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Chinquapin Legacy Named Champion; Touch’s Folsom Blues Awarded Runner-Up; Touch’s Mega Mike is Top Qualifier

Florida Open All-Age Championship

By Tom Word | Feb 05, 2020
The Winner. Chinquapin Legacy with scout Ray Warren. Standing, from left: Howard Brooks, owner Ted Baker and handler Slade Sikes.

Lake City, Fla. — Forty-six highly accomplished all-age bird dogs came to Chinquapin Farm to compete in the Florida Open All-Age Championship starting January 12, and what a paradise awaited them.

Nineteen wild coveys were pointed in the first morning’s three 40-minute qualifying braces (braces were reduced from nine daily to six because of high temperatures, a wise decision especially for the sake of mounts).

Multi-find races were the rule throughout until Thursday’s last six finals braces when quail decided to shut off their scent for part of the day. Fourteen dogs were selected by Judges Andy Crowell of Oriental, N. C., and Chip Pendergrass of Dayton, Tenn., as finalists.

The champion emerged in Chinquapin Legacy, coming five-year-old white and black son of Chinquapin Reward, the winner here in 2016, and Hilltopper Solid Anne, she by Solid Reward ex a daughter of Pride’s Alibi, winner here in 2006.

Legacy went down on the challenging third morning course for handler Slade Sikes, ran a forward, consistent race largely without aid of scouting and scored three immaculate stylish finds dead at the front, the first at the start of Swallow’em Bottom at 9, the second just past the Big House at 17, and the last at time at the end of a spectacular finishing cast that took him to the limits of his course. On these he was seen correcting on his own as we rode to him. When Slade walked in to flush it proved Legacy’s boldness and wisdom, for he had the large covey pinned. A beautiful hour, the kind we all ride hoping to see but rarely do. He was braced with Dominator’s Rebel Squire (Carlton) which was picked up at 29.

Legacy, owned by E. L. Baker of Jacksonville, Fla., also won the Sunshine All-Age in the fall and is now qualified for the National Championship. He was runner-up here to Lester’s Georgia Time in 2018.

This year’s runner-up, Touch’s Folsom Blues, coming three-year-old white and orange ticked pointer male handled by Mark McLean, ran in the first finals brace on Wednesday’s last hour and his too was an exciting performance. Beginning at the start of Bird Alley he scored first in Haskell’s Corner at 12, then again at 24 on the approach to Lookout Ridge. He made the horseshoe turn around the Big House and scored again at 33 and a final at 38. He created suspense when unseen through the blackjacks toward the ridge where the course goes left, but returned to the front aided by good scout work from Tommy Davis. His race was wide and forward throughout and could have won many a championship.

Folsom Blues is owned by Eddie and Carole Sholar of Albany, Ga., and Bruce and Karen Norton of Norman Park, Ga.

Perhaps the most exciting performance of the trial was that of Touch’s Mega Mike in the last finals brace when he scorched the course for the hour paired with Dominator’s Rebel Heir which ran nearly as big but uncharacteristically without birds (Heir’s owner Jim Hamilton rode on the dog truck to watch). Mike scored once at 31 deep in the high flat beyond the Big House. During relocation a bird lifted on his left front and he stopped. The lack of perfection here kept him out of the money. He had suffered an unproductive at 4.

In the second finals brace Thursday morning, run on the first morning course across Highway 247, Touch’s White Knight (McLean) was lost before the sand road crossing. True Confidence (Eisenhart) hunted the first course at good range but after an unproductive at 53 on birds known to be jumpy was lifted. The remaining finals braces went as follows.

Beginning below Buck’s Hill, Chinquapin Reward (Sikes) and Erin’s Wild Justice (Eisenhart) hunted big, forward and mostly unseen until Justice was spotted ahead pointing at 12 where handler waived it off. He scored at 29 in hills on left and at 46 deep on right.

