The 2007 Champion Stake for pointers and setters took place on July 30, 2007, on the beautiful Bollihope moor, County Durham, by permission of Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum.

The judges were Wilson Young and Patricia Wood. Steward of the beat was headkeeper, Peter Fawcett, and the gun was carried by Ian Jopling.

Twenty brace took part evenly divided between dogs and bitches. There were 23 pointers, 10 Irish setters, four English setters and three Gordon setters. Conditions on the day were close to perfect – dry, sunny and with a fresh northerly breeze to keep dogs and competitors from overheating.

The moor, as always, was in superb condition; a tribute to the hard work of Peter Fawcett and his keepering team and to the generosity of Sheikh Maktoum in giving the International Gundog League access to this beautiful ground.

The honour of starting proceedings went to Dave Amsden with Glenlinnhe Scapa and James Coyle with Koram Banner, both pointers.

Both dogs touched scent early on in their run, then Koram Banner pointed and was well backed by Glenlinnhe Scapa, as he produced the first of the many good coveys we were to see on the day. A second but non-productive point for Koram Banner was followed by a good find on another covey for Glenlinnhe Scapa, while his bracemate had run rather wide on the beat.

Penny Darragh and her Gordon setter dog, FTCh Clitters Blackthorn of Ensay, started well, with a superb point early in her run with Colin Organ’s pointer dog, FTCh Paardeberg Kitchener.

Unfortunately, Kitchener roamed way off his beat, leaving Penny on standby, as Prue Cooke-Hurle with her pointer dog, Sparkfield Tyger of Sparkash, and Terry Harris with his pointer bitch, FTCh Sparkfield Twist, took over. Some excellent quartering from Twist produced a find on a good covey, then another where Mrs Cooke-Hurle’s dog stole the point and was eliminated. Penny Darragh and the Gordon setter came back in to run with Terry, who soon had another find, while Penny had a non-productive point where a covey had lifted.

The next brace
Terry Harris with pointer dog, FTCh Sparkfield Topic, and Steve Robinson handling Declan O’Rourke’s Irish setter dog, Lusca Hi Speed, were soon gone when birds were flushed. Two pointer bitches ran next, Brian Richardson with Beanvalli Khamsin and Dominic Goutourbe with Upperwood Breeze, who had a point on her first cast where a covey had risen and eventually produced a single grouse. A non-productive point for Beanvalli Khamsin where birds had lifted and some not particularly focused quartering ended the run with Dominic on standby though not for long.

Jean Brown’s Irish setter dog, international FTCh Lusca Flynn, flushed on his first cast with Margaret Ward’s pointer bitch, Springpoint Dinah, so Dominic came back in only for his pointer to go off-beat on her first cast, while her bracemate fiddled about on scent without getting into her running. Another expedition into the far country saw Maurice Getty’s pointer dog, Doodle Dandy, eliminated, leaving Carol Martin with 2003 champion pointer bitch, FTCh Sparkfield Talent, on standby after some good quartering. Dennis Longworth’s Gordon setter dog, FTCh Clitters Uallas of Bringwood, saw Heather Smith with her pointer bitch, FTCh Oxspring Aurora, point nicely on a single bird, but then both dogs pulled down centre of beat and flushed game to end their interest in the stake.

Scent was clearly very strong when Steve Robinson with Irish setter bitch, FTCh Lusca Fizz, and Jean Brown with her English setter dog, The Spitfire, took centre stage. Both quartered very well, both pointed and eventually both produced birds after extremely long rodes forward. When they started off again, Jean found birds on her first cast and Steve had another long rode of almost 200 yards, which produced a covey. A third find for Jean ended an excellent spell of work for both dogs. Another brace of pointers, Ian Withey’s dog, Paardeberg Pretoria, and Brian Richardson’s bitch, FTCh Beanvalli Mountain Wind, saw birds lifting as they went forward to the judges and more rose right where they cast off. Called to bring the dogs back together by the judges Ian set off to his right and was unfortunate to kick up birds as he went to pick up his dog.

Billy Darragh’s Irish setter bitch, Erinvale Sea Breeze, had a point on her first cast, which was well backed by Alan Neill’s pointer dog, Gerensary Digger, who then went on to find his own covey well ahead. A possibly non-productive point for the setter (though birds did rise well ahead and off to one side) was followed by another good find out on the left of the beat. Billy Darragh ran again in the next brace with a different Irish setter bitch, Erinvale Piper, in company with Steve Robinson’s Irish setter dog, Lusca Snuff the Wind. Steve’s dog flushed birds, so Carol Martin and FTCh Sparkfield Talent came back. Piper had a non-productive point on what might have been a rabbit, then produced a good covey from the centre of the beat before Talent flushed birds.

Another pointer brace ran next; Terry Harris with FTCh Sparkfield Warrior and Richard MacNicol with FTCh Allangrange Heather. Terry’s dog was on point within 20 yards, then Richard’s bitch, who was out on the left flank, took birds well in front and produced a good covey. Warrior pointed and was backed by Heather, but a long rode produced no birds on this occasion. Richard had another point well ahead and a long rode to birds, while his bracemate quartered on through the ground behind him without finding any trace of game.

