a total of 19 entrants placed Trade Secret first, but only one person Mike Duckworth got close to the result. He placed the first three in the correct order and for good measure also placed the harlequin. We done Michael. Although she was not asked to do so Brucie also included a very interesting critique of her selection and this will be included in the next club magazine.

And so the event drew to a close without any major problem and ended with the same good humour and bonhomie that it had started with the previous evening.

From the outset our one underlying worry about using this previously unused venue was that some careless or thoughtless owner might ignore the instruction not to leave dogs unattended in the accommodation which might lead to damage and the possible loss of the venue for any future project. 'I'm delighted to say that everyone was on their best behaviour'. For that the Committee say a great THANK YOU to those of you who stayed over. Sadly I have to say that not everyone who took part over the two days was as careful about cleaning up after their dogs (A Kennel Club Regulation) a fact not lost on the management of the Brean. However the examplary behaviour of the majority, impressed the management sufficiently to make a return possible should we wish to do so.

So a last thank you from the Committee, to all whom supported our efforts and a personal one from me. Your and your dogs' general all round good behaviour means I can still greet my personal friend as such and we have made new friends at Brean.

The Judging

THE GENERAL quality of the exhibits was of good standard, and some exhibits oozed class.

I was particularly impressed by the head's, outline was good & conformation was sound generally, although I thought some exhibits, weak behind, which showed up in their movement which was lacking in drive, roadwork should put that right. One or two exhibits were a little apprehensive, possibly due to the surroundings.

Premier League Dog Final

1. Pric\e's Leamap Blackjack, a true 'Great' Dane. Plenty of substance, good frame carried on good bone, good feet with strong pasterns. Very sound, moved & showed well in excellent condition and well handled, this was a unanimous decision over the bitch, should have a very good future.

2. Giffords Garsak Sid Dodiuel De Savage. Charming brindle, good head & topline, strong conformation.

3. Kevan's Ravendane marcus at Matchmore. His name is almost as long as the distance he travelled! Sound, good in front. Pleasing make & shape, good bone, must have a bright future.

Super League Dog Final

1. Hooker & Lockeys Ch Turlum Trail Blazer to Garsait. Stood out in this class, a real eye catcher, and his sound conformation was proven when I went over him, outstanding head, good neck & shoulders which flowed into a strong body. Good on the move & showing all the time.

2. Allans Ch & Ir Ch turlum Tartan Special to Morardane. Another outstanding specimin, who scores on all counts, on the day was beaten by movement of winner, perhaps needed a bigger ring.

3. Cottrell's Ch Berevale Gilpin, very attractive black. Sound conformation, good head & topline, scored in fron needs to tighten up in rear which would then produce more powerful movement. I was afterwards told that the above were your top winning dogs, it is easy to see why! Well done may your success continue, but I think Black Jack will be hard on your heels.

Dick Finch

IT WAS a great pleasure to judge at this very special event, something I had eagerly anticipated for many months.

I was not disappointed, the format of the competition means that you get very good Great Danes to judge. Add to this the fact that the exhibitors asr in the top rank at getting the best out of their changes and the judge is in for a real treat.

Splendid organisation by the efficient and friendly committee made this an event I will long remember.

The joint decisions required with my co-judge were reached quickly and easily.

The Supreme Winners of the Superleague was Armour's Ch Garsak Sun Dance.

The overall winner of the Premier League was the dog Leamap Blackjack.

There were only marginal differences in those I placed and, indeed, in a number who were unplaced on the night.

Among the assembled finalists, some ears were a fraction large, one or two had loose lower eyelids, from above some heads tapered a shade too much. A shoulder here and there somewhat straight, a few quarters not so strong as others.

Sometimes separation of the contestants was as little as those who gave their all when being watched.

The high quality specimens present, with only minor differences separating them, mean my notes are an appreciation rather than a 'critique'. My congratulations to all who reached the finals.

Premier League Bitch Final

1. Hooker & Lockey's Garsak Blaze. Wonderfully feminine fawn with excellent properties from heat to tail. Quality head, good planes, nice eye and ear set, gorgeous neck into well laid shoulders, firm topline, nicely bodied with super legs and feet. I can imagine she will make further appearances at these finals.

2. Toye & Robinson's Toyerob This Years Kisses. So much said about the winner applies here also, another really super young lady of great quality. Responded well to excellent handling. Close decision.

3. Bowles & Stimpson's Repsac Bone Collector. A little less mature than the previous two but teeming with quality, all three pleased me immensely, excelling as well balanced bitches showing the required poer and elegance.

Super League Bitch Final

1. Armour's Ch Garsak Sun Dance. Excellent in profile and front view, superb head, nicely crested neck flowing into good shoulders giving that absolutely clean cut high class Dane look. Legs, feet and body all first class making a 'picture' standing and in motion. Gave all the necessary impression of power coupled with elegance. Declared the Supreme Winner on joint decision.

2. Greig's Ch Turlam Rags to Riches. Another beautiful fawn with very similar good properties to the winner. Excelled in body and action. Made the task of separating the first two very difficult, which is as it should be.

3. Micklewright's Dainden Distinct Design, completed a trio of lovely bitches. Another with excellent head features and not let down in any department, like the previous two presented a well balanced picture.

John Steel