Reward was found at the front pointed at 16 and had a stop to flush on relocation. He found birds deep on left at 34 beyond power line crossing, a dug-up find. At time Justice was deep at the front, shown by handler, and Reward was out of touch. Handler asked for the retrieval unit. It revealed Reward on point deep at the front.

The champion’s finals brace, previously described, followed. Then Lester’s Storm Surge (Lester) and Game Wardon (Davis) came to the line after lunch on 27. It was hot and sunny. Surge suffered an unproductive at 25 and was picked up at 30. Game Wardon was picked up at 45 after a second unproductive. He had a clean find at 17.

Touch’s Blue Moon (McLean) and Lester’s Shock Wave (Lester), going on the second afternoon course, were both picked up, Wave after a second unproductive at 44, Moon at 43 on handler’s motion. He had scored a find at 29.

The Qualifying Heats

Touch’s Malcolm Story (McLean) and Erin’s Prometheus (Eisenhart) had a busy bird-finding forty minutes. Story scored at 10, 18, 25 and 36, and suffered an unproductive. He backed bracemate at 38. Prometheus scored finds at 7, 19, and at 30 with a relocation; he suffered an unproductive at 38. Their races were all-age but not extreme.

Touch’s Folsom Blues (McLean) ran a strong all-age race with finds at 21, 28 and 29 with an unproductive at 12 to gain a callback. Stash the Cash (Lester) scored at 10, 26, 30, 32 and 40 and backed at 12, his race moderate.

Touch’s White Knight (McLean) earned a callback with a strong all-age race and finds at 9 in Swallow’em Bottom, 24 and 39 with a relocation. Standing Ovation (Eisenhart) scored at 22 with a relocation and suffered an unproductive at 35.

Hoos Boss (Furney) was lost on “27.” Dominator’s Rebel Patch (Carlton) ran a strong race with a find at 12 to gain a callback.

True Confidence (Eisenhart) scored at 15, 18 and 32 and had an unproductive at 35. Chinquapin Reward (Sikes) scored at 10, 16 and 28 with a good relocation at 28 and a strong finish. Both earned callbacks.

Wild Desire (Furney) had finds at 14 and 21 in a moderate race. Erin’s Battle Cry (Carlton) was picked up at 20 on handler’s motion.

Thus the first day’s six 40-minute braces had produced 29 finds, a record in this reporter’s 26 years of observation. And the quality of the bird work was equally high, with good style for all and no breaches of manners and only five barren stands despite the notorious running reputation of Chinquapin quail, worthy of a Nike Track and Field Medal. A truly fine day of field trialing.

Monday brought more. Hilltopper Debutante (Russell) ran as a bye. She scored at 3 on left of pipe line, her style hurt by limber-tail but mannerly. She went on to run a classic all-age ground race, requiring little scouting and showing her responsiveness to handler’s calls. She went to the far left corner after coursing through the pretty piney woods after road crossing, then came on to hunt through the rest of the course at the front to finish credibly. Her bracemate, setter Greenfield’s Queen, was absent, having escaped her kennel at Bubba Moreland’s in Leesburg under lease by handler Rick Furney. Happily, owner John Milton, who was on the dog truck, got a call during the running from a neighbor of Bubba that Queen had shown up on her porch and was safe.

On the classic second course beginning just east of Buck’s Grave Hill, Dominator’s Rebel Squire (Carlton) scored at 18 and 22 and backed bracemate at 12 with a race that earned a callback. Erin’s Wild Justice (Eisenhart) ran a strong all-age race and scored at 12 and 17 for a callback.

Across the highway Aces Are Wild (McLean) suffered an unproductive at 5 and a second at 20 to be lifted. Miller’s Speed Dial scored at 7 and at 15 while being heeled back by scout from a cast into Swallow’em Bottom that took him to a back of Paper Rosie’s steel silhouette at the clubhouse where scout found him. He was later lifted to end the second morning.

