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Challenge is a winning formula

Ch Elbe Hildalgo at Goodspice
Winner of the Terrier group and BIS the Sealyham Good's Ch Elbe Hildalgo at Goodspice
with group judge Cindy Vogels

Best in show at the 2007 AKC/Eukanuba Invitational show in California was the Sealyham Terrier Good & Middlebrook’s Ch Efbe Hildalgo at Goodspice.

It was the culmination of the two-day show and five days of dogs in Long Beach, California. But what was the most memorable? Was it the white knuckle ride in the yellow taxi on Highway 405 to Long Beach or was it the incongruous Christmas musik in the elevators and 75 degrees of heat outside? Or maybe the dolphins playing in the harbour at sunrise? No, it was the simple fact the our friend the dog had brought together people of all nations from 40 countries from around the world to compete in a unique event in California. That was the most memorable, and all courtesy of Eukanuba, whose concept was to add something different and inspiring to their established AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, now in its seventh year.

In Long Beach both events bolted on to the three Holiday Special shows hosted by the KC of Beverly Hills, Los Encinos KC and the Long Beach KC shows, all of which were held at the Convention Center with a combined entry of 6,700 dogs. The centre has an impressive forecourt and atrium which cleverly fronts a selection of halls which could only be described as NEC-like.
The holiday theme to the shows extended to 12-foot-high Christmas trees at the hubs of the 16 rings in the halls and marine blue carpets throughout all of the rings.

On the Thursday night before the weekend events Eukanuba held a welcome meal at Parkers’ Lighthouse, a quayside restaurant in Rainbow Harbour with stunning views across to the Queen Mary which has been moored in Long Beach since going into retirement as a cruise ship.
She now is a hotel and convention centre. At the meal guests were greeted by Breeder Manager Jose Luis Ibanez from Eukanuba and Mr Ron Menaker, Chairman of the AKC Board of Directors. Thanking the hosts for their generous hospitality he also touched on the fight against compulsory neutering legislation, AB1634, early this year in the state of California and his delicate negotiations with Governor Schwarzenegger. The dog, said Mr Menaker, had had lots of negative publicity but it was events like this succession of shows and the 60 other major show events in the state that had a great deal of positive effects not only to the committed fancier but also to local economies.

It was good to see Mike Bloxsome of Eukanuba UK at the event hosting a table with Irish competitor and Kerry Blue owner/handler Phil O’Brien and new wife Yaka, along with the UK representatives Neil and Angie Allen. Angie was bravely hobbling after knee surgery in early November and there was little doubt that Neil would be in the driving seat when it came to piloting Aussie ‘Shocka’ at the World Challenge.

Phil on the other hand was celebrating his birthday and a Terrier Group 2 win that day with the Irish World Challenge representative the Kerry Blue Int/Sk/Cz/Pl/Gb and Ir Ch Edbrios Blue Ivanhoe which also went on to win Best Bred by Exhibitor at the Invitational show three days later.

Rainstorms blew in from the Pacific on the Friday depositing one inch of rain on Long Beach and causing a number of accidents on the freeways and mud slides in the mountain area which only two weeks earlier had suffered wild fires. Thankfully cooler but dry conditions greeted the weekend events and by the start of the week temperatures had risen to 70 plus and snow was still on the high Sierra to the east.

The weekend days had a very different feel to them with busy ‘Meet the Breed’ stands a la Discover Dogs dotted about the foyer and more visitors, so much so that in the central aisle which flanked all rings viewing was restricted to the handlers and press. This meant that in some areas the pressure built up in the busy morning period of judging.

The grinch had also been in to the halls overnight and any sign of Christmas had gone, not a pine needle or snowflake remained!

It is no surprise that the pro-handlers at the show have a team of helpers and strict show timings are posted by each ring. If a dog is not there on time then hard luck! One of the rules also dictates that dogs must enter the ring in number order and once again any deviation can result in disqualification.

The land of the pro-handler bows its head to this Crufts Qualifying show for, as is the norm, around 43 per cent - 981 of the 2,444 dogs entered are owner-bred. Quite a concession and one which makes the event a little special along with the generous cash prizes, a group placing level and upwards. The overall best in show wins $50,000 (£25,000) and the seven group winners a cheque for $1,500 (£750). There is then a sliding scale of prize money totaling $225,000 (£112,500). The best in show at Crufts by comparison gets £400.

New to this year’s event was the Eukanuba World Challenge which pitted dogs from 40 countries around the world against each other over three geographical groups, Asia & Oceana, the Americas and the biggest group, Europe and Africa which had 28 representatives.

The event followed the Best Bred by Exhibitor group finals on the last day in combined rings one and two, neither of which had a collecting area which would have helped and prevented some of the melee as the crowds jostled for a better view and competitors did their best to access the ring in correct order. But that is a minor detail and nothing that an American ‘Dr Ruth’ couldn’t sort out. The spectacle of the breeds being introduced was remarkable given the constraints of the ring size and the only country to get a less than enthusiastic reception was Japan. I presume that memories are still long on this one but a least they won their group win a remarkable Border Collie.

As our photos show the European winner was the Swiss American Cocker, the Americas the Argentinian Dobermann and the Japanese Border Collie headed up the Asian & Oceana group.
The main ring final was a great spectacle with the flags of the three countries represented floodlit by the podium and judge Karl Riesinger cutting a tall shadow across the blue carpet. The American Cocker winner took home a cheque for $15,000 and there is little doubt that Eukanuba have a winning formula on their hands.

Group winners

Sporting: Weimaraner – Ch Colsidex Seabreeze Perfect Fit (Marge)
Owners: Ellen M. Charles, Alessandra Floz and Judy Colan, Woodstock, CT

Hound: Beagle (over 13in) – Ch K-Run’s Park Me In First (Uno)
Owners: C. Dowell, E. Dziuk, J. Woodring and K. Weichert, Columbia, MO

Working: Akita – Ch Redwitch Reason to Believe (Macey)
Owner: Roger Rechler, Millneck, NY.

Toy: Toy Poodle – Ch Smash JP Win a Victory (Vikki)
Owner: Ron Scott, Dillsbury, PA.

Non-Sporting: Standard Poodle – Ch Randenn Tristar Affirmation (Yes)
Owners: Toni and Martin Sosnoff, New York, NY.

Herding: German Shepherd – Ch Kaleef's Geneva Aeval-Achtung (Geneva)
Owners: Janet Lange and Roger Rechler, Carrollton, GA

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