updated 26/10/01
Pet Plan Stakes - Breathless, but a winner!
by Liz Stannard

SLIGHTLY EARLIER in the year than usual those lucky people - invited as guests and whose dogs and bitches have qualified at the 14 shows that hold heats, made their way to Eastnor Castle last Friday for the finals of Petplan Junior Stakes.

I was very privileged to be invited for dinner and to stay the night before in the castle itself. Although the journey down the motorway was horrendous (due to accidents) which made us very late, I soon got into the atmosphere of the place. Sweeping down the wide staircase, drinks in the drawing room with a big log fire, dinner at a table bedecked with silver cutlery and bone china crockery, the beautiful pictures on all the walls, even in the bedrooms which had the addition of four poster beds meant that you could imagine yourself in another era very easily.

The three judges pictured in the process of scoring the contestants.

Every year Petplan holds its finals in a stately home or castle - and we have been to some very nice ones, Castle Ashby and Belvoir Castle being two of the latest ones. However this year we went back for a second visit to Eastnor Castle, near Ledbury, not as old as it looks but a family home with some beautiful furniture and pictures, in a setting overlooking sweeping grounds and a lake which is in the process of being dredged. The house is now licensed for weddings, one of which was taking place the following day - and I can imagine the lovely photos there will be in that bride’s album.

The morning’s proceedings take place in a marquee at the side of the house reached via a spiral stone staircase, a bit like going down to the dungeons! Inside there was an area for benching the lucky 28 dogs who were all able to be present this year. The other side of the screen was a large score board, which was maintained by Tim from Petplan during the judging (climbing up and down a ladder to display the points awarded by the three judges). The ring was surrounded by white picket fencing and on two sides by chairs for the invited audience. This year a few had been invited just to watch the competition, but as numbers are restricted they could not be accommodated for lunch.


As in previous years Andrew Brace was in charge of the microphone and with his fantastic memory was able to give the audience a lot more background information on the finalists than they had supplied, I am sure. Keith Young - ably assisted by wife June - was once again in charge of the ring management, another part of the team who have now become regulars.

Pictured at the Petplan Junior Stakes Final from l-r: Bert Easdon with winner Yakee Leaving Me Breathless, judge Valerie Foss, Petplan Commercial Director Nick Poole, second place Lesley Crawley with the Norwich Terrier Ch Ragus Name Your Poison, judges Margaret Everton and Martin Freeman.

The Petplan team was this year headed by a new face Nick Poole, the Commercial Director who has only been in the post for six weeks but is very enthusiastic and hopes to go to a number of the shows during next year. He has already been to an exemption show with his Large Munsterlander and is looking forward to seeing a championship show but not as an exhibitor!

Jenny Perks was again heading the team and had organised the event in her usual capable fashion. Jill Peak - known to us all at the shows - was able to see her hard work in the field come to fruition.

Commentator for the event Andrew Brace is seen here taking control of the proceedings.

After a welcoming coffee everyone assembled and Nick Poole thanked us all for coming and welcomed us to the seventh Petplan final. He introduced us to this year’s three judges, all of whom have awarded best in show at championship shows, before handing over to Andrew who introduced all of the dogs into the ring one by one. The judges walked around briefly looking at the competitors while Andrew explained to the audience how the judging would take place. All dogs left the ring and the judges positioned themselves individually on three sides and awaited the first dog in. This was the Norwich Ch Ragus Name Your Poison who had qualified at Manchester, under Frank Jones, he was judged on the table by Margaret Everton looking very bright in pale blue to offset the tan which she had gained in Trinidad, having returned home only two days earlier. The Norwich then went across the ring to be judged by Valerie Foss while Mrs Everton gave her marks to one of the smart young Petplan girls. These marks were out of ten for Conformation and Type and were given by each judge for every dog straight after handling it.

By the time the first dog moved onto the third judge Martin Freeman, there were three dogs in the ring and that is how it carried on, until all the dogs and then all the bitches had been judged. Then they were brought back in for the judges to assess movement on a triangle and then straight up and down one at a time so they had the whole ring to themselves. During this the marks were displayed on the large screen so the audience could see how their favourites were doing and on their own sheets keep a running total. It all seems very complicated but once you see it in action it is easy to understand. As the judges are not allowed to confer and the audience has no idea who has awarded what in points it makes you aware that you cannot ringside judge, you need to put your hands on especially with the coated breeds.

From the first round of points it was a coated breed that held the lead by one point at first but after the movement points went ahead and did not lose that advantage. It should be no surprise to learn that it was that ace breeder Bert Easdon with a Yakee Peke. Yakee Leaving Me Breathless, who has not been shown often but has managed to win two CCs and two reserves in the shadow of his illustrious companion.