After lunch on “27,” Wild Hawk (Carlton) went birdless in a good all-age race. Chinquapin Legacy (Sikes) scored at 24 and 27 and had a strong finish and smooth all-age race to earn a callback.

Miller’s Blindsider (Carlton) and Chinquapin Bear (Warren) could not get the job done in the heat. Bear fell victim to unproductives at 18 and 21. Blindsider’s race was erratic.

Touch’s Whitewater (McLean) scored at 20 on relocation but his race did not earn a callback. Dunn’s Tried’n True (Eisenhart) was lost at 20. This ended Monday’s running.

Tuesday began with Lester’s Storm Surge (Lester) and Touch’s Gallatin Fire (McLean). Surge earned a callback with a three-find performance opened with a find at the gate at the road crossing at 18, found by scout with bracemate backing. He also found birds at 28 and 31. Fire backed at 18 and found birds at 28 with a good relocation.

Game Wardon (Eisenhart) scored at 18 and 25 in a good all-age race to gain a callback. Chief’s Rising Sun (Mathys) scored at 29 then suffered a mishap at 37 to be lifted.

Chinquapin’s Roy Hobbs (Sikes) and Touch’s Mega Mike (McLean). Mike ran a huge all-age race and scored at 18 to be named top qualifier. Roy was less ambitious and scored at 35.

Touch’s Blue Moon (McLean) used “27” well with a big all-age race and finds at 4 and 17 to gain a callback. Erin’s Longmire (Eisenhart) scored at 12 and was picked up on handler’s motion.

Dogwood Bill (Carlton) and Shadow’s Next Exit (Eisenhart) were both picked up, victims of heat and bird shut-off.

Touch’s Blue Knight (Watson) was picked up at 25. Tee’s Wild Man (Eisenhart) found birds at 11 in Haskell’s Corner and at 22 just beyond the planted longleaf pines. Neither made the finals.

Wednesday morning’s start was delayed to 9:57. Dominator’s Rebel Heir (Carlton), champion here in 2017, and Chinquapin Dynasty (Eisenhart). Heir gained a callback with finds at 3, 12 and 21 and an all-age race. Dynasty stood at 3 in course path and handler flushed briefly, then took him on without relocation. He scored at 39 but did not gain a callback.

Lester’s Private Charter (McLean) and Strut Nation (Davis) began at the foot of Buck’s Grave Hill. Charter scored at 12 after a wide sweep through the pretty opening hills. He stood again at 38 but suffered a mishap to be lifted. Strut had owner Scott Jordan riding to watch. He scored at 13, then again at 22, but did not gain a callback.

Across Highway 247, Lester’s Georgia Time (McLean), winner here in 2018, and Chinquapin Bill (Warren), 2019 Florida Champion, went down together. Time found no birds. Bill scored at 8 and 25 but did not make the finals.

Erin’s Copper River (Carlton) was picked up early. Erin’s Cold Justice (Eisenhart) scored at 7 but succumbed to unproductives at 12 and 14 to end the qualifying heats.

Lake City, Fla., January 12

Judges: Andy Crowell and Chip Pendergrass

FLORIDA OPEN ALL-AGE CHAMPIONSHIP [Forty-Minute Qualifying Heats; One-Hour Finals] — 44 Pointers and 2 Setters

Winner—CHINQUAPIN LEGACY, 1668768, pointer male, by Chinquapin Reward—Hilltopper Solid Annie. E. L. Baker, owner; Slade Sikes, handler.

Runner-Up—TOUCH’S FOLSOM BLUES, 1680549, pointer male, by House’s Ring of Fire—Touch’s Sandy. Eddie & Carole Sholar & Bruce & Karen Norton, owners; Mark McLean, handler.

The Rest of the Story

The crew of Chinquapin again did a masterful job supervising the trial. Manager Slade Sikes and dog trainer Ray Warren marshalled when not running a dog.

Don Sparrow wrangled with the help from Dusty Derringer and Seth Thompson, and Darrell “Cowboy” Summers drove the dog truck, assuring all aboard got a good view of the action.

