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‘Rumour’ has it at the Contest of Champions 2006!

WINNER OF this year’s prestigious Canine Supporters’ Charity Contest of Champions, Liz Dunhill’s Rottweiler Ch/NZ GrCH/Aus Ch Rolex Rumour Has It by Fantasia,
pictured here with two of the judges Mr C Sudersan from India and Norman Huidobro from Spain,
and organiser Mrs Karina Le Mare.

The Canine Supporters' Charity hosted the canine calendar's most prestigious 'Black Tie' event, the Contest of Champions, at the Thistle Hotel at Heathrow Park in Middlesex last Saturday.

Sponsored by Royal Canin, the Top Dogs in each breed (annual points compiled by Pam Blay), by invitation only, come head to head to battle it out, competing on a match system. With a maximum of 64 dogs allowed to exhibit, it is on a first come first served basis so exhibitors need to have submitted their acceptance promptly to enable them to attend.

Preparation for this annual gala starts well in advance of the date, the organising committee work resolutely, making it possible for everyone to enjoy themselves at what is essentially a 'fund raising event' for our canine companions. With much 'multi-tasking' by all involved (yes... men can do that too, honest!): Peter Purves (President), David Spencer (Chairman), Glynn Payne (Vice Chairman), Karina Le Mare, (Hon Secretary), Kevan Forrest (Treasurer) & their committee of Stella Clark, Diana Greenfield, Vicki Herrieff, Tracey Jopson, Mac MacMillan, Gert Nielsen, Sarah Stephens, Pat Lister, Sue Glennon, Valerie & Brian Romain & Lee Williams; the evening was set, the programme beginning with a 4pm reception going through until 2am carriages.

The vast majority of guests arrived well in advance setting up crates on the benches and checking into the hotel. When I arrived at around 1.30pm there were some very 'happy' exhibitors already enjoying themselves in the hotel bar! Was this a sign of things to come? Were we in for an ebullient evening?

All dressed up with somewhere to go, making an entrance into the events' reception area, which was already packed to the brim, all that could be heard was the jovial chatter taking place. The tombola table was adorned with an array of interesting items valued well above the ticket price of £1; the sweepstakes tickets containing the number of each exhibit with the lucky winner receiving £50 at the end of the contest for only £1 investment.

Guests were asked to make their way to the tables, a plan of which was displayed on the reception area wall, for dinner at 5pm. With all seated, David Spencer said Grace as the first course was served. He also explained to guests why there was an empty tankard in the middle of each table along side the several bottles of complimentary wine courtesy of Royal Canin. Guests were requested to sign £5 notes and place them into the tankard, all contents of which would be mixed together with a draw taking place later in the evening. The lucky winner, Inger Bjorkman, originally from Sweden, would enjoy the prize for two people, a long weekend to Paris either by air or eurostar with accommodation plus a free weekend at the Thistle Hotel which was worth over £400 in total. She was accompanying her friends on table 8, who gave a very high-spirited cheer when she won, perhaps they all think they are going too!

During the dinner there were the traditional toasts; The Loyal Toast to the Queen by Kevan Forrest and The Canine Supporters' Charity Toast proposed by Gary Gray,. Royal Canin's National Sales Manager. Addressing the audience Gary said:

‘It's a great pleasure for Royal Canin to be associated with such a prestigious event and to strengthen our partnership with the Canine Supporters' Charity at this, one of the premiere events in the dog showing calendar. Knowledge & respect for dogs & breeders is at the core of our business, tonight we have representatives from our company among you who have strong links with the dog world & equally have had success in the show ring.

‘Collectively our passion for dogs is fundamental to what we do. I myself have been fortunate enough to represent my breed (GSD's) here on no less than four occasions & was runner up in 2000. Tonight, whilst being an occasion to raise much needed money for less fortunate dogs than our own, it's also a celebration of the cream of the dog showing scene.

‘Some of you may have been fortunate to compete here before, for others it may be your first time, but one thing to remember is, to make up a Champion is one hell of an achievement, Top Dog in your breed is truly outstanding, to represent your breed here tonight is, without doubt, the icing on the cake.

‘Cast your mind back if you will to when you started out in dog showing, the pleasure you had winning your first ever award and how such an event like this one must have been a distant dream, in reality a pipe dream, and yet here we are living that dream.

‘For some it may have taken a lifetime, for others a short while, but we all share a common theme, our passion for our dogs & the sheer joy of achieving top honours with them, that obviously coupled with a generous helping of luck!

‘It was Richard Burridge of 'Desert Orchid' fame who wrote, 'The moment of victory is so short it can be measured in a millisecond, nevertheless we will spend the rest of our lives trying to re-live that single moment'.

‘So sit back & enjoy, the pressure is off, so to speak, you have all done the hardest part; take pleasure in this moment with your dogs. After all, you really will be taking the best ones home tonight.

