American Derby Invitational Championship
Galatia, Ill. — Miller’s Speed Dial earned the championship title and Pendy’s Good Grace was runner-up in closely contested performances as the American Derby Invitational Championship was held March 18-19 at Outland Ranch near Broughton, Ill. Mrs. Peg Fornear again made the outstanding property available for the Championship and also, again, provided the $5,000 funds to enable the related expenses to be paid.
Mr. Jim Fornear started making the gifts many years ago and Mrs. Fornear has continued the practice since his death. Entry fees do not even cover the guaranteed purse each year and the Championship has been made possible only by the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Fornear for many years.
Miller’s Speed Dial was handled by Gary Lester of Gracey, Ky. The champion’s sire is former National Champion (2015) Miller’s Dialing In.
Pendy’s Good Grace was handled by Luke Eisenhart for owner Matt Pendergest of Lexington, Ky., who was in the gallery to watch her performance. The runner-up is from a litter produced by Reloaded and Dialed In.
Purina was again a loyal and generous sponsor as they have been for many years. The company’s support helps numerous field trial clubs and their generosity was greatly appreciated. Linda Hunt voiced thanks when gatherings afforded her a chance to do so.
Linda Hunt has served as the secretary-treasurer of the sponsoring association for all of its 25 years. Bill Hunt and Stephen Walker envisioned the creation of the Championship and after making some changes in the earlier years relating to the number of dogs and the length of the heats the current format has worked well for many years.
That format is that the top twelve Derbies holding Purina Derby Award points, from records compiled and maintained by The American Field, were invited to participate. Some of the top twelve were unable, then additional dogs were invited going down to but not below the 20th ranking Derby. Unfortunately, the 20-dog cutoff resulted in only nine dogs competing in this year’s Championship. That stipulation may be reviewed and modified before the 2018 Championship.
Harold Ray of Waynesboro, Ga., and Larry Huffman of Michigan City, Miss., judged. Harold was accompanied by Aimee and Larry by Piper. The ladies, together with a few others who attended, were definitely “roses among thorns” and were greatly outnumbered by men.
Both judges have had long careers as professional trainers. They told the reporter they agreed on everything they saw and discussed. They went so far as to say that frequently when one made a comment to the other, the other was about to say the same thing to the first. Their work was made difficult as the two top dogs were so strong and more information will follow on that subject.
The weather and all the conditions on Outland Ranch were excellent during the Championship. Kenny Robinson and Greg Robinson made sure all the needs of guests at the ranch were taken care of. Greg marshalled when needed, and Kenny kept the dog wagon on course and was frequently accompanied by Bill Hunt. Sharon Robinson was in the clubhouse each day and cheerfully helped Linda Hunt with kitchen duties as needed. The Robinson family had gracious hospitality fine-tuned and exhibited to the max while we were at Outland.
THE CHAMPION AND RUNNER-UP
Judge Harold Ray noted how difficult the judges’ decision was as to how they would place these dogs. Sharing this information is not a breach of confidence between the judges and reporter and is shared to illustrate how sharply focused the judges were as they watched the dogs and also to compliment the commitment of the judges and the quality of the two Derbies that made the work of the judges so difficult.
Judge Ray said he and Judge Huffman decided at the end of the first 60 minutes of the callback that if the champion and runner-up, braced together, continued as they had performed on the first and second days of running, up until that time, that an additional half hour would be added to the callback. A two hour callback for the Derbies would surely determine which would earn placement higher than the other. The additional 30 minutes was not added as Pendy’s Good Grace slowed a bit in the last 10 minutes while Miller’s Speed Dial continued stronger. That’s how closely matched the judges saw these dogs to be.
Miller’s Speed Dial was the bottom dog in the first brace. The Saturday morning temperature was mid 40s as he and his bracemate were released. He first made a lengthy cast around the first bottom and was out of sight for some time. Absence resulted in him not having the opportunity to cover an area on the north part of the course but Lester had him back to the front on the ridge advancing toward Eagle Lake. Between the lake and Mr. Fornear’s burial place, at 24, Speed Dial pointed and the handler flushed birds from dinosaur grass. The strong champion looked nice while standing and then continued until 35 when he backed bracemate’s find, again standing impressively while birds flew. He had birds again at 48 with everything in order and continued to run aggressively the rest of the hour.
As the judges only called back two dogs, with two others asked to stand by, the start for the callback on Sunday morning was delayed until 8:30. The extra time allowed much of the frost on the cold and still morning to leave. After a big cast around the first large bottom Speed Dial hunted until he was found pointed behind Mr. Fornear’s grave near a dozer pile. Lester attempted to find birds but had no luck. Speed Dial’s tail indicated he was losing interest in the birds which had run on the ground. Lester asked him to relocate and as the dog went to the left the handler went to the right and walked the birds up. Lester screamed “whoa” and shot. Speed Dial stopped, pointing down the hill to the left away from the direction of the birds. The episode was unorthodox but the judge found no fault with the dog. Continuing through the brace, the champion went to the left past the Football Lake, had another short absence but was soon rounded up and brought back to the front near the white pole at 44. Both dogs were together and to the front through Persimmon Valley and continuing until reaching the end of the first corn field that is usually traversed early in the second hour. There, at 60, the bracemate had birds and Speed Dial backed. Continuing then to reach Sycamore Valley at 75 the young pointer stopped before reaching the Sweet Potato Shack. Lester dismounted but had not begun to flush when his dog continued to hunt.