T Hicks and Belinda Sikes had good lunches waiting for all each day and prepared and served salads, sides and desserts for the fresh ham dinner celebration Tuesday night at the clubhouse, enjoyed by all. The grounds were in pristine condition and the bird crop spectacular. The quality of entries was also very high. Too-short races were rare, and mistakes on game rare also.

On Wednesday after the running Gary and Joy Lester invited all to share smoked meat and cocktails on the porch of the clubhouse. Gary has become an expert meat smoker camping with his grandchildren, the smoking occurring while they trail-ride.

Handler Jamie Daniels was absent but for a joyous reason. He was home tending to family duty while his wife Allison Williams Daniels delivered son Thomas Christopher Daniels on January 16, all doing well. Judd Carlton handled the Daniels’ entries ably.

Greatly missed for the first time in memory was handler Robin Gates whose entries have won here often and spectacularly. All in the fraternity are pulling for Robin to return soon.

It was often hot and humid during the running. Reducing the qualifying braces from nine to six daily proved very wise. The dogs tolerated the heat well in most cases but it was sometimes tough for scout or handler mounts and whenever it appeared a horse might be stressed the break between braces was extended and water applied and often a fresh mount substituted.

Winner of the Long Distance Gallery Award went to Alex Mauck and his companion Kris Wall of Oregon, present on the dog truck or riding all week and making a winter swing to attend all-age trials all across the nation starting in Arkansas and continuing to the Continental and the National.

Alex is no stranger to the area and its trials having worked and played in Florida and Georgia in earlier years. They were good company on the dog truck.

Second place went to Lynn Oxendine of Missouri who rode all week. A welcome gallery rider was Randy Peel, DMV of Chipley, Fla.

It was good to see Don Price doing well again, having undergone a successful kidney transplant.

Perhaps most satisfying for me this year was seeing Joe Hicks riding and laughing in the gallery with brother John. So glad to see Joe’s health restored. Joe came to Chinquapin in the early 1980s as dog trainer. He had been working with his legendary father Pete in Alabama. It was a package deal, Joe had Paper Rosie, Evolution daughter that Ted Baker wanted to acquire. Joe said it had to be a package deal, “I go where Rosie goes.” Ted said ok, and thus the pair came to Chinquapin, where Joe moved up to manager when Wallace Sessions retired.

Rosie won the Masters (1986), then Rosie became the star of the Chinquapin hunting string (the first quail I shot on Chinquapin was over Rosie’s point. She relocated like a jet fighter, unforgettable).

Joe’s retirement as manager early resulted from debilitating side effects of back surgery complications.

Paper Rosie played a part in this year’s trial. Her steel silhouette stands before the new clubhouse-stable. Gary Lester’s entry Miller’s Speed Dial made a cast soon after breakaway into Swallow’em Bottom that took him all the way to the clubhouse where he backed Rosie’s silhouette and scout found him thus. On the way back to the front he stood a covey.

Having Kathy Jones, Janet Warren and John Milton on the dog truck this year was a special aid and treat for this reporter. Kathy has become an expert at spotting distant dogs. John called out the times of finds. Janet provided the special perspective of a handler’s wife. She is an expert puppy raiser and walker.

Judge Chip Pendergrass brought with him son Ross, a high school senior and standout baseball pitcher who is deciding on which of several college baseball scholarships to accept.

Ross has been involved with bird dogs and trials since early childhood, and with the ideal tutor, legendary scout and dog man David Johnson. When Chip and Ross worked dogs with David he instructed Ross on his pony to follow behind David and do whatever David said (see photo of David with Ross). How better to learn!

Judge Andy Crowell has been involved with every aspect of bird dogs and field trials, starting with quail hunting on foot and horseback with his father and grandfather in Halifax County, Virginia. In trials he did shoot-to-retrieve, then on-foot bird hunter stakes, then American Field horseback shooting dog and all-age stakes. With Fairfield Nell and Dominique Tom he had dog of the year winners in amateur shooting dog and all-age categories. He has judged extensively including all the shooting dog Futurities and many championships. He started running puppies at Amelia and later competed regularly at Hoffman.

