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Contest of Champions 2007

Photo by David Cavill
The winner of the 2007 Canine Supporters’ Contest of Champions held last weekend
was the Australian Shepherd Angie & Neil Allen, Robert Harlow & Penny
& Dan Richards' Ch Am Ch Heatherhill Shock N Awe handled by Angie Allen

Another spectacular Contest Of Champions, sponsored by Royal Canin, took place at the Thistle Hotel Heathrow, London on Saturday evening. Each year the organisers, the Canine Supporters Charity (whose objectives are to raise funds for the promotion, study and research for the welfare of dogs) run this opulent event so efficiently and yet it still yields the feeling of "surpassing that of last year's".

When attending an event of this stature you know you are going to be impressed with the outstanding quality of the entry. After all it is the "Brits" showcase of the "Crème de la Crème"of our dogs, culminating in an exciting evening of entertainment, speculation of who the winner will be, in addition to raising a substantial amount of money for deserving canine causes. This year the charities benefiting will be Animal Cancer Trust, Labrador Lifeline Trust, South Eastern Counties Staffordshire Bull Terrier Trust, Rottweiler Welfare, Neapolitan Mastiff Rescue and the KC Charitable Trust.

All of the exhibits qualify by winning the highly coveted accolade Top Dog, which can only be achieved by consistently winning more Top Honours than any other exhibit in breed during the previous year. The "by invitation only" entry is limited to 64 dogs and it is always on a first come first served basis. The competition is customarily held on the match system and it is incontrovertibly "luck of the draw" which dogs are paired up. The one certain factor by attending is that you will have a fabulous night out with or without your dog, it is such a reputable event that many guests attend simply for that "X factor".

The doors officially open at 4pm, though most exhibitors and guests had already taken up residence in the bar (a prerequisite to the dinner), chatting to friends and catching up with the latest news and gossip, having essentially organised their dogs on the nearby benching kindly supplied by Danny of Bannerdown (whom had constructed the benching the previous evening assisted by Glynn Payne and Terry Satchell). With a buoyant atmosphere setting the scene for the evening, one could feel the excitement and anticipation.

With all the dogs settled in their crates on the benches, the thirst quenched guests were invited to take their seats for the commencement of the Gala dinner at 5.15pm. Guests were asked to stand for "Grace" given by the committee's Honorary Treasurer, Mr Kevan Forrest, followed by a three course dinner starting with a prawn cocktail, lamb and vegetable main course with a beautifully decorated cheesecake for desert. Thanks and compliments go the chef, his team and table waiting staff for providing a delicious meal served to over 270 guests.

Several bottles of wine were placed upon each and every table, kindly donated by the event's sponsors Royal Canin. Additional wine and drinks could be preordered at the wine table near the bar and delivered to the table for consumption (many of the guests took full advantage of this). I was fortunate to be sat at a very entertaining table and enjoyed the company of Our Dogs publisher David Cavill alongside his charming wife, Angela, Southern Counties Ch Show Secretary, Peter Young (whom I must thank for assisting me and keeping track of the winning dogs) and Anita Baxter, Janis King and her husband and finally Robin & Sue Searle whom amused me when Sue asked Robin if she could borrow his glasses, (she had forgotten hers to be able to read the programme), Robin like a gentleman handed over his spectacles and later on in the evening asked her if he could have her glasses as his was empty (and we know it was not the eye ones he was referring to).

During dinner hard working committee members collected the tankards (a pint glass tumbler), from each table which were crammed full of £5 notes. Guests had been encouraged to place £5 notes with their names written on it (promise we won't tell the Bank about defacing the money) which was drawn by Kevan & Naomi's young daughter, Olivia; the winning £5, lucky Joyce Grant will be spending a weekend away with a friend. She was presented with her voucher by the youngest guest of the evening, 2 year old and understandably shy, Regan (son of committee member Lee Williams).

This money raised was an increase on last year to £875. By 6.50pm, when coffee was being served, our intrepid Auctioneer, Mr Peter Purves commenced auctioning of the donated goodies, ably and willingly assisted by committee member, Mac MacMillian, a past master at parading expertly around the room displaying the interesting array of items available for Auction. First to be sold for £110 was two Weimaraner Limited Editions Prints circa 1991 by artist Mick Corston, purchased by Julie and Carl Nichols (Shylarr Akitas and Eurasiers). Then Maureen Elliot (Fletilla Keeshonds) bid and paid £65 for two pewter statues of sporting dogs (donated by Karina Le Mare & Glynn Payne). A signed Peter Smith Limited edition Racing print raised £110 when sold to Mr Roman Golnikov who generously donated it back to the charity for next year's auction.

