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Field Trial Report

Florida Open All-Age Championship

By Tom Word | Feb 08, 2019
Championship Winners. From left to right: Tom Word, John Russell, Talicia Hicks, Skip Griffith, Judge Chip Pendergrass, Cowboy Summers, John Milton, Judge Andy Crowell, Seth Thompson, Slade Sikes with Chinquapin Bill, Ray Warren, Mackenzie Akers, Ted Baker, Howard Brooks, Margie Ricci, Judd Carlton with Miller’s Blindsider, Jamie Daniels, Bill Ricci, Nick Berrong, Jim Goza, Fred Rayl, Don Sparrow and Dusty Derringer.

Branford, Fla. — This was as good as trialing gets: beautiful grounds, plentiful wild birds equally distributed, ideal weather, superb facilities, knowledgeable attentive judges, a generous purse, and a host who loves the game and those who play it like no other.

The Florida commenced Sunday, January 13, at Chinquapin Farm, Branford, Fla. Fifty-eight of the continent’s best all-age dogs were entered, brought by fifteen handlers including two amateurs. Eighteen were called back for the hour finals.

Judging were Andy Crowell of Virginia, N. C., and sometimes Florida (he lives now mostly on his boat or in season at his duck camp), and Chip Pendergrass of Dayton, Tenn., both veteran judges, amateur trainer-handlers and perhaps most important, on foot and horseback wild bird hunters from childhood.

When the smoke cleared Thursday afternoon, January 17, Chinquapin Bill, coming four-year-old pointer male handled by Ray Warren and owned and bred by Ted Baker of Jacksonville, Fla., emerged as champion, and Miller’s Blindsider, coming four-year-old pointer male handled by Jamie Daniels and owned by Nick Berrong of Maryville, Tenn., as runner-up.

Bill, whelped May 8, 2015, is by Chinquapin Spec ex Silicone Sister and was runner-up in the Continental Derby Championship last year.

Blindsider, whelped June 1, 2015 and bred by Fran and Jack Miller, is by Just Irresistible (runner-up here in 2015) ex Miller’s Bring the Heat and was the 2018 National Derby Champion. It had been as good a stake, judged by performances overall and conditions, as any attending could recall.

Named Top Qualifier was Touch’s Malcolm Story, pointer male handled by Mark McLean and owned by Alex Rickert of Bozeman, Mont. Story was whelped January 10, 2016 and bred by Keith Wright of Indiana, by Touch’s Knight Rider ex Blackhawk’s Sunflower and has six wins, including runner-up in the Pacific Coast Derby Championship. Alex and his father Al and brother Adam were on hand to see his performances.

You will find few comments below on the style or manners of the entries. The reason: they were almost all very stylish and mannerly on game. Dogs competing today at this level had to be to get here.

THE FINALS

Eighteen of 58 entries were called back by the judges. There would be thirty finds in the finals following sixty in the qualifying heats.

The first finals brace, True Confidence (Eisenhart) and Chinquapin Bill (Warren), produced the champion and two thrilling all-age races. They began at the hitching post just across Route 247 from the second hour course. At 7 Bill stood dead on course on the crest of the hill above Swallow ’em Bottom. A minute later True stood in the hedgerow two hundred yards to Bill’s right. Both stands were productive and stylish. They both had unproductives deep in Swallow ’em Bottom, True’s at 15, Bill’s at 17.

At 31 Bill stood and True backed at the ridge top where the course turns 90° left, all in order, a good one. Both hunted at all-age range through the difficult hills and at 46 Bill scored deep right front on the limb. He went on to keep the front at good range, capped by an excellent finish going into the hills toward where they had been released.

True’s race was equally inspiring but without finds after his first. Still, his performance would have won many a championship. The bar had been set high for the other finalists.

Erin’s Muddy River and Touch’s Secret Agent went down on “27” after lunch. River scored at 12 and 24 and suffered an unproductive at 51, his race not extreme. Agent was picked up after an unproductive at 56.

Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo, two-time National Champion, scored at 24 but was lost at the end. Chinquapin Legacy, last year’s runner-up, scored handsomely at 7 and 29, and backed Jo at 24, his race not extreme, hampered by an absence past the pond on this difficult-to-show-on course.

Erin’s Longmire and Touch’s Gallatin Fire proved disappointing. Longmire scored at 18, then was lost. Fire suffered unproductives at 3 and on the power line at 25, to be lifted.

