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Overseas interest in retriever showcase

HER MAJESTY Queen Elizabeth II and The Crown Commissioners were the hosts for the IGL Retriever Championship 2001 held at Windsor Great Park, Berkshire, over three days at the beginning of December, writes Gaynor Bailey.

On the first day, Monday December 3rd, Her Majesty graced the championship with her presence and seemed to thoroughly enjoy watching the work of some of the best retrievers in the U.K.

The morning was foggy and a slightly delayed start saw it clearing enough to line the judges, Philip White and John Douglas on the right and Richard Webb and John Drury on the left, together with six guns, four dogs and handlers, stewards, number carriers, the Steward of the Beat, John Stubbs (Her Majesty's headkeeper), Roger Skinner of Skinner's Dog Food, the sponsors, and all the other people entitled to be in the line, to walk forward though quite high mustard, making it difficult for the dogs to mark the pheasants falling, Poor Paula Cullis, No 1, running in her first championship, was the first to try for a pheasant that had fallen into the woods alongside the mustard crop but failed to find and Mike Tallamy's FT Ch. Bringwood Bobby of Brindlebay made a good retrieve of the bird, putting Paula out.

FT Ch Craighorn Bracken retrieving to Tom Smith.

Sally Jenkin's Hatchfield Tarka did some good work and Tom Smith from Scotland with FT Ch. Craighorn Bracken made a perfect mark into the high crop to pick a difficult retrieve without any help from his handler.

David Haycock's Golden Retriever Foxcote Solomon, was intelligent enough to stand on his hind legs to watch the fall of a cock pheasant in a very high mustard, subsequently making a splendid fast retrieve. It was a shame to see only four goldens having qualified against twenty seven labradors running, three other labradors qualified but were unable to compete.

Anne Courtier's Endacott Early Edition made a fast retrieve but unfortunately several dogs failed on runners as the scent seemed non existent, necessitating the pickers up to be left behind to find them. Tom West with Browtime Buck of Westhala was the last dog in the first round, making a smart retrieve, each dog left in the trial having now had two retrieves, those who had had a failure were now out.

The Marchioness of Hartington and Her Majesty The Queen.

Difficult The second round of one retrieve each was more difficult, with the judges asking the handlers to send their dogs longer distances across the line to hunt for a bird on the far end, here Tess Lawrence's FT Ch. Willowyck Henman did a good 'eye wipe', putting out Graham Paterson's Golden Retriever Endrickbank Celt who had failed, FT Ch Craighorn Bracken continuing to do good work without any help from his handler, Tom Smith. Seventeen dogs out of the original thirty one were required by the judges for the second day which was sunny but cold, with the line walking up in dead bracken between the occasional deciduous trees.

Only one Golden Retriever, Foxcote Soloman, had survived and after an excellent find of a lightly shot pheasant in thick reeds, unfortunately succumbed on a woodcock which was picked by the judges after Endacott Early Edition had also failed. Steve Polley with his wife's FT Ch. Brindlebay Bee completed a demanding retrieve of a live cock over the brow and The Marchioness of Hartington's FT Ch. Taslbrook Rhum of Bolton Abbey, handled by John Halsted picked a difficult woodcock.

The final line-up, l-r: John Halstead, Tom Smith, Peter Bates, Heather Bradley, Tess Lawrence, Steve Polley, John Halsted.

Only seven Labradors were wanted for the third day which again was walking up in dead bracken through a light rain this time, with FT Ch Willowyck Henman completing an excellent retrieve of a bird that had fallen a long way away into the woodland, Tom Smith still not requiring to handle FT Ch. Craighorn Bracken who seemed to be the only dog present finding the birds without any help and doing it at high speed, very impressive.

A drive was held to finish the championship, approximately nine pheasants being shot which gave all the dogs a tenth retrieve only this time needing to be handled to the requested bird. Each was then given a swim across a pool to finish the trial.

Glenpatrick Eve retrieving to Peter Bates.

The new president of the International Gundog League Retriever Society, Mr Richard Parker made a speech, then the winners were announced by the new Field Trial Secretary, Mr Philip Wainwright and it was with a whoop of delight from the large crowd that 1st was given to Tom Smith with FT Ch. Craighorn Bracken, a four and half year old labrador dog, bred, owned and handled by Tom, taking home all the numerous cups; 2nd Heather Bradley's Kenwu Wilson of Heathergaye; 3rd Peter Bates' Glenpatrick Eve; 4th Tess Lawrence's FT Ch Willowyck Henman; Award of Honour John Halstead's Drakeshead Treacle; Diploma of Merit Steve Polley with FT Ch Brindlebay Bee and The Marchioness of Hartington's FT Ch Talsbrook Rhum of Bolton Abbey, handled by John Halsted.

The eight lady handlers.

It had been a great thrill for the huge crowd, many from abroad, to have Her Majesty with them on the first day and affairs of state prevented her from attending on the next two days, which was disappointing. It had been a good championship and now another year must pass before the next, which will be in Yorkshire.