A young bitch, her owner's first trial dog, lands top honours at the Cocker Championship at Sandringham.
An £800 pair of dummy launchers proved key in the training of young bitch Abiann Flawless, which landed the ultimate accolade at the 88th Cocker Spaniel Championship, held on the 6,400-acre Sandringham estate on 8 and 9 January 2018 by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen.
After two days of excellent spaniel work and some great shooting by the Guns, Jamie Smith and Abiann Flawless, known as Jazz, were announced the winners. Jazz, Jamie’s first trial dog, can now take the field trial champion title.
Trophy presented by HM The Queen
“I’m still on cloud nine and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that Jazz and I won the 2018 Kennel Club Cocker Championship,” said Jamie. “We were even presented with our trophy by HM The Queen, which was an absolute honour. Jazz was ace and she did me so proud. She was very sensitive as a young dog so I needed cotton gloves to get the best out of her. She has always had outstanding focus on me, which is great, but it has caused issues with marking in the past. We found a way around it — I spent about £800 on a pair of remote launchers and taught her to stare at those instead of me. It took a couple of weeks but worked fantastically.
Once-in-a lifetime dog
“She is a once-in-a-lifetime dog and she owes me nothing, so she can enjoy a few months off. As well as winning the pinnacle of the sport, we also did our water test at Sandringham, which means she is now officially FTCh Abiann Flawless,” he added.
Sandringham Estate renowned
Sandringham Estate is renowned for wild game and conservation and has been keepered by David Clark for years. He and his team of keepers did an excellent job over the two-day fixture. The Guns, including the legendary Sir Gareth Edwards, performed with great skill. The first day dawned cold, still and bright before becoming overcast. After the opening speeches, Matthew Farish got off to a good start with his zippy little bitch Baileys Pure Gold, which covered the ground with pace, ploughing through the bracken. Martin Smee’s dog FTCh Poolgreen Clasp was sent for a pheasant but had no joy — and neither did Pure Gold when she was tried.
Natalie Cannon’s FTCh Countryways Alice of Craiwarn started well with an excellent retrieve on a redleg that fell a way out in front, but she came unstuck on her next retrieve and was eye-wiped by Ian Openshaw’s FTCh Delphaven Domino. Howsyke Bertie worked nicely but FTCh Tudorbriar Swift was eye-wiped by Will Clulee’s FTCh Croimhor Turn of Poolgreen. FTCh Amtosk Countach was quick on a cock bird and FTCh Breckmarsh Brook had a good double of two quick hens. Episcopi Kiwi made swift work of a hen bird, as did FTCh Heolybwlch Denman on a woodcock.
Seasoned campaigners such as Will and Ian were on good form but Carl Colclough’s FTCh Equinecho Special Tribute went out for running-in, having completed an otherwise good retrieve of a pheasant. Will’s dog FTCh Poolgreen Diesel went out on a hen bird but with six dogs qualified he wasn’t absent from the line for long.
Woodcock and pheasants
Andy Kirk’s Pinsark Anastasia had a great trio of a woodcock, a hen pheasant and a cock pheasant. Ian English and his bitch FTCh Broadmeafarm Beau made a good double of a woodcock and a cock runner while Will, back in with FTCh Tembokali Selous, made short work of a woodcock. Helmsway Kate retrieved a hen but struggled with a cock bird and went out. Windwithe Winter Night was sent over a fence for a hen bird that she retrieved.
Gun Simon Dixon — who gained a first and third in the 2017 English Springer Spaniel Championships — achieved a notable double of another kind when he shot a right-and-left at woodcock. The feat drew a round of applause from the gallery and he would have no trouble finding witnesses should he wish to join the Shooting Times Woodcock Club. The brace of birds had risen to Simon’s left and his shots were so quick that I only saw the second of the pair fall.
The brace of woodcock was promptly picked by Ardcaein Chance and Samsirs Union Jack. Though the woodcock is sometimes regarded as a difficult bird to pick, there were a number shot here and the dogs sent for them seemed to be on the ball. However, by close of play 50 per cent of the contestants had gone out.
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The second day was overcast and chilly. The bitch FTCh Tiptopjack Ajay opened the batting on the right-hand side of the line, working well and making two good retrieves of a redleg and a hen pheasant. Windwithe Solitaire of Strigidae was straight into business with a retrieve of a cock bird shot by Simon. They were in and out promptly, first on a redleg followed by a hen bird, making two more good retrieves. Nice work.
Broadmeafarm Beau was sent for a cock runner that she found but unfortunately the wing came up over the dog’s face and for a while she was lost from her handler. Will and Tembokali Selous were brought for a partridge but failed to find, then Tiptopjack Ajay succeeded.
Sam Thatcher and Windwithe Solitaire of Strigidae stole the limelight when the bitch was sent for a cock bird that towered and landed at least 80 yards away in bracken near the edge of a wood. Under the gaze of HM The Queen and the gallery, the duo completed a fine retrieve and earned a round of applause.
Will and FTCh Jackshea Ted of Poolgreen made a good job of a hen on the left and Windwithe Winter Night was quick on a cock bird that fell over a fence into pasture. The day was nearing its end and in thick rhododendrons Spiriteddawn Mystic flushed a woodcock that flew towards the gallery and was deemed unsafe to shoot. However, moments later, a woodcock was flushed and as it weaved away, one of the Guns found a space for a shot and Spiriteddawn Mystic made her retrieve.
One of the advantages of Sandringham Estate is the variety of game to be found there. It could be a hare, a rabbit, a partridge or woodcock that is flushed along with clattering pheasants. It takes experienced Guns who not only need to conduct themselves safely and be aware of the gallery, which can be large and sometimes strung out, but they have to be quick shooters. Often in thick cover and with trees in the way it takes sharp reflexes to identify the quarry and make a quick shot in an instant.
After the prize-giving, Jon Kean, chairman of the cocker working party and a veteran organiser of 10 cocker championships, said: “This is the fifth time a cocker championship has been held at Sandringham, since the first in 1993. It was a great pleasure to see Her Majesty The Queen watching on both days as well as presenting the prizes. She is very keen on her gundogs and commented on both the shooting and the dog work.
“From a personal point of view it was vital that we got this championship right; there were no margins for error with a record entry of 45 dogs and 40 running. Jamie and Abiann Flawless put in an impressive performance and there was a unanimous decision that he should be the winner. The event had been a year in the planning and my team have performed superbly.”
The championship was run well with good organisation, parking was just yards away from the marquee and there were good toilet facilities behind it. Catering was provided by Richard Clarke and his team from The Green Man at Six Mile Bottom. Coupled with the ground and a variety of game, Sandringham made for a memorable championship. Next year’s will be held at Arbury Hall near Coventry, with provisional dates of 4 and 5 January 2019.