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'England tops the teams
' - report by Gaynor Bailey

IF YOU want to take a three-day break and have good weather, take it whilst the CLA Game Fair is on – it’s nearly always boiling hot, real summer weather, which we don’t get very often!

This year was no different, the three days at Broadlands, Romsey, Hampshire were blessed with glorious weather, too hot for the dogs and unfortunately some stupid people left them in cars which needed to be broken into to save their lives, why do they never learn? Cars are greenhouses on a hot day, leaving the window open doesn’t make any difference. Anyway, the Gundog Tests went well, with lots of retrieves into a lake.

The first day saw the Aigle/Euro Team Challenge, with four teams from Belgium, Holland, Germany and the UK, four handlers in each team and I’m delighted to say there were Flatcoats, Golden Retrievers and a Chesapeake Bay Amongst the many Labradors. Judged by Jim Gale and Fille Exelmans, Arena Organiser Liz Barnes had set tests based on a walked up shoot day with a small drive in the afternoon. The ground cover made things very difficult as it was interspersed with tall sunflowers, hiding some of the thrown dummies from the dogs which were judged on their game finding, marking and steadiness.

With the Belgium team entering the arena first, two dogs went with the bottom judge and two with the top, all starting to walk forward through the game crop, taking it in turns to retrieve the marked dummies thrown in front and the blind hidden at the back, each being marked by a double shot from the gun loaded with blanks which made it a bit easier to get the dogs attention quickly enough to see where the dummy landed although several struggled on the blind. The next test was a mark over the fence and one into the lake, (how the dogs enjoyed the cool of the swim), followed by another blind behind, over the fence.

By lunch time, it was clear that the UK and Germany were neck and neck for first place, in fact, Germany’s Helena Nieholf-Oellers with her Labrador bitch Alpha vom Keien Fenn, had only dropped two points and was working superbly although Germany’s Chesapeake Bay Retriever, cheslabben Pow Wow, was being temperamental, losing points when he could have done much better, as he did at last year’s Fair when he worked really well – but that’s dogs for you!

In the afternoon the set up was the same with two dogs from a team at the top and two at the bottom of the arena, this time walking forward with shots fired in the line to test the dog’s steadiness before a retrieve over the fence. A short drive was then simulated, dummies thrown into the lake, well apart, one for each dog the judge to state which dummy to be retrieved by which dog, followed by a retrieve across a corner of the lake, on the far bank as a grand finale, seven retrieves in all. Alpha vom Keien Fenn had a total of 138 out of 140 making her the individual top, a tremendous achievement and a pleasure to watch. Mark Lucas’ Labrador Abbotsleigh Pharaoh was only eight points behind with 130, followed by Holland’s Frans Oostveen’s Golden Retriever Cockpit Wager with 129 but it was the UK Team who was presented with first place by Aigle’s European Marketing manager, Astrid Judmeiier, gaining 151 points in total were captain, Keith Broomfield, Mark Lucas, Graham Robers and Derek Buckland, all Labradors; second were Germany, Birgit Brode, Helena Nieholf-Oellers, Betty Schwieren and Dr Gunda-Inken Muhl; third Holland, Louis Notebonn-Schmitt, Karel Van Loo, Jan Bos and Frans Oestveen; they were all presented with Aigle’s beautiful coats or boots – lucky people!

The Jeep International Team Competition run over the next two days was a closely contested match between England, captained by John Halstead, Ireland by Brendan Mack, Scotland by Hugh Paterson and Wales by John Blackburn, with five Spaniels and five Retrievers in each team, all scores to count which was different to the last few years when the captain was able to drop the worst score.

The Spaniels ran each morning, judged by Ralph Edwards and Tim Crothers, with 60 of the 100 points allocated to hunting, so important in a working spaniel, the other 40 for retrieving the pigeon flush etc. It was superb to see the little dogs so busily hunting up the game crop, turning naturally or on a pip from the whistle, noses to the ground, short tails wagging, stopping on a report from the gun and watching for the retrieve.

The standard was very high with hardly any failures and the spaniels mostly made nothing of the wooden fence although one hit the top and did a complete somersault, luckily not hurting himself. The mark into water was a doddle for nearly all of them but some struggled to pick the blind behind as the scent was poor in the hot conditions. Bell of Lindley Towers of Whitehope, a consistent winner for Paul Dyson form england, was a pleasure to watch as she worked her heart out in the cover for each retrieve as was Ireland’s Iced Prince for Willie Edgar, a great hunting dog. Jack Iliffe, England, with Laganmill comet who won the recent Save the Children Final Test, was another good ’un, as was Eric Elwick’s Breckswood Lark, also for England.

Unfortunately, the Welsh Spaniels were not on form, as Wales usually produces a top team for the Game Fair; Scotland, also, were struggling, so very disappointing for their handlers, although it was the retrieving that was letting both teams down, not the hunting which was consistently good.

In the afternoon, it was the turn of the Retrievers, all Labradors, judged by Robin Wise and John Douglas, who wee sympathetic to any dogs that struggled, giving them enough time to hunt out the dummies in the poor scenting conditions. Mostly, the standard was excellent and it was a great pleasure to watch so many brilliant retrievers, carried out at such speed although the tests were anything but easy.

In contrast to the spaniel, who each completed their work in one run, each Retriever did half his work on the Saturday, the other half on Sunday, which meant that the handlers couldn’t go back to their hotel and relax but had to face the obstacles a second time. With one handler and the Labrador under each judge they commenced with a long mark over the fence and a mark on the water to the right, the lake retrieve first. Heather Bradley’s Kenwu Wilson of Heathergaye (who was second in the Retrieve Championship last year0, and Andy Lathom’s Endacott Shelf, both for England, Jack Toals’ Tannaghmore Teal for Ireland, Dave Robertson’s Bengrave Badger for Scotland and Peter Jones’ Drakeshead Umbopo for Wales all achieving perfect scores.

The next test was a long mark forward over the fence with a blind over the lake onto the far bank to be retrieved first and this caused a number of problems, only Eddie Finn’s Int F T Ch Raughlin Bailey of tirgarve getting full marks.

The Sunday tests seemed even more difficult with an extremely long blind the length of the arena, the dogs partly unsighted by the handlers also a blind into the lake which caused even more problems, but Drakeshead Umbopo was so much on form that he seemed to make everything look easy. Peter had already said that this was the dogs very last appearance in public as he was being retired, having won a number of events and reached the age of eight and a half.

At the end of the day, Lord and Lady Romsey very kindly presented the extensive prizes. 1st Team England with 781 points. 2nd Ireland 712. 3rd Wales 686. 4the Scotland 646. Best team of Spaniels, England. Best team of Retrievers, England. Best Spaniel, Paul Dyson’s Bell of Lindley towers of Whitehope, England. Best Retriever, Peter Jones’ Drakeshead Umbopo, Wales. Best Hunting Spaniel, Willie edgar’s Iced Prince, Ireland. Best Marking Retriever, Eddie Finn’s Int F T Ch Raughlin Bailey of Tigarve, Irleand. Best Dog of either breed, Peter Jones’Drakeshead Umbopo, Wales.