The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

The Kennel Club Cocker Spaniel Championship at Sandringham

The Kennel Club Cocker Spaniel Championship, in association with Eukanuba, was held on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 January 2008. By gracious permission of HM The Queen, the Championship was at Sandringham where David Clark, headkeeper, and the estate’s agent, Marcus O’Lone, have been liaising with the Kennel Club’s working party for the past 12 months. This close working relationship certainly produced an exciting and successful event for which they all must be congratulated. The Guns were also outstanding Paul McGagh travelled from the US to shoot and along with Roy Green, Lindsay Waddell, Tim Furbank, Terry Oscroft and Peter Fawcett, the team understood the judges and the competitors’ requirements completely.

Twenty-nine dogs had qualified by winning an Open Stake for cocker spaniels and last year’s winner, FTCh Timsgarry Barlow, was also eligible, bringing the total up to 30. Barlow was withdrawn before the start, however, as well as three others, two owned by Dai Ormond and one by Andrew Robinson, both of whom were judging. This left 26 runners with 17 different handlers. The females were again in the majority, with 18 bitches against 12 dogs. The dominant sire was Mr and Mrs Peter Jones’s FTCh Maesydderwen Scimitar, with no less than nine of his progeny qualified.

Day one

The Anmer beat, managed by keeper Glynn Evans, and the Park Beat, covered by Paul Burch, provided the ideal cover and game supply. The ground covering of laid bracken certainly held the birds, both wild pheasant and woodcock, besides rabbits to add variety to the bag. This year, the ground was worked from the other side and, as the trial got under way, a cold breeze was blowing from behind. Scenting conditions were poor and, as the first day progressed, the temperature fell and the scent disappeared completely.

The judges were certainly no strangers to cocker field trials with a wealth of experience between them. Alan Gwynne, from the Gower, was paired with Andrew Robinson, from Yorkshire, and they took the odd-numbered dogs in the first round, beginning with the gold bitch Fenlord Rosey, handled by Robin Laud, while John Dickson, from Scotland, and Dai Ormond took the events on the left, starting with Steve Wanstall’s black bitch, FTCh Gibbletore Style. Rosey set a good hunting standard, with plenty of drive and determination. However, she was unable to locate the fall of a hen pheasant that had flushed loose in the centre of the line and Style soon had it back to its handler to complete the eyewipe, though Style was eyewiped in the second round by FTCh Gournaycourt Morag. Jamie Reid’s FTCh Mallowdale Ria, handled by Ian Openshaw, was quickly in the thick of the action; a retrieve of a hen pheasant was followed by a flush of another. On the way out to retrieve this bird, Ria flushed a cock pheasant, which was clipped as it flew back to the right. Once the hen was safely back in the bag, she was then tried for the runner but, despite a convincing attempt, returned without it. Style was also tried without success and when the judges couldn’t find the runner, both handlers could breathe a sigh of relief and continue competing.

Roy Ellershaw’s FTCh Fernmoss Nightingale had an eventful run with three flushes and retrieves and an unsuccessful try for another strong runner that was dropped out to the side. Veteran competitor Joe Shotton was handling his own FTCh Chyknell Brit. After a few casts she pegged a hen pheasant that was tucked into the bracken, and FTCh Windmillwood Daison, handled by Jon Bailey, was eyewiped by John Mansfield’s Ivy Falls. Stewart Seward’s Surefly Blanch passed a pheasant which flushed on its own behind the dog. After some difficulty handling out to a long retrieve, Jon Bailey’s Take a Chance abandoned its attempt at the edge of the bracken and Ron Loomes’ FTCh Mountvue Snake of Smeddum passed a pheasant.

