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Another pristine stakes’ spectacular

Last weekend the 24th Pedigree Special Stakes Finals were held at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel situated at the NEC. After a pleasant and very sustaining lunch, guests made their way into the elegant Palace Suite to the soothing background music provided by Strauss.

Tiered upholstered seating backed with red velvet screens all the way around the enormous flower-bedecked ring afforded everyone an excellent view of the proceedings. The ring was defined by white picket fencing with green carpeting laid over the suite’s thick carpeting.

There were many familiar faces from the world of dogs around the ring, including well-known Championship Show officers, prominent breeders, Kennel Club staff and of course not forgetting the judges from each of the heats. For many it was the first time they had met up since the New Year and so there were lots of "Happy New Year" kisses being exchanged.

The atmosphere was both electric and good-humoured and this was enhanced by Andrew Brace who was the commentator for the day, ably assisted by Norman Ziman (who later managed to pour a glass of water into Andrew’s lap as the Veteran exhibits were coming into the ring!) They were situated at a "high table" in one corner of the arena looking down onto the throng below. Before proceedings began, Andrew warned the competitors that the ring carpet had been laid over new carpet and was not adhering very well.


The Veterans were the first to take to the ring with representatives from every Group except Toys and there were no absentees. There were many greying faces (the dogs not the handlers I hasten to add!) but the way in which they all swept into the ring was a real joy to behold. Many of them could have given dogs half their age a run for their money – a real credit to their owners. They ranged in age from seven to thirteen, the eldest being the Sealyham Terrier, Ch/Am Ch/Can Ch Abricot Blenheim Bloke born in September 1989 and still looking very youthful. Derek Smith was the chosen judge and he did the job efficiently and professionally. Judging was halted for a minute after the sixth dog had been seen so that the carpet fitters could straighten the carpet which was rucking up at the seams and presenting a rather undulating surface for the ring. Many, but not all, of the finalists were Champions and some were dual UK and Irish Champions, others also with the additional title of International Champion – an indication of how well-travelled many dogs are nowadays in pursuit of their showing career. The Miniature Schnauzer, Ch/Ir Ch/Int Ch Risepark Favourite Fella, bred by Peter Newman and Barry Day came from Dublin.

When the 25 qualifiers had all been seen by Mr Smith, Andrew Brace announced that Keith Young and his band of stewards and helpers had just had an emergency meeting and the exhibitors were told they were to be sent out of the ring, around the back of the room and back in the other side - by which time the green ring carpet would have magically disappeared! Well, it did and very efficiently too – with the help of the NEC carpet men and the Pedigree team members. It looked rather like a scene from "It’s A Knockout" with pairs of people pulling up the strips of carpet and then folding them into a portable size. The Pedigree girls (of course!) proved far and away the quickest and most efficient team!
Andrew’s closing comment to all this was "Who’d have thought something that took so long to lay could be over so quickly?!"

The dogs all reappeared and took up their positions on the bright red and yellow carpet – completely unfazed I might add. Derek Smith pulled out ten which were moved again and then he shortlisted the final five which were all moved around the ring together. He indicated that he had made his final decisions and pulled out in winning position, to tremendous applause, Liz Dunhill’s home-bred Japanese Shiba Inu, Ch Vormund I’m Smartie. Smartie, aged ten and a half, was the only bitch in the final line-up and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the whole competition. In second place was the Newfoundland Mr & Mrs Parker’s Ch Evanpark Ace Venture, also an owner-bred dog. Third place went to the Dalmatian Mrs C Gatford’s Ch Tommy Brock. Fourth was the Saluki Marie Bryce-Smith’s Ch Mumtaz Moonmagic handled by husband Nick and in fifth position was the Shih Tzu, Ch/Ir Ch Jardhu the Republican. Beautiful tall lidded crystal goblets plus Pedigree product vouchers of varying amounts were presented to the first three placings by Suzy Roffey of Masterfoods. Despite the slight hiccup with the carpet Derek still managed to finish exactly to the "Keith Young timing" schedule!