Thursday morning was cold, clear and frosty. Seminole Boss and Chinquapin Bear were picked up, Boss after a find at 16, Bear after one find at 13, but two unproductives thereafter.

Dunn’s True Redemption and Strut Nation had the showy second course. Redemption scored at 33 but failed to lay down a consistently all-age race. Nation scored at 19, 31 and 49 and was spotted on a fourth find by Luke Eisenhart (his call of point good sportsmanship) deep in forward hills after time, his route plenty wide but sometimes in the easy footing and at times aided by a master scout, Joe Bush.

Touch’s Malcolm Story, the Top Qualifier, and Miller’s Blindsider, started like the champion at the hitching post. Story scored at 18 in Swallow ’em Bottom and at 28 at the hilltop left turn. Blindsider scored at 29 and on the limb at 48 (three coveys lifted from the area almost simultaneously when Daniels flushed) after which both dogs were in contention for runner-up as they entered the last ten minutes of their heat.

They both showed well and forward in the following stretch to the pipe line across from the clubhouse where the course turns sharp left down the pipe line toward the entrance gate. At the left turn off the pipe line toward the finishing stretch Story encountered a dead small animal near the course path and McLean rode to him to encourage him on down course. He scored a find near palmettos at 57, all in order. Released, he went on to a treeline perpendicular to the course where McLean rode to him, dismounted, took hold of his collar and then released him down the course. Meanwhile Blindsider had mounted a big finish into the hills to the right front. Both owners had ridden to watch their dogs.

Thus the winners and top qualifier had run the same course, giving the judges an ideal opportunity to compare them. And the fourth dog in contention, True Confidence, had also gone on this course, braced with the champion.

Chinquapin’s Roy Hobb and Touch’s White Knight went on “27” after lunch. Roy, named for the lead character in the classic baseball book and movie, The Natural, scored at 5, 36, 43 and 53, and suffered an unproductive at 25, his race all-age, but not the equal of Bill’s or Miller’s Blindsider’s. Knight scored at 8 and 39, but had unproductives at 35 and 43 to be lifted.

Shadow’s Lord Magic and Erin’s Wild Justice went in the final brace. Magic scored at 19 and 33, his race not spectacular. Justice was picked up.

THE QUALIFYING BRACES

Chinquapin Bear (Sikes) and Ace’s R Wild (McLean) started in cold frosty conditions. Bear scored at 9, suffered an unproductive at 19, then redeemed it with a good find at 24 at the front and another at 35. Wild scored at 10 and came in from behind twice.

Miller’s Speed Dial (Lester) went on a bird-finding spree with finds at 7, 9 (a stop to flush on relocation), 22, 27, 29 and 37. His race was shortened by the frequent finds and somewhat lateral and scout-aided. Game Throne (Gates) scored at 26 after coming in from behind at 15, his race not extreme.

True Confidence(Eisenhart) had a big, forward and independent race with a good find at 37 to gain a callback. Lester’s Pete Rose (Lester) scored at 11 with a moderate race.

Chinquapin Bill (Warren) ran a big forward race with finds at 15 and 23 to gain a callback and go on the same course in the finals. Lester’s Private Charter (McLean) backed Bill at 23 and was later picked up.

Erin’s Muddy River (Gates) would lay down a forward, deep race and score at 2, 16 and 24 for a callback. Touch’s Secret Agent (Furney) would have a find at 4 and a stop to flush on relocation at 17 in an all-age race and gain a callback.

After lunch, on “27”, Hilltopper Top Dog (Russell), a Derby, was forward until 14 when birds lifted and he stopped to flight, but John thought he’d been involved with their lifting and put him on the truck. Judge Pendergrass, covering, thought him innocent of any breach. Touch’s Red Rider (Eisenhart) went the hour at good range but birdless. He too had stopped to flight on the covey at 14.

Miller’s Hennessy (Rayl) hunted a good all-age race but went birdless. Shadow’s Next Exit (Gates) was picked up on handler’s motion.

Touch’s Mega Mike (McLean) ran a smooth forward race at good range but birdless. Touch’s Smooth Operator (Furney) also went without a find.

Funseek’n Hit Man (Daniels) on the showy last course ran a superb race but went birdless and suffered an unproductive at 27. Lester’s Shut Out (Gates) was appropriately named today, finding no birds, race all-age.