Carol Calvert’s Irish setter dog, FTCh Glenlark Flynn, spoiled his chances when he went in ahead of Jimmy Dalton’s pointer dog, international FTCh Lagopus Yorkie, and flushed the birds he was pointing. The pointer behaved impeccably despite the provocation and was put on standby, while Carol Calvert ran again with her FTCh Glynlark Mary Kate, an Irish setter bitch, and Dominic Goutourbe with his English setter bitch, Spagrove Beaujolais at Upperwood. A couple of non-productive points ended Dominic’s run, despite having a find on a mass of birds well ahead of the dog on the far side of a little valley. Carol found grouse in some rushes, then Jimmy Dalton and FTCh Lagopus Yorkie came back to run on with her and found a single bird.

Darryl Edwards’ English setter bitch, FTCh Lefanta Kassy of Stanedge, had a point straight off and produced a good covey, but then stole a point from Terry Harris’s pointer bitch, FTCh Sparkfield Twist, to leave Terry on standby for the moment. He was soon back in place of Fran Toulson and her Gordon setter bitch, Warrenfell Larch. Running with Alan Neill’s pointer dog, Glenlinnhe Broom, Warrenfell Larch started well with a quick point on a pair but then messed about behind while Alan’s dog was quartering well ahead of her. When FTCh Sparkfield Twist came back, both dogs quartered very well. Glenlinnhe Broom had a point on a rabbit and was steady, then showed us more great quartering, found a covey, produced them beautifully and must have been well in the running until he bounced on a young grouse and ended his hopes.

Lee Cooper made a promising start with his pointer bitch, Newton Lois, finding a single bird right under the dog’s nose, but Terry Harris’s pointer dog, Sparkfield Wasp, flushed birds.

Lee waited on standby, as Steve Robinson’s Irish setter dog, Tiqun Joey, ran with last year’s champion, Richard MacNicol’s pointer bitch, FTCh Gerensary Clover. Both dogs pointed but no birds were found, until Steve hit a bird well out on the left flank. A second non-productive point spelled the end for Richard’s hopes of defending his title, so Lee Cooper came back in to run with Steve Robinson, whose dog had to work very hard to produce birds after pointing out on the left of the beat.

Steve was back again with his Irish setter dog, FTCh Lusca Ripp, to run with Gerry Devine and his English setter bitch, FTCh Lefanta Kira. Excellent quartering from both dogs ended when Ripp pointed but crept forward and put a bird up. As this was the final brace, Steve ran on with no credit, while Kira did more superb quartering, ending with a find on a good covey well out on the left flank.

Competition heats up
After a brief and late lunch, six brace were called back for a second round. Billy Darragh with Erinvale Sea Breeze and Terry Harris with Sparkfield Reason kicked off. Both had birds on their first cast, with Billy’s bird possibly being an outlier from Terry’s covey. Another good covey for the pointer strengthened his case, but Billy’s setter seemed a little bit reluctant to leave scent from the covey and slightly marred her run. Jean Brown with The Spitfire and Alan Neill with Gerensary Digger both did some excellent work, with the English setter finding and the pointer backing.

The Spitfire’s work was particularly impressive since he is only 14 months old and only qualified for this stake by winning the IGL Derby puppy stake two days previously. Lee Cooper and Newton Lois were lost when the pointer stole a point from Steve Robinson’s Irish setter, FTCh Lusca Fizz, then Gerry Devine ruined what must have been a strong claim for top honours when Lefanta Kira went right off the beat after more excellent quartering. Her bracemate, Terry Harris’s FTCh Sparkfield Twist, was put on standby and brought in to run with Steve Robinson and Tiqun Joey when Dave Amsden’s Glenlinnhe Scapa was eliminated after pointing in the middle of a scattered covey and failing to clear his ground. Joey had the edge on quartering, while a non-productive point for FTCh Sparkfield Twist would not have advanced her cause.

Finally, Richard MacNicol with FTCh Allangrange Heather and Jimmy Dalton with FTCh Lagopus Yorkie ran, but did not improve their chances with a slightly lacklustre display of quartering and a couple of back casts. After some deliberation, the judges called Terry Harris with Sparkfield Reason and Steve Robinson with FTCh Lusca Fizz back to run off for the major places. There was little to choose between them, with Terry’s pointer perhaps having a slight edge over Steve’s Irish setter on ground treatment.

Back at the meet, Professor Beazley started the awards by presenting a camera to Julie Organ, the hard-working organiser of the Champion Stake, who is standing down as honorary secretary after 14 years. Once she had recovered her composure, Julie announced the awards for the Champion Stake, with a well earned victory for Terry Harris with his pointer bitch, Sparkfield Reason. Second place went to Steve Robinson with his Irish setter bitch, FTCh Lusca Fizz.

Jean Brown took third prize with her English setter puppy, The Spitfire, and fourth place went to Alan Neill with his pointer dog, Gerensary Digger. There were diplomas of merit for Steve Robinson with Irish setter dog, Tiqun Joey, Terry Harris with pointer bitch, FTCh Sparkfield Twist, Billy Darragh with Irish setter bitch, Erinvale Sea Breeze and a very popular gun’s choice, who received a superbly crafted walking stick presented by Sep Fawcett, was Gerry Devine with his English setter, Lefanta Kira.

Overall, it was an excellent stake. The quantity of game on the ground meant that good game handling was vital since it was sometimes difficult for the judges to see any sustained periods of quartering. As always some hopes were dashed at the last moment and one or two competitors may have been unlucky to miss out on an award.

However, the judges were clear and consistent throughout the stake and produced a worthy champion in Terry Harris and Sparkfield Reason, though Steve Robinson, having now been placed second in the Champion Stake on three occasions, must be wondering when his turn will come, as it surely will, given the quality of his dogs.