He participated successfully in the Virginia Amateur Association trials over several years. After election as a trustee from Region 3 of the AFTCA, he proposed and managed the Limited Edition Prints program to support the Twentieth Century Fund and raise over $130,000 for the Fund. After his retirement as a trustee the program came to a halt, demonstration of the vital importance of strong leadership.

Andy managed twin Ford dealerships in South Boston, Va., and a neighboring community in North Carolina until recently when he sold them. They had been operated by him and his father and grandfather before him for over a century, the longest continuous family-owned dealerships in the nation. He does not miss the car business.

He lives now in Oriental, N. C., a center for fishing, boating and duck hunting, three of his passions. He is fun to be with and like his partner Chip Pendergrass an attentive and knowledgeable trial judge. He is also a gourmet chef, and put on a spectacular seafood feast at the Big House.

John Russell’s connections to the Florida Championship are long and deep. He has judged here six times. His Solid Hilltopper was named Top Qualifier in 2006, the first year of qualifying braces, John’s biggest thrill in trialing. He gave Ted Baker Hilltopper Solid Anne by Solid Reward out of a daughter of Pride’s Alibi, dam of this year’s champion Chinquapin Legacy.

John’s contributions to the Quail Championship Invitational are well known — chairman and stake manager over two decades, author of a definitive history of the winners and their lineage, now reporter, an unselfish giver to the sport in many ways.

The Big House at Chinquapin has an interesting history and has witnessed much fun. Before it was built, accommodations for Baker family and guests were single-wide trailers, later known as the “Judges’ Trailers”, at the southeast corner of the property. When Ted and John proposed building the Big House, their father, Mr. Tom, a very frugal man, opposed it.

“Okay, we will wait until you die and then build it with your money so you will never enjoy it but your money will still build it.” That argument got his reluctant consent.

Consisting of a 60’ x 60’ (approximately) square single-room second floor living, dining, kitchen and bar space with a high cathedral ceiling, glass wall on the east leading to a wraparound deck, it holds a giant fireplace on the north wall, kitchen in the southwest corner and bar in the north-west corner. A center-room stair leads to four bedrooms and three baths below. Two two-bedroom disconnected bungalows flank it on the northeast and southwest corners, so eight bedrooms and seven full baths in all.

The judges sleep in one bungalow. Ted and guests and the Suwannee River Association Boys stay in the rest. Supper after the running and cocktails brings feasts and tall-tales telling and much mutual kidding. One night stone crabs from South Florida appear thanks to Ted. His friend from childhood, legendary safari and fishing guide, Jimmy Stockton, brings fresh shrimp. This year Judge Crowell brought bushels of fresh North Carolina coastal waters shrimp, soft shell crabs and other nautical delicacies. Wines red and white accompany. Pure fun.

Entries are down in trials, especially in all-age stakes. Grounds are a problem, and leadership and the economics for handlers and owners.

Are all-age trials important? Yes, and for one main reason: genetics. Every knowledgeable trialer and bird hunter knows that high-energy big going sires with endurance are vital; without them the drag of the breed reduces quality in every category. Trials survived through The Great Depression, two World Wars and the Great Recession. Will they survive the smart phone-digital games age? We shall see.

Photographer Chris Mathan is doing more than her part to promote survival of trials, with her excellent Strideaway website dedicated to trialing and bird dogs and her promotion of the Youth Field Trial Alliance. She was on hand to photograph the finals from the dog truck and is photographing at the Continental trials for Purina. Thank you for all you do, Chris.

And the Suwannee River Field Trial Association thanks Purina and Garmin-Tri-Tronics for sponsorship and dog food and equipment prizes to the winning handlers.

T. W.

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