Jan Ralph, (who normally attends the event but her entry arrived after the contest was fully subscribed) donated a colourful waistcoat which raised £40. A Scottie Door Stop was purchased by Elaine Short (Gleness Finnish Laphunds). Mrs Mackie was the proud purchaser of the Robert May Sheltie Print and Mrs Gregory of the Rough Collie Print both kindly donated by Vicki Herrieff. A bottle of Russian Vodka presented in a case was auctioned for £140, purchased by Janet Perrie (owner of the Dogue De Bordeaux) and an Italian Leather Jacket was sold to Roman Golnikov, both were donated by Mac.There was a Setter Statue purchased by Mr Galvin of Royal Canin.

Gary Gray donated a Sue Harper signed GSD Print (of which he has the original) who was runner up at the Contest in 2000. Carl & Julie Nicols became the proud owners of the print. The final item for auction was the highly desired Chelsea signed football donated by Glynn Payne which fetched the sum of £320 from Roman Golnikov from Russia. He and his wife Svetlana (who looked stunning in her Escada designer "The Peacock" dress which attained admiring glances all evening) were guests at the top table and kindly re-donated the said football to raise money for next year's contest. Perhaps she could be persuaded to donate her wonderful dress to the charity for next year too. With the auction complete and raising a total of £1125 David Spencer took to the mic and began the contest with the formal introduction of the judges.

The three officiating judges, whom had the honour of judging this prestigious event, names are kept confidential by the organisers, only being revealed on the night of the Contest, were escorted in to the ring by committee Secretary Karina Le Mare, Kevan Forrest and Vicki Herrieff respectively. Mr Nils Molin, from Sweden, a FCI allrounder since 1989, with more than 35 years of judging experience.

His interest in dogs is very broad, his involvement in the main was originally in working breeds and from that aspect he is emphatic that dogs should be healthy and fit for function whilst fulfilling what the breed standard calls for to ultimately complete the picture. Whilst he does not breed or show now his wife is still very active in Tibetan Spaniels and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and his daughters show dogs. Nils has his 13 year old Labrador which is called "Nonne", basically short for "Noname" as he never actually named the dog, his family and friends did. Whilst Nils has a many judging assignments in across the European Countries and in Ireland, he has not until now judged on mainland Britain.

He has a very busy schedule ahead of him spending most of his weekends away judging at shows. In May this year he will be judging Norwich Terriers and Bouvier Des Flandres at Bath Ch Show. I caught up with him after the contest, he said of the dogs at the contest "the quality of dogs compares well with those in Scandinavia, I felt very much at home and found the 'match system' easy to follow. All the dogs were of excellent quality and were very easy to judge, I agreed 100% with the ultimate winner." The next judge to be introduced was Mrs Marina Ostrovskaya an all rounder judge in her native Russia and with the FCI, owner of Borzois (she judged the UK club show seven years ago and exhibited at Crufts 07 for the first time where she was awarded BOB) and a world renowned sculptor who has held exhibitions in many countries including the UK. Her husband, daughter and son-in law are equally talented sculptors.

She was very impressed with the quality of the dogs at the Contest and said her favourite was definitely the Bulldog. Finally we were introduced to our third judge Mr Branislav Rajic from Solvenia (a university teacher of Architecture and Industrial Design). Whilst he has judged in many countries this is his first engagement in the UK. He will be visiting Ireland later this year and will be judging at the Toy Specialty and the Limerick Show in August. He said was very honoured to be asked to judge the Contest and appreciated the extremely high quality of the dogs and said it was difficult to make some of his decisions, it was personal preferences that helped in the final decision. One of his personal favourites was the Rhodesian Ridgebacks because "it was so beautiful and powerful". He was very honoured to have been asked to judge in the UK which he feels is the "cradle of canine culture in the world".

Show Manager, Glynn and his ringside stewards, Mac McMillan, Sue Glennon, Dave Elliot and Lee Williams ran the ring efficiently. Sadly Gert Nielsen was not able to be with us and his presence was greatly missed. Our thoughts and wishes are with him. Pedigree had supplied the white picket ring surround fencing which looked very professional set up in the hotel's large function room. All dogs were presented to the judges with one exception, an exhibitor whom had excused himself without contacting the organisers to inform them that he would not be attending the event.