Tee’s Wild Man (Gates) had a point at 29 where birds were not officially seen. He suffered an unproductive at 38. Just Watch (Daniels) scored at 27 and suffered an unproductive at time.

Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo (Lester) ran a forward, deep race punctuated by a find at 26 and a limb find to the front at time to be called back. Game Wardon (Eisenhart) was picked up, handler’s decision.

Chinquapin Legacy (Sikes), last year’s runner-up, scored handsomely at 9, and stood again at 12 where the gallery rode up birds during his relocation. He suffered an unproductive at 23, then redeemed it with a clean find at 30. He went on to a great finish deep into the hills beyond the left turn down the pipe line and was called back. Touch’s Game Point (McLean) was picked up.

Miller’s Bushwhacker (Daniels) had no birds. Erin’s Longmire (Gates), named for my favorite Netflix Wyoming sheriff, had a strong race and finds at 15 and 37 on relocation and was called back.

Miller’s Dialing In (Eisenhart), another National Champion, hunted a good big forward race but was unrewarded by birds. Sandhill Trig (Rayl) was picked up.

On “27” Shadow’s Full Throttle (Gates) was picked up. Stash the Cash (Lester) had an unproductive at 17 and finds at 24 and 27, but his race proved inadequate for a callback.

Touch’s Wild Desire (Furney) found no birds and was seen little on a hard-to-see-em course. Dunn’s True Redemption (Carlton) had a find at 30 where birds left him but were seen by a judge.

Touch’s Gallatin Fire (McLean) scored at 9 and ran an all-age race but was unseen the last fifteen minutes. Dunn’s Tried’N True (Eisenhart) was picked up, handler’s decision.

Lester’s Georgia Time (Gates), last year’s champion, had an unproductive at 7, and a clean find at 14 where he found his only bird in the finals last year, and another unproductive at time. Dominator’s Rebel Heir (Daniels), who won here year before last, found no birds.

Seminole Boss (Furney) gained a callback with a good limb find at 10 and a good race despite difficulty gathering him for the road crossing. Erin’s Rebel Run (Carlton) was picked up.

Touch’s Malcolm Story (McLean) won top qualifier with a big forward race and finds at 5, 15, 19 and 39. Chinquapin Roy Hobb (Sikes) found birds at 15, 32 and 36, and his race improved after the half to gain a callback.

Neely’s Power Play (Gates) was picked up. He had an unproductive stand at 23. Strut Nation (Jordan), which had just won the Georgia All-Age Championship, scored at 8, 13 and 22 with an all-age race to gain a callback.

Miller’s Blindsider (Daniels), released across the road at the hitching post, scored on birds at 6, 27 and 34 and ran a forward all-age race to be called back. Awsum Country Justice (Eisenhart) suffered an unproductive at 6 and found no birds.

Chinquapin Dynasty (Gates) went birdless. Spenser’s Lawman (Rayl) did likewise.

On “27” Touch’s White Knight (McLean) found birds at 17 and 26 on relocation and with an all-age race won a callback. Dakota Nation (Bush) had a find at 26 but his race was modest.

Ascension (Eisenhart) went birdless. Beeler’s Quick Step (Beeler) scored at 6 by power line, all in order, and showed promise. He came in from behind once.

House’s Buckwheat Hawk (McLean) was picked up. Chinquapin Reward (Sikes), twice winner here, had an unproductive at 5 and another at 27 to be lifted.

Shadow’s Lord Magic (Gates) scored at 13 and at time. Erin’s Wild Justice (Eisenhart) had an unproductive at 10, a find at time and a forward race, not extreme.

Lester’s Storm Surge (Lester) had an unproductive at 9, and finds at 21 and 30, his race short early. He was picked up at 38. Wild Hawk (Carlton) found no birds.

Phillips Storm Line (Furney) was lost. Chinquapin Fred (Warren) found birds three times but did not run enough for a callback.

Branford, Fla., January 13

Judges: Andy Crowell and Chip Pendergrass

FLORIDA OPEN ALL-AGE CHAMPIONSHIP

[Forty-Minute Qualifying Series; One-Hour Finals] — 58 Pointers

Winner—CHINQUAPIN BILL, 1677166, male, by Chinquapin Spec—Silicone Sister. E. L. Baker, owner; Ray Warren, handler.

Runner-Up—MILLER’S BLINDSIDER, 1674983, male, by Just Irresistible—Miller’s Bring The Heat. Nick Berrong, owner; Jamie Daniels, handler.