‘So it remains for me to thank you once again and for us to salute The Canine Supporters' Charity & our canine companions. So Ladies & Gentlemen raise your glasses, I give you a toast, Our Dogs, Our Passion’.

A very poignant speech.

Peter Purves gave the response:

‘This is a highly prestigious event and the difficult thing to do is to raise money. This year’s beneficiaries, Animal Cancer Trust, KIA Greyhounds & Lurcher Rescue, Sheffield Dog Rescue, Dogs Lost (which have already been advanced £2,000 at Richmond Ch Show 05 in this financial year) & the KC Charitable Trust are all listed in the programme.

‘The committee who organise this event take nothing from the charity at all. The judges (whose names had not yet been disclosed) are privileged to come here, do so at their own expense and are honoured’.

Peter continued by thanking the committee, the chef and his team for the superb meal and asked the audience to raise their glasses and toast the sponsors, 'Royal Canin'.

Moving onto the auction, Peter firstly asking that those whose bids were successful to pay for & collect each item once it was auctioned. First off the table was a No 13 Charlton football shirt signed by Danny Murphy (who now plays for Spurs), this was sold to Phillip Burkin (Bullmastiff) for £40, then an ex-EastEnders autographed framed print sold to Paul Pleasants (Standard Schnauzers) for £60. A Portsmouth No 10 football shirt signed by Teddy Sheringham was bid for, with Di Stirling (Norwegian Buhund) paying £60 for the pleasure. A briefcase of Berghaus Chefs Knives & Cutters was bid for and sold to Naomi Forrester (Dalmatians) for £115. Next up was a cricket bat signed by former England international Alex Stewart which fetched £55 and the proud owner (though she doesn't know what she is going to do with it) is Elaine Tillson (Dalmatians). Unlike last year when she inadvertently bid and ended up buying whilst busy talking with her hands, this year she assures me this was an intentional purchase!

Peter Young (Min Poodles) bid & bought for £105 a framed print with 10 authentic EastEnders signatures (Peter once supplied them with a 'canine star') Janis King (Great Danes) was not going to be outbid and was determined to possess a football signed by the current Chelsea squad for £200. Andrew Beel (Schnauzer) secured the two Bulldog framed prints for £80. Mrs Bishoprike (Bulldogs) bid for & purchased the Persian Silk waistcoat for £45. Petr Cech signed a Chelsea goalkeeper shirt which was purchased for over £200, the proud owner plans to wear it (and not much else) for her husband's forthcoming birthday present in a bid to raise some action in the bedroom. Let’s hope she manages to draw him away from his stalwart support for Chelsea for a few moments! Next item to be auctioned was a bargain at £140 for Zena Thorn-Andrews (Dachshunds) a head study of a Deerhound from artist Herbert Dixie. Zena tells me it is worth at least £600. This was followed by a child’s Arsenal football shirt signed by Thierry Henry which sold for £240 to Anita Bax (Poodles).

The ultimate item for auction was an exquisite set of pearls and matching earrings kindly donated by the India Kennel Club, bid for by a number of guests, the final successful bid of £725 by Pete Sandiford (Gordon Setters) prompted by his jubilant wife, Christine. £2065 was raised in 35 minutes. Peter thanked the audience for their participation and handed over to David Spencer who announced that the contest would begin in 10 minutes, time for those competing to finalise preparations for the ring which was being quickly assembled in the centre of the room.

With the scene set, competitors and exhibits ready, stewards Mac MacMillan (auction assistant, displaying the auction items on his arm and walking around the room whilst they were being bid for), Gert Neilson, Sue Glennon, Dave Elliot Lyn McCall & Lee Williams in place, the contest began with the introduction of the three overseas judges. Karina Le Mare escorted into centre stage Mr Norman Huidobro Corbet from Spain. Acquiring his first dog, a collie, over fifty years ago, he started showing aged 14, making up 50 Champions in this breed. Later he bred and showed Afghans making up 103 Champions which have won 155 BIS's. In total his 'Huilaco's' Kennel has made up 306 Champions in different breeds including Irish Setters, Salukis, Borzois, Italian Greyhounds, Greyhounds, Azawaka, Collies, Whippets, Shetlands & Dobermanns. An FCI judge for 20 years, judging in 50 countries throughout Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, S Africa, Thailand & South America.

Gert Neilson escorted Lisbeth Mach from Switzerland. She started out with a brown min. poodle who became her first International Champion and since 1968 has bred more than 60 Int. Ch, 24 World Champions, many group & BIS winners under her kennel name, 'Superstar'. She started her FCI judging career in 1968 and is now passed to judge Groups 1,2,5 & 10 in addition to many breeds in Group 9, having officiated at 9 world shows, 13 European Shows and invited to judge in many countries in addition to Europe; S Africa, Israel & Canada to mention a few.

