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Field Trial Report

National Amateur All-Age Invitational Championship

By Jim Atchison | Jan 07, 2020
Dialed In Winner of the National Amateur All-Age Championship

Grand Junction, Tenn. — AFTCA secretary Piper Huffman issued invitations to the top 12 amateur all-age dogs in the nation to gather at Ames Plantation December 9-12 to compete in the 39th renewal of the AFTCA sponsored National Amateur All-Age Invitational Championship. Without exception, the owners of those invited replied affirmatively and relished the opportunity to continue the competition which brought together the best 12, based upon points earned in qualifying stakes run August, 2018 through May, 2019.

Dialed In, six-year-old white and orange ticked pointer female, won the Championship for owner Jim Pendergest of Lexington, Ky. Touch’s Fire Dancer, six-year-old white and liver pointer female owned by Keith Wright of Covington, Ind., was runner-up. The same pair won the competition in 2018, but stood in reverse order in the winners’ photo as Fire Dancer (May) was the champion and Dialed In (Claire) was runner-up.

The champions were selected by Keith Bollendorf of Anniston, Ala., and Ric Peterson of Hickory Valley, Tenn., and Phoenix, Ariz., who judiciously watched the contenders during the two and one-half days of competition run over the six National Championship courses at historic Ames Plantation.

The running order was determined on Sunday evening, December 8, when the owners, judges, representatives of Ames Plantation, and others gathered in the Rhea Reception Center for a social hour followed by the session wherein introductions, acknowledgements and thanks to hosts and sponsors, rules of the championship and the drawing were smoothly conducted. During her remarks Mrs. Huffman thanked the trustees of Ames Plantation, represented by Dr. Rick Carlisle, for continuing to host the running of the Championship. She also thanked the several sponsors who supported the Championship with financial assistance and gifts and prizes for the owners and winners.

Those sponsors included Nestlé Purina, whose Area Manager Greg Blair, representing the company’s support of the sporting dog group, was on hand and rode in several braces of the competition. Purina aided with financial assistance, a meal, caps and dog food given to all owners, plus larger quantities given to each winner. Also thanked for their generosity were Garmin for Garmin Pro 550 Plus and Garmin T5 collars given respectively to the owners of the champion and runner-up. Bruce Fox was thanked for sculpted game bird plaques given to the owners of the winners. Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s were welcomed as new sponsors whose generous funding enabled rugged outdoor jackets and gift cards to be given to each owner, judge, and the reporter.

Uncertainty about the weather caused the judges to postpone the second day of running from Tuesday to Wednesday. Heavy rain on Monday evening accompanied by a forecast for the strong possibility of sleet and snow on Tuesday, coupled with the endurance criterion of the competition necessitating that all/or none of the dogs run each day, prompted the decision. And, in fact, some light sleet and snow flurries did occur on Tuesday, although they were not as significant as implied by the local forecast. The weather on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday was agreeable; Monday was a warm, cloudy day with occasional light drizzle.  Wednesday and Thursday were sunny days with temperatures reaching into the 40s each day.

Many people worked together to make the running of the Championship and the social functions outstanding. Those details follow at the end of this report.

THE CHAMPION AND RUNNER-UP

Dialed In competed in the second brace on Monday, the sixth on Wednesday, and the first brace of dogs called back on Thursday. On Monday she had a find at 7, backed her bracemate at 36, and found a huge covey at 44 as she stood beautifully composed in a feed strip at the end of the field just before descending into the bottom near Keagan Ditch. On Wednesday “Claire” had birds at 16, backed her bracemate at 18, and shared a divided find at 49.

During her callback heat, which started at 9:00 a. m., she had nice finds at 11 and 29, participated in a divided find with the runner-up at 14, and had an unproductive stand at 51. She was seen immediately after time was called by the judges on the Mary Scott area north of the National Championship Drive, readily fulfilling the requirement that the judges see the dog at the end of a callback.

While “Claire” was excellent on the ground every day, she was perhaps best on the last day, continuing her consistent strong ground races. Each day her style and composure while running and on game were super and she was obviously in sync with her owner. The champion used the courses well and hunted very much on her own each day as she ran strong all-age races every step of each hour.

Touch’s Fire Dancer won runner-up laurels with an heroic performance, which marked the end of her field trial competition due to serious medical problems. More about that later.

“May” laid health issues aside and produced strong performances each day. In the fourth brace on Monday she ran a strong ground race and had one find, which occurred at 50. On Wednesday morning, in the first brace, she again ran powerfully yet had no birds.

During the callback she had a divided find at 14, birds at 25 at the north end of the Turner House field, backed at 29, and had another find at 55, soon followed by easily being called to her owner and seen by the judges to end the hour.

This six-year-old lady covered the ground incredibly each day, constantly pushed to the front, and showed up at the right spots, impressing the judges and those who enjoyed watching her.

Keith Wright’s recollections of her great career surely impacted the tenderness in his voice as he told this reporter of her medical struggle with cancer that has been ongoing for over a year. In short, May has had cancer which resulted in her spleen and a lymph node being removed. Her treatment then continued with eight chemotherapy treatments and periodic examinations. This champion’s cancer then returned in another node in November and she is presently receiving three treatments weekly of a chemotherapeutic agent and her brilliant career of competition is now ended and she is retired.