Without more ado, we went on to the Pedigree Junior Handler of the Year Final with a full house of fourteen finalists comprising one representative from each Group in each of the age groups 6-11 years and 12-16 years. The judge for this event was Ellis Hulme. Andrew Brace announced that Ellis was going to judge it just like any other class i.e. they would have to move conventionally in a triangle and up and down with no "fancy moves or tricks" being requested. The details of each Junior Handler’s hobbies and aspirations for the future was relayed to us by Andrew; many of them, as in previous years, wanting to be either a Vet, Veterinary nurse or wishing to care for animals in one form or another. Daniel Petrie, born in 1993, not a newcomer to this competition, again won the crowd’s heart as he was still probably smallest finalist and yet was handling an upstanding German Shepherd Dog. We were enthralled to learn that he participates in American wrestling and indeed would like to be a professional wrestler when he "grows up"!

Mr Hulme judged all the finalists and then had the unenviable task of shortlisting six. The six handlers shortlisted were Kirsty Miller, Lucy Dixon, Toula Lucas, Daniel Petrie, Jane Cryer and Julia Gilchrist. They were then taken away to meet their new "charges" – dogs from the Veteran Stakes which had been loaned for them to handle during the next round of the competition. During the changeover of dogs Mary Ray and her two Working Sheepdogs treated the audience to a wonderful demonstration of Heelwork to Music. They demonstrated a new routine entitled "Hooked on Swing" which as always really delighted the audience!

The final six Juniors then came back into the ring; this time each handling the new dog that they had only just met. All were seen individually again and then it was back out of the ring to collect their original dog for the final appraisal by the judge. The eventual winner was Lucy Dixon who won a fully paid up trip to the World Show in Dortmund plus £100 from the Ryslip Group and £50 donated by The Welsh Kennel Club. In second place was Kirsty Miller who won a trip for two to the Amsterdam Winner Show plus £75 donated by the Scottish Kennel Club. In third place was Jane Cryer who won £100 donated by Richmond Championship Show; fourth was Toula Lucas who won £75 donated by Leeds Championship Show, in fifth place was Julia Gilchrist who won £50 donated by Windsor Show and in sixth place was Daniel Petrie winning £25 donated by the Welsh Kennel Club. Tom Grant, Masterfoods Breeder Services Manager, made the presentations. Rabart for Fine Art, Dogs Monthly, Dog World and OUR DOGS were also thanked for donating prizes to each of the finalists.

After a welcome break for tea, we all re-assembled and the next item on the agenda was the presentation of the Treetops Shield to the Junior Handler who qualified for the Finals the most number of times during the year. Charlotte Nickel who qualified 57 times during 2002 won this for the fifth time.


The Special Champions’ Stakes final took on the same format as that of the Veteran Stakes. There were three absentees in this competition – Mr & Mrs Barrett’s Rough Collie, Ch Brooklynson Golden Fashion; Miss Crummey, Miss Oake and Mrs Grant’s American Cocker Sh Ch Afterglow Prunella and Mr & Mrs Harris’ West Highland White Terrier Ch Vallange Torquemada.

Margaret Everton was the judge for the Champion Stakes’ Finals and she looked extremely elegant in a beige three-piece outfit piped in black leather worn with matching shoes.
Amongst the finalists were two white Standard Poodles both bred in Spain by Messrs Renau and Cabrera. After making a thorough assessment of each finalist, Mrs Everton pulled out nine dogs and then made her final shortlist of five. They were all lined up for a last look before Mrs Cross Stern moved them around the ring together and made her winner, to thunderous applause, the Saluki, Mrs Anne MacDonald’s home-bred Ch Mabrooka Jayid. In second place was the Kerry Blue Terrier, Ramsay’s Torum’s Tunde Bayou handled by Geoff Corish; third place went to the American Cocker Sh Ch Afterglow Arrabella handled by Mike Gadsby her breeder. In fourth place was Miss C Smith’s Pomeranian Ch Moonrae Ebony Hot Shot and fifth place went to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Miss C Blance’s Ch Penlith Shooting Star. Tom Grant, who also presented crystal to the judge, made the presentations of another set of beautiful crystal.

Tom then reminded us that last year’s Best in Show at Crufts had made history by being the first dog from overseas to achieve this title. He announced that the dog’s owners, Mr & Mrs Glenna had flown in from Norway to be there and they were then presented with a painting of "King" which had been painted by Dr Jessica Holm. The presentation was made by Peter Groves, Masterfood’s Specialist Channel Director.

The day was rounded off with a spectacular celebration dinner and disco which carried on into the small hours and was attended by over 300 guests.