Last year’s winning handler, Simon Tyers, running FTCh Timsgarry Simpson, had more success with a retrieve of a cock pheasant and a flush and retrieve of a hen pheasant. Some tidy ground treatment by this little black dog completed the run. Richard Claydon’s FTCh Strathisla Storm of Kingcott hunted with determination and a good thorough pattern to produce her game. A flush and retrieve of a hen pheasant was followed by a rabbit shot well out to the right which had crawled some way into the covert over the ride. Storm soon worked out the line and picked it cleanly. A final long spare retrieve of another hen pheasant completed a very sound run. Joe Shotton’s Chyknell Hidie, handled by Ian Openshaw, had mixed fortunes and started with a flush and retrieve which required a little handling to complete. A spare retrieve of a cock pheasant was taken well out on the open field, but then a blind retrieve of a pigeon shot expertly in front took a little time to find. On the way back with the bird, Hidie leapt out of the bracken on to the ride minus the pigeon and had to be sent back quickly to pick it up again. Hidie was eliminated on day two, when after some excellent hunting she failed on a blind retrieve of a woodcock.

FTCh Kingcott Del retrieved a loose flushed hen and then the line turned into the wind and he quickly produced a cock pheasant from cover underneath the thorn bushes. At the same time another bird was dropped out of sight on the right. Del was taken out to try for this bird, which apparently had dropped on the ride and then ran into the bracken. Del searched the area thoroughly, as did Gareth Davies’ FTCh Mallowdale Zander brought over from the other side. The judges walked forward to look and, while searching the area, Andy Robinson trod on a hen bird under the bracken which quickly escaped on foot. Being unable to examine the bird, the judges discounted it and both dogs continued to run. A retrieve of a woodcock completed Del’s run.

After some enthusiastic hunting, John Thompson’s Timsgarry Varteg flushed a rabbit but failed to stop immediately. Cheweky Scholes then flushed another rabbit, retrieved a loose hen and put on a great display of powerful hunting. This dog only won out of novice when competing in an any-variety stake against springers in Lincolnshire in November, and was the last dog to qualify for this event. FTCh Maesydderwen Spartan after a good start to the run failed to produce a woodcock shot a long way out in front and was eyewiped by FTCh Mallowdale Guppy. Ivy Falls had an eventful second run. Her first two flushes indicated her handler’s anxiousness with the stop whistle, though she finished with an excellent final blind retrieve of a hen pheasant. FTCh Mallowdale Zander began with plenty of drive, two good flushes and a good marked retrieve, but lost power as the run progressed. Wernffrwd Mai raised the standard of hunting to a new level with excellent drive and determination. She flushed a cock but slightly mis-marked the fall, then after a good positive find of a rabbit, a top-class long retrieve of a hen pheasant completed the run. Simon Tyers’ black dog FTCh Timsgarry Valtos demonstrated perfection throughout its run; two excellent retrieves, the second with the distraction of game being flushed en-route, were complemented with a top-class display of hunting at its very best.

FTCh Mallowdale Guppy had good drive and pattern, and acquitted a good retrieve of a black cock pheasant. FTCh Gournaycourt Morag, a small liver bitch, hunted with plenty of drive and finished with a flush and a good retrieve of a hen pheasant that landed in one of the furrows along the ancient Peddar’s Way, which we were now following. FTCh Wetlands Holly had a very sound run with a flush and retrieve of a wounded cock and a blind retrieve of a woodcock. Broomfield Silk of Roydedge hunted well but when retrieving a cock from the cover on the right of the track went the wrong way on her return and unfortunately took some time to find her handler to deliver it. The last dog to run on day one, Fenlord Tonto, was eliminated for passing pheasants on its beat.

Day two

The last three dogs completed the second round the next morning. When the judges had completed their deliberations, six dogs were called into a run-off to decide the final placing. Murmurings around the gallery that in fact the winning dog had perhaps been put on ice were confirmed when Championship secretary Anne Heading announced the results to the hearty applause of the assembled crowd. The numerous prizes, trophies and diplomas were presented by The Queen. Chairman of the Kennel Club Ronnie Irving gave thanks to Her Majesty, who is the patron of the Kennel Club, and presented her with a beautifully carved walking stick and a book containing all the pedigrees of the competing dogs to commemorate this magnificent two-day event.