After the movement points were added up the five dogs with the highest sub-total were asked back into the ring and these were, the Norwich Terrier Ch Ragus Name Your Poison, who had won reserve best in show at Southern Counties and has won three Terrier groups, shows as always by his owner breeder Les Crawley. The Pekingese, known as Les at home, who had qualified at Bath under Dr Nishi, the Miniature Poodle bitch Navarre Is Explicit JW who is granddaughter of ‘Executive’ the poodle record holder and following in the footsteps of ‘Exemplary’ who was third in these finals in 1999, again shown by her clever owner breeder Liz Holmes-Leak, she qualified at Bournemouth under Nan Kirk. After her came the Italian Greyhound Salatini Symphony who has two CCs and also has litter brothers and sister with CCs they won as pups. Shown very elegantly by owner breeder Nicki Hunter and, like the poodle bred from a champion bitch, she had won through at City of Birmingham under Brenda Banbury. The fifth finalist was another bitch the Lhasa Apso Saxonsprings Secret Dreams shown by owner breeder Ken Woosnam who is no stranger to this event being like Liz a previous winner. Secret Dreams was the last qualifier to come through from Belfast under June Freeman. There were a number of competitors who had been in finals before and as usual there were some dogs who had perhaps not gone on to fulfil the potential they looked to have on the day they won their heat.


They were now awarded one extra point and moved and showed again for the judges to award marks for Star Appeal - something they have either got or haven’t got. At this stage it was still not a foregone conclusion as there were two on 171 points, one on 174, one on 175 and the leader on 178, but as the judges had three points each to give out it still could go any way.

At this stage Andrew announced that there was a tie and asked the Norwich and the Lhasa to remain in the ring while the judges without conferring decided which was to win the tie (but not the competition as far as we knew as we were not told for what place they were tieing), all very exciting. Within minutes all five were back in the ring and Keith Young had walked down to Andrew for him to announce the winners in reverse order, as the total points appeared on the score board to the sound of torrential rain hammering on the marquee roof.

In fifth place was the Miniature Poodle, fourth the Italian Greyhound, third the Lhasa, second on the nod the Norwich and still holding onto his three point lead with 85 out of a possible 100 was the Peke looking not at all ‘Breathless’.

Photos were taken and presentations made, including one to the judges received a lovely hamper as did the main workers. Nick Poole closed that part of the proceedings by thanking us all for coming, inviting us to lunch telling us that Petplan would provide umbrellas to get us back in to the house as the rain was now so heavy it was running under the sides of the marquee.

A little damp we gathered in the Octagon Room for champagne before going into a lovely lunch where we were able to discuss the mornings proceedings and see where we differed in the points to the three efficient judges. Later some of us took a guided tour of the house which was very interesting and gave some of us ideas if we should ever win the lottery.

Petplan is to be congratulated on the ideas of these fine venues - so much more fitting than a hotel to display the best of our Juniors.

Well known Petplan representattive Jill Peak receiving her gift from Petplan Commercial Director Nick Poole, together with Mark Cocozza.

Guests at the Petplan finals are pictured here l-r: Michael Coad, Geoff Corish and Sue McCourt.

Andrew Brace received his thank you gift from Jenny Perks, Events Manager and Commercial Director Nick Poole.

The highest place bitch at the final, in third place, was the Lhasa Apso axonsprings Secret Dreams, seen here with owner/breeder/handler Ken Woosnam.

Winning VHC at the Petplan finals was Liz Holmes-Leak with her Miniature Poodle Navarre Is Explicit JW.

Nikki Hunter with her Italian Greyhound Salatini Symphony won Reserve in the Junior takes Final.

Each year the winner receives a handmade solid silver collar crafted by Bloodhound enthusiast Peter Hardy, pictured here.

One of the judges was Valerie Foss, and she is seen here with Les Lund (Secretary of Manchester Championship Dog Show) and Irene Lund.

Commentator for the event was Andrew Brace, pictured here with Irene Bennett,and Jack Bennett , Secretary of Blackpool champ show.

OUR DOGS Managing Director Vince Hogan is pictured here with event photographer Carol Ann Johnson.

Second place at the Stajes Final was Lesley Crawley, pictured here with two other Terrier enthusiasts Martin Phillips and Andrew Gullick.

One of the OUR DOGS representatives at the event was Nancy Bassant (left), seen here with competitor Susan Crummey.

Dianna Spavin and daughter Melanie are seen here with Geoff Corish.

Chief Steward at the final was City of Birmingham Secretary Keith Young who is pictured here with his wife June (r), Bill King of Pedigree and Windsor Secretary Irene Terry.

Working hard at the event were Jill Peak and Mark Cocozza, seen here with two other Petplan staff.


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