The third and final judge announced, escorted by Vicki Herrieff, was Mr C Sudersan, secretary of the India Kennel Club. He started showing almost three decades ago with a Spitz, since then has owned Apso's Beagles, Boxers, GSD's, Fox Terriers, Bulldogs. He currently breeds & exhibits Dobermanns, Rottweilers, Pugs & Dachshunds making up Champions with most of his dogs, winning groups & multi BIS's under his kennel name 'Magic Million'. He has been judging since 1986 and has received invitations to officiate in Canada, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Japan, Nepal, Norway, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Argentina, S Africa & Russia and is scheduled to judge at the World Show in Mexico 2007.

Proceedings underway, judging the first eight pairs was Lisbeth Mach who put through from the initial round, Messrs Stone, Cox & Isherwood's Standard Poodle Ch Labamba Lawrence von Vanitonia, Mr Carter & Mr Donnaby's Ibizan Hound Ch/Int/Norw/Sw Ch Rosenhills Austin Windrush to Benjique, Mrs Walker's Havanese Wynbella's Panda Bear at Newtonwood, Mrs Powell's Schipperke Ch Brookwell My Sweet Lady, Mr & Mrs Foote's Long Coat Chihuahua Ch / Lux Ch Deeruss Flashmoon at Ballybroke, Mrs Edwards' Affenpinscher Ch Roxilyn Just For Jo JW, Mr Andersson's Shetland Sheepdog (handled by Geoff Duffield) Ch.Int.Fin/Est Ch Lundecocks Xit from Hell, & Mrs Bubb's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Ch Wandris Entertainer.

Mr Sudersan judged the next eight pairs and selected Mr Berry's Neopolitan Mastiff Drosdelnoch's Blue Rapsody, Mrs Wiltshire's Great Dane Ch Ladymere Lord of The Dance, Mr Band & Ms McCarthy's Bergamasco Bautastenens Alve For Essandsee, Miss Harwood's Min Poodle Ch Minarets Secret Assignment, Mrs Atkins' Maremma Sheepdog Ch Biancaluna di Selvapina at Silvermere, Mrs Cross' Norwegian Buhund Ch Arnscroft Di-Nahs-Mite, Messrs Mycroft & Gelderd's Dobermann Ch Talacre Vysans Boy at Supeta, Mrs Dunhill's Shiba Inu Ch Vormund I'm Marnie.
The final eight pairs were judged by Mr Norman Corbet who chose Mrs Goodwin's Pekingese Ch Delwins Paddy O Reilly, Mr Warren & Miss Singleton's Bullmastiff Ch/Bel/Int Ch Copperfield Cicero, Mrs Thorn-Andrews Mini Wire Haired Dachshund Ch Drakesleat Otto Bahn, Mrs Reeves & Mrs Tomes' Old English Sheepdog Ch Brinkley Sir Jonny, Messrs Stone, Cox & Isherwood's Chinese Crested Ch Zucci Highly Provocative for Vanitonia, Mr & Mrs Appleby's Bearded Collie Ch Brenriga Gift Wrapped For Diotima, Miss Jackson's Maltese Ch Am / Can Ch Hi-Lite Risque Gold Fever, Mr & Mrs Munn's Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Ch Snowneadow Jellybean Jilly. The forth 8 pairs were selected by Lisbeth Mach and she chose Mrs & Miss Blance's Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ch Penliath Fatal Attraction, Mrs Sharpe-Bale's Keeshond Ch Neradmik D'Artagnan, Mrs Cook, Mrs Lacey & Mr Szyczewski's Hungarian Puli Ch Weetoneon Jack The Lad, Mrs Dunhill, Mrs Wylie & Mrs Reeves' Rottweiler Ch /NZ Gr Ch/ Aus Ch Rolex Rumour Has It By Fantasa (Imp), Mr Bradley's Welsh Terrier Ch Saredon Dressed To Impress, Mrs Davis' Bulldog Ch Mystyle Amos Ocobo, Mrs & Miss Boyle's Italian Greyhound Ch Berinshill Casual Look & Messrs Cutts & Galvin's Newfoundland Ch Merrybear Barry White.

The first half of the second round was judged by Mr Sudersan selecting the Standard Poodle, Havanese, Long Coat Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Great Dane, Min Poodle, Norwegian Buhund & Dobermann. The second half of the second round were selected by Mr Corbet with the Bullmastiff, OES, Chinese Crested, Maltese, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rotti, Bulldog & the Newfie going through to the quarter finals.

The third round was judged by Lisbeth Mach who chose her four semi-finalists; Havanese, CKCS, Min Poodle & Dobermann & Mr Sudersan chose his four semi-finalists; Bullmastiff, Maltese, Rotti & Newfie.