This is regrettable as the Contest was so oversubscribed this year with many dogs on the Reserve's list who could have filled that place (this included my Canaan Dog AM & Lux Ch Lorianna Sirius Star), there were also some very disappointed friends of said exhibitor who had attended the evening to support this particular dog. The first pairings were judged by Branislav Rajic and he selected Mssrs Roger Stone, Lee Cox & Isherwood's Toy Poodle Ch & Jap Ch Smash JD Rainbow Rider At Vantonia, Miss Parker & Mr Stevens' Beagle Ch Serenaker Devil Woman, Karlynne Selstrome's Shar Pei Ch Kaviking Tru-U Mr & Mrs & Miss Nagle's Kerry Blue Terrier Irish & Eng Ch Cranmoss Finbar Of Colinca, Karlynne Selstrome's Shar Pei Ch Kaviking Tru-U, there was a by for Mrs M Bryce Smith Saluki Ch Nefisa Bushrah of Sarak JW, T S & Jeremy Goddard's Mini L/H Dachshund Ch Minard Krystal Darque, Mr V Bailone's Giant Schnauzer Ch Riesenheim Suited N Booted for Daleiden, Tricia Dean's Estrela Mountain Dog Asterel Sir Launcelot, Melanie Harwood's Min Poodle Ch Minarets Secret Assignment, Mrs C & Miss C Boyle's Italian Greyhound Ch Berinshill Casual Look, Kevin Hughes' Australian Silky Terrier Limartine Runnin On Red, Sue Ellis Alaskan Malamute Chayo Blue Thunder, Joyce Grant's American Cocker Spaniel Sh Ch Afterglow Shake Wiggle Wiggle handled by breeder Mike Gadsby, Angie & Neil Allen, Robert Harlow & Penny & Dan Richards' Australian Shepherd Ch Am Ch Heatherhill Shock N Awe, Mrs Shaw's Clumber Spaniel Sh Ch Debrics Weather Girl at Greencourt, Mrs C Edwards Pyrenean Mountain Dog Ch Shanlimore Midnight Cowboy, Mr Anderson & Mr Watt's Japanese Chin Ch Pucara Whizzkid For Sangria. There was a judge change and Nils Molin selected the following dogs to go through to the next round:

Mr P & Mrs J Evans' Hungarian Puli Ch Zaydah A Blaze Of Glory, Ms Sutton's Tibetan Mastiff Sierra's Yogananda, Quigley, Day & Piper's Doberman Ch Swyndwar Supatramp, Mr Parke's Rhodesian Ridgeback Ch Veldtkammer Lady Done A Bunk handled by Linda Parke, Elaine Geeson's L/H Dachshund Ch Abydachs Oh What A Night JW, Jean Sharpe-Bale's Keeshond Ch Neradmilk D'Artagnan , Mr D Shaw's Min Schnauzer Ch Ashencruz Allegiance To Denbrough, Mrs A Wiffen's BSD Tervueren Ch Hawkflight Specialist, Mr Branislav Rajic had his opportunity to select the following dogs to go through to the second round: Mrs D Hardy's Basenji Ch/Am Ch Klassics Million Dollar Baby At Tokaji, Margaret Goodwin's Bulldog Ch Britishpride Cavalli, Mr D Hodge & Miss S Baker's German Pinscher Tubize Van Nistelrooy For Reikz ShCM, Claire Millward's Afghan Ch/Aus Gr/NZ Gr Ch Rainbow Aladin Of Jhanzi, Mrs K Reaves & Mrs P Tomes Old English Sheepdog Ch Brinkley Sir Jonny, Lynne Wadey's Basset Fauve De Bretagne Sweetdean Whisky Mac at Brevelay, Miss S Finnett's Deerhound Ch Hyndsight Au Fait, Jenny Killilea and Arlene Clure's Akita Redwitch Heaven Can Wait and the final dog to be sent through from the first round was Jayne Johns' Portugese Water Dog Ir/Aus Ch Konkkaronkan Finnish Dream At Gemson.

With the 2nd round judging commencing with Marina Ostrovskaya who selected the following dogs: Toy Poodle, Shar Pei, Giant Schnauzer, Min Poodle, Italian Greyhound, Am Cocker Spaniel, Australian Shepherd and Japanese Chin. Nils Molin then selected Tibetan Mastiff, Rodesian Ridgeback, Keeshond,Min Schnauzer, Bulldog, Afghan, Deerhound and finally the Portuguese Water Dog.