OTHERS CALLED BACK

Mohawk Mill Trail Warrior and Misty Morn Masked Man were the other two contenders invited to continue in the competition on Thursday morning. No dogs were asked to be on standby.

Mohawk Mill Trail Warrior, owned by Gary Winall, used the country well on Monday morning, notching a find at 14 at the south end of the Morgan field while being backed by his bracemate. In brace No. 6 on Wednesday, Warrior’s first find was at 18 near the old agronomy shed, followed by another at 37, and finally a divided find at 49. He again demonstrated strength and excellent speed.

During the callback he found birds at 2 in a strip of pine trees paralleling National Championship Drive, had a second find at 21, and a third (which was divided) at 42 immediately after crossing the Keagan Ditch. He stood at 55 but no birds were moved. Good races, speed, and strength were demonstrated each time Trail Warrior performed.

Misty Morn Masked Man may have given Joey McAlexander the most excitement he has ever experienced in his lifetime of field trialing. Masked Man pointed at 21 in the fifth brace Monday, but the stand produced no birds. He then had birds at 28, backed by his bracemate, at the end of Alfalfa Bottom. He had no birds in his third brace competition on Wednesday, but kept going and going, without fatigue, during the effort.

Masked Man was then outstanding during the second brace of the callbacks on Thursday. His first find in the callback was at 5 soon after crossing the Turner Road. He had birds again at 16. During a third find, at 27, Joey was so excited he yelled an expletive, followed immediately by, “I’m having fun.” Then following a fourth find McAlexander yelled, “I may have a heart attack.” Both the dog and man were exciting to watch as Masked Man’s performances grew stronger each day and the unmasked man enjoyed the sport more each day.

THE OTHER CONTENDERS

As noted earlier, each dog invited to compete in this Championship has had an excellent year in order to earn the distinction of being one of the best 12 in the nation. Following is the information about the other eight, shown in the descending order relative to the points accumulated to merit invitations to compete.

Nosam’s Full Ride, owned by Mason Ashburn, received an invitation based on holding the third highest number of points of all the dogs invited. However, he did not have good days at this competition. He experienced a long absence on the first afternoon and had no birds, but was back to the front in plenty of time to finish the hour. Unfortunately, he became lost on the second day of competition and the owner asked for his retrieval unit at 31.

Pendy’s Good Grace, owned by Matt Pendergest, ran in brace No. 6 Monday with Nosam’s Full Ride. She had a long absence during the hour and finished with no birds. On Wednesday she had a divided find at 2 followed immediately at 3 by a stop to flush. She hunted well during the remainder of the hour and had a nice find at 48 almost immediately before crossing the Keagan Ditch.

Phillips Off Line was handled by Mike Small for owner Nathan Phillips. Off Line achieved the largest number of game contacts of any of the 12 entries during the first two days of the contest. On the first morning, in brace No. 3, he had birds at 29 and 41. On Wednesday afternoon he had game three times, at 15, again at 26, and again at 31. He had one unproductive at 48. Phillips Off Line covered lots of country during his two hours of competition.

Ascension, owned by Ted Roach, competed in the fifth brace on Monday and backed his bracemate at 28. During the second brace on Wednesday, birds were located at 2 in a divided find, but a slight movement during a stop to flush at 3 caused Ascension’s elimination.

Touch’s Grey Street, owned by Keith Wright, was next in the order of qualifying points earned. During brace No. 2  on Monday, Grey Street had an unproductive at 36, backed his bracemate at 44 and then had a nice independent find at 56. On Wednesday afternoon he had birds at 40 and an unproductive at 59.

Mohawk Mill Image had no birds in brace No. 4 on Monday for owner Gary Winall. On Wednesday morning Mill Image had a nice find in a feed strip at 30 in brace No. 3.

Rebel Dreamer, owned by AFTCA’s immediate past president David Williams, backed his bracemate at 14 in a find at the south end of the Morgan field. The final piece of work came at 57 while still south of National Championship Drive when Williams found Rebel Dreamer buried in cover so dense he was only a few feet from the dog when he was able to see her. Quail were flushed immediately and the hour ended. During the fifth brace on Wednesday Rebel Dreamer became lost during the first half of the hour causing Williams to ask for his retrieval unit.

Bonner’s Excalibur found no birds in the fifth brace on Monday nor in the third brace Wednesday. On Monday he had an unproductive at 54 after crossing back to the east side of Buford Ellington Road. On Wednesday he backed his bracemate’s unproductive at 59.

Grand Junction, Tenn., December 9

Judges: Keith Bollendorf and Richard Peterson

NATIONAL AMATEUR ALL-AGE INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats on Two Consecutive Days; One-Hour Finals] — 12 Pointers

Winner—DIALED IN, 1655274, female, by Miller’s Dialing In—Rester’s Zumba Girl. Jim Pendergest, owner and handler.

Runner-Up—TOUCH’S FIRE DANCER, 1651102, female, by Touch’s Pond Dam—Whippoorwill G M A. Keith Wright, owner and handler.

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