In the fourth round, the finalists having been selected by Mr Corbett were escorted back into the ring to compete for the title, Contest Of Champions Winner 2006;

The Rottweiler, Ch / NZ Grand Ch / Aus Ch Rolex Rumour Has It By Fantasa (Imp) co-owned by Liz Dunhill, Andrea Wylie & breeder, Shelley Reeves, handled by Liz. Ronan, a seven year old male, is the breed record holder gaining 35 CC's with 33 BOB's, 14 x G1, multi other group placings, 7 x BIS & 6 x RBIS in the UK, prior to arriving here he enjoyed a tremendously successful show career, accumulating over 150 CAC's & 50 BIS & RBIS all breeds. Sire: Fantasa Jade Budda, Dam: Nz Ch Linden-Grange Cut Above.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Ch Wandris Entertainer JW, owned, bred & handled by Alex Bubb; Morgan a 3 year old Blenheim male,Top CKCS for 2005 & 2004 holder of 21 CC's with 20 BOB's & 8 RCC's, 2 x G1, 1 x G2, 3 x G3, 2 x G2, 7 x BIS including CKCS Club Show 2006 with an entry of 585. Sire: Pascavale Enchanted, Dam: Wandris Show Girl.

The Miniature Poodle, Ch Minarets Secret Assignment JW, owned, bred & handled by Melanie Harwood. Rodney, a 4 year old black male, Top Min Poodle for 2005, 04 & 03. No 3 Top Dog - all breeds, who has accumulated 40 CC's, 42 BOB's (several without CC's) & 12 RCC's, 15 x G1 including Crufts 06, 5 x BIS (all breeds), 5 x BIS (Breed Club Shows), 2 x RBIS, 5 x G2, 2 x G3, 1 x G4. Sire: Ch Minarets Spirit Of The Dance, Dam:Ch Minarets Secret Affair.

The Maltese, Ch Am/Can Ch Hi-Lite Risque Gold (Imp), co-owned by Sarah Jackson and her mum, Rosemary, handled by Sarah, bred by Pam Armstrong from Washington, USA. Geoffrey, a 6 year old male arrived in the UK aged three. He enjoyed a successful show career prior his UK arrival acquiring AKC Ch & Canandian Ch titles in addition to having been awarded BPIS (all breeds) & G2 at his first show. PG2 in 2000 at the Progressive Toy Dog Specialty which is held in New York prior to Westminster, BIS in California in 2002 at the Central Maltese Specialty, BOS at the Multi Club Specialty in 2003. Since exhibiting here in the UK he has gained 18CC's with 16 BOB's. 7 x G1, 3 x BIS, 2 x RBIS & multi group placings. Sire: Am Ch Marcris Risque' Business, Dam: Am Ch Hi-Lite Cindyrella's Sun Fever.

All three judges were requested to grade, on a points system, the dog that they felt was of highest merit. Writing this down on a piece of card then handing it to David Spencer to tally up the scores to determine the overall winner. With all the dogs having paraded around the ring one last time for final assessment, they stood perfectly poised awaiting the result. The audience, who had been incredibly vocal and enthusiastic all through the evening, were on tenterhooks awaiting the result.

The points were tallied up and the Winner was announced by David Spencer. Sweepstake No 49, a £50 note was won by Paddy Galvin from Royal Canin, but the evening’s real winner was the Rottweiler, Ronan, handled by a delighted Liz who graciously accepted the framed rosette and trophy along with the title, Contest of Champions Winner 2006. This was the second year running that Liz had been awarded the Winners’ title, last year she enjoyed the limelight with her stunning Japanese Shiba Inu, Ch Vormund I'm Marnie.

Solid Crystal Trophies were awarded to all three runners-up, once again sponsored by Royal Canin, and the evening was declared a huge success, raising, with the benefit of Gift Aid, a declared total of £17,000 (up on £2000 on last year)

A fabulous eclectic combination of guests made for an electric atmosphere and 'excellent quality of dogs' as commented upon by all three judges who thoroughly enjoyed themselves . The Contest Of Champions is one night out that is well worth the cost of the £40 ticket.

With the competition complete, official photos taken, the carpet, which had caused some of the larger dogs to slip whilst performing, was rolled up to reveal the dance floor, it was on with the partying until 2am but for some it didn't stop there and they continued celebrations until 4am in the hotel bar. There were a few delicate heads the following morning in the breakfast room. At least they will have almost a year to recover until The Contest Of Champions 2007.

Congratulations to all those who took part, "its not the winning, but taking part that counts" and to The Canine Supporters' Charity committee for all their hard work in this successful achievement. And yes we did all take home the best dogs - The Top Dogs of 2005.

Click to see more photos:

Photo Special 1

Photo Special 2

Photo Special 3