As mentioned earlier, the deciding factor that impressed the judges and earned the win was the strength and stamina demonstrated by the champion in the last few minutes of the callback. Speed Dial is an outstanding young dog that has a promising future.
Runner-up Pendy’s Good Grace ran in the third brace on the qualifying day. She had some type of problem with a toe on one of her front feet and her owner Matt Pendergest and Meagen Henry, Matt’s girlfriend, doctored the runner-up several times during the two days. Amazingly, she never demonstrated any discomfort and ran beautifully each time she had the opportunity. Grace found birds for Eisenhart twice on the first day.
The brace started at the rocky creek crossing where third hour breakaways frequently start. Her first birds were near a thicket of plum trees between two fields that lie in front of the Fornear house. Her second find came soon thereafter, at 38, when she pointed across the road from the Robinsons’ house and Eisenhart flushed a single.
In the callback the little pointer ran a big cast around the first bottom and returned to the front to circle the north loop, pass Eagle Lake and through the Park, around the old barn field and cover the remainder of the first hour course without stopping. She did not require excessive handling or scouting as her handler, without anxiety, watched her run edge after edge always to the front. Grace’s efforts were finally rewarded at 60 when she found birds early on what would normally be on the second hour course. She was backed by her bracemate and both dogs looked picture perfect as they stood. The runner-up hunted well the remainder of the hour but, as mentioned earlier, slowed some in the last 10 minutes and influenced the decision of the judges.
Game Throne, owned by Dr. Fred Corder and handled by Ike Todd, and Samstorm, owned by Dr. Robert Rankin and Dr. Nick Knutson and handled by Allen Vincent, were asked to be on standby in case the judges needed to see them again on the second day. As it turned out, the judges placed the two called back and did not ask the dogs standing by to perform again.
Game Throne was the top dog in the first brace. He ran a number of big casts and showed his strength and speed well. He backed his bracemate at 24 and again at 48. While descending the hill just past the Park at 32 Game Throne pointed in a feed plot and Todd flushed birds. He finished the hour with ease.
Samstorm competed in the third brace. He ran an excellent ground race but did not find any birds during the hour. Even though he had no birds, Samstorm attracted the attention of the judges.
Erin’s Country Thunder, owned by Allen Linder and Sean Derrig, and Touch’s Mega Mike, owned by Eddie Sholar, competed in the second brace. Country Thunder was handled by Luke Eisenhart and Mega Mike was handled by Ike Todd. The pair had a divided unproductive at 20. Country Thunder then had birds at 35 with Mega Mike backing. Both dogs finished the hour and Mike had a find just before time was out. The birds were along the west edge of the field at the southwest corner of Outland Ranch and Walpole Road.
In the fourth brace, Allen Vincent released Hackberry’s Chris Kyle, owned by Vic and Kirby Little, while Luke Eisenhart released Phillips Nosam, owned by Tucker Johnson. Neither dog finished the hour.
The final dog to compete was Glassilaun War Paint, owned by Jamie Nee and handled by Toby Tobiassen. After being down for 16 minutes Tobiassen elected to pick up War Paint.
Galatia, Ill., March 18
Judges: Larry Huffman and Harold Ray
AMERICAN DERBY INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
[One-Hour Qualifying Heats; Ninety-Minute Finals] — 9 Pointers
Winner—MILLER’S SPEED DIAL, 1666636, pointer male, by Miller’s Dialing In—Old Road Lou. Gary Lester, owner and handler.
Runner-Up—PENDY’S GOOD GRACE, 1664858, pointer female, by Reloaded—Dialed In. Matt Pendergest, owner; Luke Eisenhart, handler.
Good weather, good judges, and promising young dogs were among the highlights of the 25th renewal of the American Derby Invitational Championship. Having only nine dogs in the Championship was a disappointment but hopefully that is a matter that will be addressed and dealt with going forward. Being at Outland Ranch was wonderful, as always. Enjoying the company of the Robinson family and their gracious hospitality will always be remembered and appreciated.
Yet this reporter left Outland Ranch that Sunday afternoon with a melancholy feeling. Being aware that the American Derby Invitational Championship would be run somewhere else in the future was sad, yet those feelings were commingled with many good memories and appreciation for the years of visiting Outland and being with Mr. and Mrs. Fornear and Kenny, Sharon, and Greg Robinson.
Thoughts surfaced of Mrs. Fornear being brought out in the gator to bring cookies to the gallery and of her riding in the gator to watch when Ray Warren ran Quester. Another memory of Mr. Fornear’s generosity came to mind. I think the year was 2008 when a huge rainstorm came the night before the Invitational was to start and the ranch was flooded. Everyone was already there. Mr. Fornear and Kenny Robinson thought the ditches would not go down enough to be safely crossed for several days and the courses were terribly wet so the Invitational had to be postponed. Mr. Fornear gave each handler $200 that day to help them offset expenses they had incurred traveling to Illinois.
Most of us can never imagine what the Fornears did for field trialing during their many years of providing Outland Ranch and writing countless checks of $5,000 annually to support this American Derby Invitational Championship. Saying thank you seems so inadequate, but THANK YOU! J. A.