American Field
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Performer from the Past

Manitoba Rap

Aug 09, 2019
Manitoba Rap [From a painting by Edmund Osthaus]

If there is anything in lucky numbers, then thirteen is the auspicious one for the pointers.

The National Championship had been in existence since 1896 and twelve champions had been crowned, but as yet no pointer was equal to achieving such an honor. The thirteenth championship, however, which took place on the Ames Preserve in 1909, proved to be the turning point.

Manitoba Rap, son of comparatively unknown parents as far as their own public deeds are concerned, won the stake in one of the most interesting and decidedly the largest fields that had ever been accorded this event.

There were fifteen starters; nine of these were setters and the other six pointers. The judges were Hobart Ames, Col. Arthur Merriman and H. S. Bevan. This is the first time this triumvirate served together, but it was an auspicious combination and at intervals for several years thereafter the stake was successfully judged by them. They seemed to have hit upon the correct interpretation of what the National Championship had been attempting to bring out, and it was really from this time forward that the field trial world began to take the findings of the championship judges as the correct standard of the finished high-class dog.

Manitoba Rap was bred in Kentucky. His dam, Lady Cyrano Rush, was owned by W. T. F. Fiedler. Mr. Fielder was a student of breeding and pedigrees, always weighing all sides of a question in making his matings. Many a discussion I had with him on the subject of pointer history.

Lady Cyrano Rush, as an individual, was practically worthless. She was rattle-brained, gunshy and entirely unbroken. During a period of two months or more when she had made her home in my town (Dayton, Ohio) I had numerous opportunities to study her individually. Despite her defects, however, she was very fast and she could find more birds than three average dogs put together. That is all she could do; she never handled them. She was in every sense of the word a bundle of nervous energy which was pent up in a wiry but diminutive bit of anatomy. She was a combination of Rush of Lad and King Cyrano blood.

Looking at her ancestry one had reason to believe that, even though she was an undeveloped individual, her good blood might nick well with other lines. Mr. Fiedler, her owner, however, felt as though he wished to intensify the Rush of Lad blood, and he sent her to Dayton for the purpose of breeding her to a son of that dog. Fortunately the mating resulted in nothing, for the (stud) dog was fully twelve years old at the time of the mating, and Lady Cyrano Rush failed to whelp.

I say fortunately, for if there had been a litter of even mediocre puppies it is possible that her owner would have been satisfied. It was at this time that I had a talk with Mr. Fiedler. I thought little of the bundle of nerves which he called Lady Cyrano Rush, and frankly told him that if he expected to get anything at all, why not breed her to some level-headed, not to say phlegmatic dog, that could supply brains and a general mental balance? He decided that this was perhaps the best thing to do and the next time his choice fell upon Gorham’s Ripple, owned in Louisville and a dog that was said to be one of the best pointers afield in that part of the country.

Ripple was trained as a shooting dog and he filled every inch of the specifications. His blood lines were unexcelled, for his sire was Young Rip Rap and his dam Gorham’s Dorothy, the daughter of Jingo and Queen of Hessen. Dorothy was the dam of Green River Kate and Young Lad of Rush, by Lad of Rush.

The litter came on April 4, 1906. The puppy which afterward was known as Manitoba Rap went to Mr. Gorham, owner of Ripple, in lieu of a stud fee. There were several other puppies in the litter which I verily believe, had they been given the opportunity, would have been fully as brilliant as Manitoba Rap, but they were sold to men who wanted shooting dogs, and thus their light was hidden under a bush, as it were.

L. W. Blankenbaker saw possibilities in this puppy at a very early age, and at his suggestion he was bought by Thomas Johnson of Winnipeg for a Derby prospect.

Manitoba Rap lived up to early promise from the very first. He won a number of times as a Derby, but one of the races that stands out in my mind as a landmark in field trials is his heat in the All-Age Stake of the Pointer Club of America that took place in Barber, N. C., in December, 1907.

Rap was only a Derby at the time, but he was started in this stake and won it on one of the most brilliant performances I have ever seen anywhere, anytime.

In action Rap was quick and snappy; all fire and steam. His nose was superb and he could catch the scent of game from almost impossible distances. And then the way he went to his birds — well, he never left any doubts in the minds of those who saw him but that he was absolutely sure of what he was doing.

His attitudes on point were sometimes startling, for he “froze” in whatever position he might be in at the time of catching scent. Sometimes high-headed, sometimes stretched out like an adder, at others doubled into a semi-circle, but whatever position he assumed he was always absolutely intense and rigid. Few dogs, pointers or setters, had more character than this little son of rattle-brained Lady Cyrano Rush.

He had his faults, to be sure, as all dogs have, and what he was criticized for more than anything else was his occasional rechecking of ground.  Sometimes he did not get straightened out properly and would go over the same territory time and again; because of this he was charged with being “fussy”.

Put him in country where birds were fairly plentiful, however, and he could electrify the most blasé audience.

It was his marvelous character and his superlative style on point that carried away Col. Arthur Merriman in the (1909) National Championship. He once told me a number of years later, in referring to Manitoba Rap: “We can sacrifice this supreme range — in fact we should sacrifice it — when we find a dog that has the style and character that Manitoba Rap shows in  his championship race. These are the qualities that should be valued higher than all others.”