THE REST OF THE STORY

The Chinquapin staff worked hard but made it look easy. Slade Sikes, Ray Warren, Darrrell “Cowboy” Summers, Don Sparrow, Seth Thompson, Mackenzie Akers and Dusty Derringer teamed for the many tasks required to host the Championship, from welcoming handlers and their dogs and horses, to having judges’ mounts tacked up and waiting for the morning and afternoon starts, then caring for them after their work with baths and feeding; marshalling; driving the dog truck and being sure every entry is on the truck when it leaves headquarters and is picked up after it runs; and scouting for any entry needing one. Free lunches for all is a tradition looked after by Talicia Hicks and Belinda Sikes, who also prepare the delicious side dishes and desserts for and serve the traditional fresh ham supper, held this year Monday night (Ted and Howard cooked the hams).

Cowboy is heavily involved with supervising youth rodeo where his daughters were stars and grandchildren are coming along. His nephew ranked twelfth in the country as a team roper this past season and Cowboy flew his mother to the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas to see her grandson compete. Cowboy was warmed early mornings by his wool National Finals’ vest and cap.

Purina generously contributed sponsorship funds and donated dog food for the winners, and representative Greg Blair rode many braces. Garmin also provided a retrieval device for the champion’s handler.

 

An indelible memory of this year’s Championship was the smile on Ray Warren’s craggy face when Bill was named champion. His usually squinting blue eyes seemed to double in size and did they twinkle! Then they teared.

Ray’s early career was as a service manager in a Kentucky auto dealership. His family was big in the walking horse industry and his father, mother and uncle trained many whose names are household words among followers of those elegant long-steppers.

But Ray was drawn to bird dogs where walking horses were integral to competition. Ray left a good secure job in the auto industry to become an over-the-road field trial trainer-handler for-the-public, perhaps the riskiest of professions. He was backed by his bride Janet.

Ray soon had a reputation as a hard worker and talented developer and handler of champions, including Hytest Skyhawk, the only setter winner of the Quail Championship Invitational.

“I believed then I needed to be close to Grand Junction where the National ran, but when the opportunity to work at Chinquapin for the Bakers came along I was ready to get out of the snow, ice and rain and to enjoy some warm winters,” Ray says with a smile, and Janet nods agreement. The opportunity to train at Kennebec, S. D., in summer was also a plus. And Janet loves raising and starting pointer puppies at Chinquapin and can be found walking them every morning.

 

On Friday before the trial the Suwannee River Association directors enjoyed a quail hunt on Chinquapin, a special treat. Howard Brooks, Chester Stokes and John Milton were the guns. Ted, Kathy Jones, Skip Griffin and your scribe watched. Forty-two mostly very large coveys were moved in six hours of hunting, most of them pointed. The bird crop this season is fabulous, as confirmed by finds in the Championship.

 

Joe “Clinton” Bush was on hand as handler of Dakota Nation and scout for recent Georgia Championship winner Strut Nation, handled by owner Scott Jordan. Watching Joe ride and scout provides a graduate educational. No man riding today can see and keep up with an all-age dog better than Joe, or scout him better and unseen.

Sadly, Joe is the last of the legendary African-American scouts of the previous century still active in trials. But he can still ride like the wind and see a dog at an unbelievable distance. And when a dog he is scouting shows far ahead and you wonder, “How the hell did he get there?” you cannot discount  the possibility Joe got him there, unseen.

As a young lad, Joe showed up at Bill Rayl’s Georgia kennels asking for work in exchange for a meal. From that start he would come to scout Bill’s and son Fred’s great champions over many decades. He is a master of his craft.

 

Among those on hand this year were veteran trialers Don Price and Jim Goza. Don has for fifty years been a leader in the Sunshine Trial organization that has sponsored an October trial here, and Jim has competed here in this, in the Sunshine and in amateur trials run on Chinquapin at the invitation of the Bakers. Don says he has missed only one trial since 1968, that due to a broken leg. Jim can point out places on every acre where his dogs have scored finds. Chinquapin is their and many others’ favorite place to run or watch a bird dog.

Among patrons riding this year were Bill and Margie Ricci of Powhatan, Va., down south for this and the Continental stakes, and Claudia McNamee now of Atlanta and formerly of New York where with her husband, a renowned chef now deceased, she operated an Adirondack lodge serving five star French cuisine and hosting corporate retreats for elite financiers. Claudia entered trials with French Brittanys in Connecticut and now sponsors a dog with Luke Eisenhart. She is an accomplished equestrian and rode nearly every brace.

