The 2018 IGL Retriever Championships was held this year on the fabulous Packington Estate by kind permission of Lord and Lady Guernsey, along with the assistant of Head Keeper Matt Nesbitt and his team of guns and beaters.
Big congratulations must go to the clockwork organisation and management by the committee and helpers who faced a difficult time with threats coming from various anti-blood sports organisations and, although security had to be increased and health and safety was in evidence (including support from the West Midlands Police) the whole event ran superbly with everyone making sure they followed the directions of those in charge.
There were 59 dogs qualified to run this year, two Golden Retrievers and 57 Labrador Retrievers, 40 of them dogs and 19 bitches. One partnership was unable to run due to handler Basil Smith's ill health.
John Halsted again qualified five dogs (as he did in 2015) and of his five dogs, Lady Carter's FT Ch Asterix Aguzannis of Chatsworth was running in his 7th Championship, the Duchess of Devonshire's FT Ch Brocklebank Navigator of Chatsworth, his 6th, Cherry Finlan's FT Ch Jarailstar Rocky Road of Blackhatch, his 5th and Cherry Finlans FT Ch Macgiriaght Foxy Lady and Lady Carters Brocklebank Bronze of Chatsworth were running for their first time, although FT Ch Macgiriaght Foxy Lady qualified twice. Other handlers with two dogs were Kirsty Cousins, David Latham, Sarah Miles and Steve Newitt.
There were six handlers who had previously won the Championships, including last year's winner David Lissett with John Halsted running in his 27th Championship (winning it twice), Billy Steele Jnr, his 23rd with two wins and David Latham who has run 20 times and won four times.
First time qualifiers included Sarah Miles who had qualified two dogs, as well as Ronnie Laughton, Julia Redpath, Lorna Sanaghan, Keith Bianchi, Nigel Probert, Tom Lowe, Roger Wade, Kieron Coey and Katherine Impey.
Another consistent dog is Terry Prentice's FT Ch Hitowngreen Diamond Joe of Findpoint who was running in his 5th Championship.
The team of guns were captained by Robert Kirkbride with Mark Knibbs, Derek Hill, James Johnston, Dean Baker, Neil Clarke, Dave Brown and Paul Ryan.
This year's judges were all highly experienced judges and competitors. Les Mclean has made up three Field Trial champions and has had a 2nd place at the championships, again competing for over 30 years Jim Gale. Jim has made up three Golden Retriever Field Trial champions, and also qualified a Labrador in 1991, This is the third time he has had the honour of judging the Championships the first being in 1996. Mark Bettinson. Mark started competing with spaniels and retrievers over 40 years ago and has made up four Field Trial Champions. He has also judged the championships before. And Barry Taylor. Barry has been competing for over 30 years, and his current field trial champion qualified in 2014 and 2017.
The first morning started in misty rain but that did not dampen the proceedings and the field set off for the golf course. There were plenty of game in the rough areas of deep bracken around the golf course and Derek Hill soon shot a left and right woodcock which proved to be difficult and we lost our first dog.
The committee were giving a running commentary through a live feed link so that all the spectators and competitors were able to keep up with the proceedings and Gilly Nickols was sending a feedback to the facebook page so that those sat at home were able to also keep up and this attracted followers from all over the world.
The line moved well, with plenty of game and opportunities for the handlers to show the dogs skills and the first day came to an end, with David Field and FT Ch Artistryn Ulrich sent for a long running partridge in front of the line. We all watched the dog work his way down the field and hedgerow, hunting the scent, the bird flipped at one point and then the dog followed and retrieved it and gained an appreciative round of applause from all watching with 41 dogs being taken through to the second day.
The second day started cold and frosty but walking out to the bracken around the golf course warmed everyone up and the sun came out and shone over the line. We then moved into a field of roots where birds were shot in front of and behind the line. There were a couple of difficult retrieves where birds were shot over hedges and the dogs sent through to find them. Annette Clark with FT Ch Castlemans Gobi of Garronpoint took a lovely runner in front of the line.
In the afternoon David Lisett and FT Ch Buccleuch Xena, last years winner was applauded for a retrieve behind the line in a field of sorghum, mustard and roots but unfortunately she had retrieved a dead cold bird and failed to find the correct bird, she was then eyewiped by Leigh Jackson and Laggengill Dawn of Blackgrass.
In the same field, first time qualifier Julia Redpath with Hassycott Sea Snipe did a super eyewipe of Laura Hill and FT Ch Stauntonvale Tic Bean, only to be eyewiped herself along with Tim Brain and Amancio Tirpitz of Flypatch by Paul Truby and FT Ch Sandicliffe Jude of Millershook. We lost a few more dogs in this field as some birds were shot over a high hedge and they we challenging to find.
We returned to the base and were grateful for the soup and rolls provided by Skinners (one of the major sponsors of the event) whilst the judges made their decisions and we took 19 dogs through to the third day.