In the third round, Branislav Rajic selected the Toy Poodle, Min Poodle, Am Cocker Spaniel, Australian Shepherd and Nils Molin selected the Rhodesian Ridgeback, Keeshond, Bulldog and the final dog chosen was the Deerhound. The fourth round and semi final was the Toy Poodle, a 2 & 1/2 year old male, pet name Hermes, was handled by Lee Cox holds 7 CC's 4 with BOB and 2 RCC. He has had a G2 at Paignton, G3 at SKC in 06 and also went RBIS at the British Toy Club Ch Show 06 and was BOB at Crufts in 07. The Australian Shepherd, a 4 year old American bred male named Shocka, was handled by Angie Allen holds 4 CC's out of the 6 sets of CC's awarded in 06 and was awarded 12 BOB's, he has won G1 x 4, " x BIS, G2 x 4, G3 x 2 & G4 x 1.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, a 4 year old bitch named Hassle was handled by Linda and has been awarded 27 CC's with 24 BOB's and 20 RCC, G2 x 1 G3 x 2, G4 x 4 and has won all 4 breed Club Ch Shows. The English Bulldog, a homebred 3 year old bitch handled by Margaret (who has been the Top Breeder of Bulldogs for 11 years has breed 16 Champions), her pet name is Nancy who has 26 CC's, 18 with BOB and 3 RCC. Glynn Payne awarded her the CC and BOB at BUBA where she went on to win BIS in 04. Glynn commented that "she is probably the best Bulldog in the world at this moment in time".

As the evening's judging progressed the crowd were incredibly supportive of the dogs and the competition was as much outside the ring as inside it, perhaps an attempt to encourage the judge to select the crowd's favourite exhibit. Whatever the reason the excited crowd were fully supportive of their favourite's. As the finalists had been selected it was now when all of the judges entered the ring collectively to go over again the dogs and grade them 1st to 4th which was written down on a piece of paper and handed back to the Contest's compare David Spencer. He fully entertained and held the crowd in the palm of his hand as the tension rose he made us all wait with baited breath before he announced the Contest Of Champions' ultimate winner.

Although it was only a few moments away the finalist handlers must have felt extreme anticipation until David announced that is was for the first time in the history of the contest, they had a tie between the Bulldog and the Australian Shepherd. After some further conferring of the judges, David released the name of the winner which was Shocka, the stunning 4 year male Australian Shepherd.

Angie's face was a picture of sheer delight. Afterwards whilst celebrating over a glass of bubbly "she said that this win was better than her win at Crufts which was fabulous, but when she was in a round competing against with her good friend Mike Gadsby she said that she thought well that was it she wouldn't get through to the next round (but she did) and went on to win it. It is a wonderful competition to win. It was against the true Top Dogs of the last years Ch Shows, the ones that have been there all year. The only other wins to exhilarate her would be her BIS wins and to win the Pedigree Ch Stakes Final where all the Champion Finalists compete. Neil has a few words for his friend Mike "Mike, my Border Collie without a tail (aka Shocka, the Aussie Shepherd) is going to round up your little black sheep (aka Wiggle, the Am Cocker Spaniel) put it in its pen and have a good mark out of ten".

Throughout the evening exhibitors were reminded to have their dog's photo taken by Kevin Hughes at the studio set up at the far end of the lobby, this would then be framed and sent to them as a commemorative gift, another generous donation from Royal Canin, a gesture instigated by Gary Gray. Someone was lucky enough to win the £50 sweepstake, many guests purchased tickets for the tombola, manned all evening by Stella Clark, Pat Lister and Sarah Stephens which had an vast array of prizes ranging from Easter Eggs through to a flat screen HD TV and all in all everyone had a fantastic time and continued to enjoy the evening dancing and being entertained by Chris Smeed until the early hours of the morning. It is estimated that approximately £17,500 would have been raised for the charity this year.

A fabulous contest and a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Really looking forward to next year.....Can it really get any better than this I ask myself each year that I attend. Just make sure if you have the Top Dog in 07 that you get your entry in as soon as your invitation arrives for a night to remember. The next day Glynn and Danny from Bannerdown were dismantling the benches and found a variety of left overs so if you were there and are missing any item from your night out (particularly a pair of Red spectacles which were found......) please contact Glynn or Karina at Wey Farm Kennels on tel 0870 0624411.

OUR DOGS’ Angela Cavill, Peter Purves and Lorna Hastings

Karina Le Mare and Gary Gray, who was representing the main sponsors, Royal Canin