Mike Moses also rode some as did Joe Hicks. It was great to see Joe back on a horse and grinning. Jerry Sikes, Slade’s father and a neighbor of Chinquapin, rode the dog truck one day.

 

Talented professional photographer Chris Mathan was on hand for the finals and took many photos which will be on display on her photo website (chrismathansportingdogs.com) as well as her and Mazie Davis’ Strideawaywebsite, the go-to Internet destination for field trial information, podcast interviews, history and more. They have recently republished, with additional historic photographs, Ed Mack Farrior’s priceless memoir,

“Recollections of Bird Dogs and the Men Who Handled Them,” a volume every trialer should have and give to his or her grandchildren.

Ed Mack and his father Mr. Ed trained and handled many of the foundation sires of the pointer breed including Muscle Shoals’ Jake, Air Pilot, Air Pilot’s Sam and Warhoop Jake. Ed Mack had a remarkable memory for detail into his 90s and his memoir is a precious store of field trial history spanning the 20th Century.

Ed Mack served in World War II, and won major championships before and after, then operated a quail shooting preserve on the Wheeler Plantation in North Alabama where he also hosted field trials. He held a master’s degree from UNC and was the long-serving secretary of the United States Open Championship.

The cover of the book features a photo of the judges. Behind them can be seen a young Ted Baker riding beside Bill Rayl.

 

This year’s winning handlers earned success by differing paths, but all fueled by a desire for perfection-to bring forth in bird dog pupils all their natural talent and hone it to a diamond-like sparkle. Mark McLean achieved it with Touch’s Malcolm Story, Top Qualifier, Jamie Daniel achieved it with Miller’s Blindsider, Runner-Up Champion, and Ray Warren achieved it with Champion Chinquapin Bill, all very young first-year dogs.

Ray’s career path has been told. Jamie’s began with apprenticeship under another determined hard worker, Fred Dileo. Mark’s path to the first tier began observing great uncle George Moreland and cousin Bubba Moreland at Coney Lake Plantation, helping out there as a teenager. He became an avid amateur trialer while operating a successful tire business and farm, then decided to turn pro and handle a few others’ dogs to spread expenses. Then lo and below, he found himself Purina All-Age Handler of the Year and handler of the Dog of the Year for last season. He still manages the farm and tire business with help from family.

It was great to see Charlie Ward riding at Chinquapin. Charlie scouted for Pete Hicks when he had his best dogs, including Bisco Big Jack and Chinquapin Bisco Buck. He later managed Chimone Plantation for T. Wayne Davis and more recently was Vice-President and National Sales Manager of Lynch Since 1940, maker of turkey and other game calls and camouflage hunting clothes and blind building materials. Charlie advised he had just closed the purchase of the venerable company.

Charlie is a jolly guy and master storyteller as well as turkey caller. He told of preparing Bisco Buck here at Chinquapin for the National.

“Pete had Buck down on a cold rainy day for more than three hours. He had scored twenty some finds without a bobble. I said to Pete, ‘I am freezing Pete. We need to go in.’ Pete said, ‘It’s going to be cold up there and likely raining too.’ He did not want to stop, but finally we did. That was the year Buck was called back with The Hitch Hiker for a run-off and was lost on a deer.”

Chinquapin Farm and Ted Baker were featured in a November, 2018 article in “Flamingo”, Florida’s lifestyle quarterly magazine written by Bucky Mahon of Tallahassee, a multi-talented writer, painter and sculptor.  The article tells of Chinquapin’s history and that of Ted’s long love affair with big-going bird dogs and field trials.

Mahon spent a day at Chinquapin to research the story and was given the Black Tahoe tour by Ted. Although previously oblivious to field trials or quail plantations, Mahon proved a quick study. He captures the magic of Chinquapin with uncanny accuracy.

You can read it on line by googling “Flamingo Magazine, Florida”, or entering http://www.flamingomag.com/2018/11/26/chinquapin/.

For his research, Mahon also read The Ninth Pub by your scribe. While being shown the new kennel by Slade Sikes, Mahon asked, “Can you show me the hole in the dog Tom Word writes about?”

This was your scribe’s twenty-fifth consecutive report of the Florida Open All-Age Championship. I am most grateful for the opportunity.

T. W.

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