The morning started overcast with a promise of rain later which luckily didn't materialise, but there were 19 handlers looking pensive and the rest of the spectators speculating on which dogs they thought were in the lead and had a chance of taking away the trophies.
We started walking up through some bracken which produced a good show of birds and the dogs were sent across the long line to pick from the other side. One of the first casualties was Vanessa Kings bitch FT Ch Zambuck Linnet who had completed some superb retrieves during the first couple of days, including an impressive eyewipe and was sent for a bird which lay in the open in front of the spare competitors and press. The bitch worked the area really well and just failed to get to a place where she could wind it and was called up. Pip Williams sent her Castlemans Soul Mate and he went out on a line and straight to the bird which he picked and returned straight to the handler. He was then put out when he picked a bird as he was recalled back to the line. The line continued and a couple of other dogs were eyewiped and lots of dogs showed lovely work going straight out and straight back.
Walking back up the bracken a bird was shot and the gallery saw it jump out of the bracken and run up the track alongside followed swiftly by Billy Steele Jnr's FT Ch Harperrig Breac who worked the area took a line and disappeared over the brow of the field. We all stood there waiting and the dog returned with the pheasant to a round of applause and one very pleased handler.
We moved to another area of bracken towards the lake area and most of the work was out of sight of the gallery and Billy Steele Jnr eyewiped Paul Truby as he took another runner which we were told was well back and the first dog did a good job but failed to find the bird and Billy's dog was sent and took a line and brought back the bird. The round ended near the lake area and the judges discussed the work and decided to take eight dogs through to the water.
John Halsted had three of the eight dogs with FT Ch Macgiriaght Foxy Lady, FT Ch Asterix Aguzannis of Chatsworth and Brocklebank Bronze of Chatsworth, the other in this round were Donnie Leitch with FT Ch Garshake Dunbar, Billy Steele Jnr with FT Ch Harperrig Breac, Annette Clark with FT Ch Castlemans Gobi of Garronpoint, David Latham with Nettlebrae Andy of Fendawood and David Field with FT Ch Artistryn Ulrich.
The dogs and spectators were stood on one bank of the lake with the guns in front of us on the other side of the lake. The drive began and birds were shot and landed in and at the edges of the lake. The dogs were sent in number order with everyone willing the dogs to find the birds. Donnie Leitch's dog, did a long swim to the far side of the lake but was called up before he successfully found a bird. The others all found the birds and the trial was declared over.
In the walk back to the base the options of winners were discussed amongst the competitors and a number of dogs were favoured for the work over the three days. It was getting dark by the time the results were ready to be announced to the large group of spectators. Thanks were given to the hosts, Lord and Lady Guernsey who were there to present the awards. Barbara Cuen thanked the hosts, guns, Matt and his team of beaters, the judges and the committee and helpers for all their work. Sandra Onens then announced the awards.
1st Billy Steele Jnr with FT Ch Harperrig Breac winning The IGL Presidents Trophy, The Retriever Trials Championship Challenge Cup, The Lady Auckland Memorial Salver, The Hiwood Challenge Trophy and The Lorna Countess of Howe Memorial Trophy
2nd David Field with FT Ch Artistryn Ulrich who won The FT Ch Ulstare Style Challenge Trophy and The Andrea Edwards Packington Cup for the highest placed Yellow Labrador in the awards donated by Matt Nesbitt in memory of his late partner Andrea and it will be awarded annually at a Trial run at Packington.
3rd John Halsted with Lady C Carters Brocklebank Bronze of Chatsworth
4th Annette Clark with FT Ch Castlemans Gobi of Garronpoint
Diploma Of Merits to:
John Halsted with Cherry Finlans FT Ch Macgiriaght Foxy Lady
John Halsted with Lady C Carters FT Ch Asterix Aguzannis of Chatsworth
Donnie Leitch with FT Ch Garshake Dunbar
David Latham with Nettlebrae Andy of Fendawood
Billy Steele Jnr gave a great acceptance speech thanking the hosts, Judges, guns, Matt and his team of beaters, helpers, committee and everyone involved in the organisation of the three days including Skinners, the KC and Gundog gear.
He gave special thanks to his father and one of his best mates who on the Sunday evening had driven from Scotland with a spare vehicle as he had broken down on the way to the Championships, swapped the vehicle and sorted out the return of his broken down van to Scotland to allow him to continue down to compete and his thanked his wife and family for their support which allowed him to come out to compete with the dogs whilst they stayed at home and kept everything running for him.
Billy will have an easier journey to next year's Championships which is due to be held at Glenalmond near Perth!
Winner with trophy
John Halsted with his five qualified dogs
Day 3 - 19 dogs left
Judges Les Mclean, Jim Gale, Mark Bettinson & Barry Taylor
2nd Place D Field taking his last retrieve
Day 1 in the root crop
Halstedís three dogs in the final 8 on the drive next to Donnie Leitch
Major sponsors Skinners
DOM D Lathamís Nettlebrae Andy of Fendawood
Secretary Sandra Onens
DOM J Halstedís FT CH Asterix Aguzannis of Chatsworth