Supported by Pedigree
It was the time of year last year when we were allocating judges to the KC Olympia/Pedigree semi-finals that Dave Ray said 'I want you to judge the Royal.' Yikes, I thought but I was very honoured to be asked to judge this event with the top handlers and dogs in the UK competing. It proved to be a very busy but enjoyable four days for me.
Tuesday - Semi 1
Up stepped Sarah Osbourne running eighth with BC Tig and off they went, putting in a stunning clear in 32.62 and snatching the lead from Dave and Dobby. Unlucky for some but lucky for Amanda Pigg and the lovely WSD Jag, running order 13th today and going clear in a time of 34.08. Into 3rd place they went. The only other clear from the remaining six dogs came from Louise Raine with Star in a time of 34.69. Good but only good enough to take the dreaded 6th place.
Heartbreak of the day was to be Marilyn Murphy's round. Going fantastically well and with just a few jumps to go Marilyn hesitated for a millisecond, causing Flyte to pop over the wrong jump. Such hard luck!
Wednesday Semi 2
Our first clear came from an English handler running a Lurcher. Malcolm Card and Spud put in a time of 35.82. Running third was Scotsman John McEwan with Middleton's My Guy. He looked on par for qualifying. All the dog needed to do was to clear the wall to finish when he suddenly saw his lead and ran towards it, meaning a 5 fault refusal but John brought his dog back to finish. Their time was a respectable 39.41 and this was the heart break of the day. Poor John hurt his knee in the process and couldn't run so withdrew his other dog from competition.
Immediately after John came young Scotsman Kenny Spottiswoode with his dog Nike, fresh from winning the Pedigree Highland Agility Stakes the previous Saturday. Together they were the perfect partnership producing a clear in 35.78 and taking the lead.
Expectant Mum and winner of the warm up class, Hannah Houldsworth (England) had the fastest round of this semi but sadly clipped a pole putting her out of contention. Matthew Goodliffe (England) put in a nice clear in 35.87 which put him in 3rd place, followed by Englishman Simon Peachey with DJ making up for a knocked pole the day before with a clear in 35.48. They took the lead.
Two more clears followed from Jackie Davidson (Scotland) and Leah Gardner (England) at the time both going into 5th place. Running 12th was Agnes Campan from Scotland. With a name like Agnes you would think she is Scottish but, in fact, she is French and lives in Scotland. Her name is not pronounced like Agnes is in Scotland! Agnes had flown back from work in Norway the evening before and had an eight hour drive down to Stoneleigh. She put in a fabulous clear round with this handsome black and white BC and went into the lead in a time of 35.40. The next two clear rounds weren't quite quick enough to get in the placings.
Running 18th was English girl Natasha Wise with the oldest dog in the competition BC Maddie. Expertly handled and doing enough to snatch 5th place from boyfriend Matt in a time of 35.82 and joining brother-in-law Simon at Olympia in December. So the result of Scotland v England clash was Scotland two and England three!
In the first half of the competition, we had six clear rounds but only one of these would feature in the final five. That was Alan Stiff with Jack who was running fifth and who eventually came 4th overall. Running order 13th, Debbie Fox with her WSD Bex had a lovely clear in 30.40 and they into the lead she went. Very short lived it was, however, as running immediately after her was Elspeth Baird with BC Jack. They completed another nice clear in 30.35.
A Scottish contender from Wednesday Mark Douglas and Kelpie Ruby ran fifteenth and popped themselves into a nail biting 4th place. Last up was Lucy Osborne with WSD Ben and Lucy showed no nerves as she worked Ben every inch of the way to a clear in 30.07 and a well deserved place at Olympia in December. A purple patch for Lucy and Ben as they went on to win their first CC at Rugby two days later. Well done.
Chris Cole, running fifth with Cap, went into the lead with 5 faults for a knocked pole. Were we going to get any clears? On the line running sixth came Lindsay Cheshire with her WSD Tia. Off they set and what a brilliant round they had. Contacts were fast and precise and together they worked as a team, storming home with a clear round in 32.93.
Kaye Faiers was next on the line with her homebred BC Sunndach Swirl, producing our second clear round in a time of 37.97. Kaye was hampered by a recent injury but Swirl was working well. The next clear came from Jane Seller, running twelfth with BC Whizz. She took 2nd place from Kaye in a time of 34.50.
We weren't going to wait long for another clear as next to run was Jacqui Tarn, running her younger dog of the two she'd qualified for the day. Jacqui had been eliminated with Maddi earlier and she wasn't going to make the same mistake with Becca. This young dog - just 2 years and 7 months - did a superb clear round in 33.48, putting them in second place. I was pleased to hear that Jacqui won her first CC in Scotland with Becca the following day!
Dave Leach with Malinois Rusty gained 5 faults for an incorrect entry at the weaves but finished the course in a respectable time of 36.58. Running 15th was Jo Richardson. She was running the second of her two dogs. Like Jacqui before her, she had been eliminated with the older dog earlier on. It was another brilliant clear with Nixon in 33.15 meant that Jo snatched 2nd place off Jacqui.
Next to go was Janet Thompson with BC Elsa. We had been warned that Elsa liked to shout her way round an agility course and she didn't let us down with her own commentary, but she listened well to Janet's instructions and came home with a clear in 34.84 putting her in 5th place. Lesley Hildrew was next to run but sadly Wiz jumped the wrong jump to which Lesley uttered a mild expletive and then was immediately mortified when she realised it had come out loud. The audience nearby found this extremely funny of course! Pat Brown had a great run with young Diva and put in a good time of 34.49 but unfortunately a knocked the pole on the wishing well gained her 5 faults and 7th place overall.