Reports by Alan Rees
This was my 8th trial of the season – and my first visit to New Farm. I was looking forward to running at New Farm as I had heard excellent reports about the ground from competitors that had already run at the venue, and judges that had judged at the venue previously.
Coming into the trial my dog had already won and also had a second, third, fourth and a COM, so I was looking forward to the trial. Drawn No 3, I was in the line from the outset and we were into partridges within the first 50 yards. My first retrieve was a wounded partridge amongst a number of live ones running on through the sugar beat. From the offset the stake looked as if it would be of a high standard and with the four judges running the stake superbly, helping dogs and handlers, and getting the best out of the dogs, with some of the best dogs in the British Isles this year in attendance.
What impressed me from the start was the Steward of the Beat, Mr Norman Onens, who was running operations with military precision. Norman I know has made up a Labrador Retriever and showed how the job was done. He ensured that every dog had an even playing field to work on. The set up was fantastic, sugar beat widths, flanked by maize strips, and this pattern repeated throughout the ground. The game situation was near as perfect as perfect could be, game coming to hand at the right time and time and time again. I can’t impress too much about the host’s input into the success of this trial. I feel qualified to make these comments as I have ran Labradors at trials for some 25 years, made up 8 Field Trial Champions and won at the biggest grounds in the British Isles, grounds such as Windsor, Dornells, Scone Palace and Burn Castle in Scotland, Abbeystead and Blankney to name just a few. But I must say Thank You to The West of England Labrador Retriever Club for arranging this qualifying stake at this venue, which rates right up there with the best grounds in the country, long may it continue; it was a great opportunity to work dogs of quality under perfect conditions.
With six Field Trial Champions on show, three dogs already qualified, and a number of dogs having B qualifications and other awards looking for that extra push to take them to the Retriever Championship at Cawdor, near Inverness in Scotland. The first day was superb; by the end of day one fierce competition had left the judges with the decision to take six dogs through to the second day. As day two began Mark Bettinson’s Astraglen Milo was the dog to chase, Laura Dearlove already qualified, Sara Gadd who had already qualified were also running well, Phill Highfield had also had a very clean first day, and Liz Smith carrying a third dog down eye wipe from day one, so it was all to play for.
Fortunately my dog’s marking ability and game finding came to the fore in the later stages, with his last retrieve being a bit spectacular, positioned on the right hand side of the line a partridge was shot by the far left hand gun over the beat and maize into the next width of beat, he marked perfectly and got to the fall well and when out of sight it was reported that his work was excellent bringing the bird to hand. A retrieve I will always remember as the retrieve that brought home our eighth Field Trial Champion - it’s always a very special feeling.
In closing thank you to the West of England Labrador Retriever Club for everything, thank you to Norman Onens for the prefect two days Thank you to four judges who worked brilliantly together and made all competitors feel at ease. Thank you to Mrs. Salaman, the Secretary, for her thankless, continuous work, Nick Coates for all his hard work, the team of guns who shot impeccably and everyone that made these two days a credit to our sport.