Manitoba Rap was developed in his Derby form by W. H. Elliot. The next season Charles H. Babcock took charge of the Johnson string, and thus Rap’s first and only All-Age year was under the supervision of the handler who blew the whistle over him in his championship race, which was the last of his short but spectacular career.

That was a most interesting championship in 1909. Fifteen dogs were drawn to start, but one was later withdrawn, leaving seven braces to compete. This meant three days and a half of first series running.

During those days there was much speculation as to which dog would be the winner. Perhaps few figured on Manitoba Rap, but his owner, Thomas Johnson, no doubt did.

At the old hotel in Grand Junction, on the evening after the first day’s running, a heated discussion was being carried on, which involved the merits of the various dogs. Tom Pace was willing to wager everything from doughnuts to coal mines that Prince Whitestone would win the stake, as he had done the previous year.

Charley Tway, owner of Tonopaugh, was ready to take any kind of a bet that Pace made and supplemented his offer with one of $10,000 that his dog, Tonopaugh, would make a better showing than Prince Whitestone. There was a vast amount of big money involved in those bets, but none of it was ever in sight.

When the discussion was at its height Thomas Johnson walked into the lobby of the hotel. He listened to the Tway-Pace discussion for several minutes and then quietly remarked: “I’ll wager that neither of your dogs wins and that a pointer will win the stake this year.”

The statement was met with derision by one of the principals in the discussion. “I’ll make my assertion good by betting $5,000 in your own good old United States money,” retorted Mr. Johnson, and with that he pulled a roll of greenbacks from his pocket large enough, as the trite phase goes, to choke an elephant. He began peeling off $100 bills until the eyes of some of the would-be bettors bulged from their sockets, but no one wanted his wager.

Tway slinked out of the room and Pace, for once, was nonplussed. The room, which a moment before was full of boisterous talk, became so quiet one could literally have heard a pin drop.

It was but a few minutes until everyone in that room began to think it was time to retire. Thomas Johnson had restored peace and quiet for those who had gone to their rooms an hour or two earlier to try to get some sleep.

Tonopaugh and Prince Whitestone both proved to be dismal failures in their attempts to win the (1909) Championship. Spot’s Rip Rap ran a good race and was the high dog up to the time of the last heat. Danfield, in the estimation of many, also stood well up in the stake, but, according to a statement by Mr. Bevan, which he made to the writer after the stake was decided, Danfield was not even considered as a possibility; he was charged by the judges with blinking two bevies of birds.

The last brace consisted of Alford’s John and Manitoba Rap, the oldest and the youngest dog in the stake. The heat was run in the morning. Jimmie Jones was handling Alford’s John, Charles Babcock had Manitoba Rap in charge. Those who followed the running that morning had something to keep them interested every moment of the time and the three hours slipped by before we were aware of it.

Both dogs handled perfectly and they found birds. Alford’s John, already in his ninth year, ran a remarkable race and only lost because age was taking its toll; he no longer showed the style on his game that was his leading characteristic as a younger dog. Rap had everything — style, intensity, fire. He did not find any more birds than Alford’s John, but his work was superlative.

The report noted that “it was a good race. Rap finished as bright and fresh as a  silver dollar, and loped all over the Ames place. Old Alford’s John’s performance was remarkable. No one hoped to see the veteran go out and run such a magnificent race, but he was full of hunt at the finish. So far as general efficiency, reliability and brainy ranging were concerned, he had the better of the heat. Little Manitoba Rap, however, was faster and went up to his birds with a dash no dog could surpass…”

“No second series was necessary after that heat,” remarked Col.

Merriman a year or two later, in discussing this race with the writer. “Manitoba Rap won it with a wide margin to spare.”

The little pointer was taken back to Winnipeg after that race and his owner, Thomas Johnson, retired him, not only from competition, but also from the stud. For several years the dog was unavailable to breeders, which was indeed a misfortune, for at the time he won the championship he was still less than three years of age.

Later Thomas Johnson was induced to sell the dog and he became the property of Messrs. Pace, Gaines and Charles Babcock. His time in the public stud was short, but in that brief space breeders flocked to him and Manitoba Rap began producing winners. Thirty-six of his sons and daughters are recorded in field trial history, but the good he has wrought is extending to future generations also, for his blood is now mingled with all that is best in pointer breeding. Not only has he done much to establish and fix necessary working qualities, but he has also been an influence in the way of type, for Manitoba Rap, back of a rather narrow muzzle, was practically perfect in conformation.

Thus this little pointer, descended from a shooting dog sire and a rattle-brained dam with a good pedigree behind her, has filled his mission in the scheme of things.

Manitoba Rap

3d—Independent Open Derby

3d—Continental Club’s Open Derby

3d—Pointer Club of America Open Derby

1st—Pointer Club of America Open All-Age

3d—Independent Open All-Age

4th—Kentucky Open All-Age

3d—Pointer Club of America Open All-Age

1st—Eastern Open All-Age

Wr—National Championship

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