American Field

Walden’s Ridge Shadow Dancer Wins 89th Running; Palara is Runner-Up

New England Open Championship

By Jim Hathaway | Dec 06, 2017
Walden's Ridge Shadow Dancer Winner of the new England Open Championship

East Windsor, Conn. — The now named New England Grand Slam has been run for a few years. Four major trials over a bit more than ten days. A little something for everyone in the horseback game.

It starts with the Northeastern Shooting Dog Championship, then the New England Shooting Dog Futurity. Sandwiched in is the Region 1 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship. The New England Open tops off the running of the Grand Slam.

Each of these stakes was run on seperate venues in the past. Unfortunately, we have lost two of those properties for field trialing. Now all four are held at the Flaherty Field Trial Area in East Windsor, Conn.

This year New England field trialing saw a complete change in officers of the AFTCA’s Region 1 and the Association  of New England Field Trial Club. The chairmanships and other duties of the Region 1 Amateur  Championship and the New England Open  fell on new shoulders. More of that later. My job is to report the 89th New England Open. So, here it is blow by blow.


The first brace broke away a bit after 8:00 a. m. It was jacket cool, but with the sun shining like it was jackets wouldn’t stay on long.

Mike Tracy would handle dogs in seventeen of the twenty braces over the next three days. His first was pointer male Coosawhatchie Smooth Ride. George Tracy’s first of eleven braces was pointer female Miller’s Miss Calamity Jane. I’ve followed a couple of Smooth Ride’s braces in the last year. He is a big, hard-driving dog. Calamity Jane is no slouch herself. First braces with dogs like this will wake you up. If you haven’t got your saddle adjusted correctly, you will wish it were by the time you hit the top of the first hill to the first find. I reached the top of that hill just as two guns fired. Both dogs stood just outside of cover under spruce trees. Though I was not sure what exactly went on, both handlers  sent them forward. Farther on down the hill both dogs were standing again, now separated by about twenty yards. Birds were flushed and guns were shot. Both dogs were covering ground perhaps a bit too quickly. A big covey find at 12 with Smooth Ride pointing and Jane backing may have even cranked them up more. Minutes later it all unraveled at the fourth find. By the time I got caught up and into the action something had happened. I thought there was an unproductive but before I could put it in my notes both dogs were in the harness.

I was getting better adjusted to this saddle. Up from Virginia was Jeff Smith, the only amateur handler with dogs entered in this contest, he with pointer male Dry Creek Jessie James, paired with Fast and Furious (PM/M. Tracy). Not even a minute down the trail Jessie James snapped to a sharp point. Furious took a wider route and was forward of this action. Jeff was not able to kick up a bird. He quickly took the unproductive and pressed on to catch up with Mike. Mike had a find at the top of the hill but was gone by the time Jessie James got there. When Jeff caught up, his dog was standing again. While Jeff was flushing, Jessie adjusted his position to get a better look. After the shot, into the harness he went. It took a bit of riding to catch up with Mike, his dog and the other judge. Furious had a better than respectable run. Over the hour he carded ten finds! The last right before time.

High Drive Ranger (PM/G. Tracy) was raring to go. He beat it up that long hill and had his first find at 6. Moonlite Yellow Jacket (PF/M. Tracy) was moving just as quickly and was found standing farther up the course at 10. While Mike was flushing for Yellow Jacket the second time, Ranger flashed wide to the right and to the front. After the flush Mike pressed to catch George. He almost got there when Yellow Jacket had another find. After this both dogs were on a tear. There was a find and a back at 22 that slowed them down for a bit while a bird was produced and the gun fired. Ranger was notably going wide of the course and handling rough for George. Yellow Jacket was going nicely for Mike, right up to 35. Seems she left point before Mike went in to flush and the birds got up. By that time George had enough of Ranger making up his own course. Out came his harness.

When Jeanette and Mike Tracy are braced together, the gallery had best be prepared for a good ride. Jeanette had setter female Pine Straw Sweet Tea, and Mike had pointer female Palara. From the breakaway to the top of the hill for all the other braces took six minutes. Jeanette and Mike cut two minutes off that time. Both dogs were hunting powerful forward races. Neither   handler gave a nose to the other. It may not be noticeable at first, but it you are reporting and keeping time between finds and landmarks, you realize that they will cut off two or more minutes between finds. This race was on. After that first find they swapped finds at 7, 10 and 14. There was a divided find at 15. A bit later, Palara was standing with Sweet Tea backing. Palara’s race was powerful and under control. Sweet Tea had gone from a bit wide to too much to handle. Jeanette went to track her down and harness her at 40. From there, even without a bracemate, Palara put on a one-dog show of bird and ground work. She finished her hour well to the front.

When we got back to the clubhouse, it was just after 12:30 p. m. But the judges wanted to get in one more before lunch. So George and Jeanette brought High Drive War Paint and Riviera to the line, respectively. At about forty seconds into the hour, War Paint was standing where Jeff Smith’s Jessie James had his unproductive earlier. This time Riviera was cranking at breakaway speed. He was past War Paint before he could put on the brakes. Riviera stopped but not soon enough. George flushed no bird. He let War Paint relocate once before moving her on. That spot, a half a minute in on the course, had produced its second unproductive. Up at the top of the hill War Paint had a nice find. From here, however, War Paint went on a bit of a romp. George wasn’t having any of  it and and harnessed her.

A late lunch, a swap of horses for the judges, and we were back at it.

Jubullee (PF/M. Tracy) and George Tracy with Cory’s Easy Holy Water (PF/G. Tracy) were away just before 2:15 p. m. Again, just a half minute off the breakaway,  Jubullee stopped, falling victim to the unproductive spot. Mike gave her one chance to relocate before taking the unproductive and driving her on to catch George and his dog. Along the way Jubullee racked up a find at 6. Then she had a big covey just over the second culvert. Then two quick ones at 12 and 13. All this time I was back with Mike. I never heard George shoot for Holy Water. So far as I know she made it all the way to 14 before her first find. Then, as quick as that, a second at 16. From there it all unraveled quickly. At 20, well, let’s just say something sketchy at a bird station took place. I saw the judges kind of shrug at each other. Both dogs stayed down. Eight minutes later Jubullee pointed. Holy Water’s nose wasn’t sure what her eyes were seeing and passed Jubullee. She was up. After Mike flushed and shot for Jubullee, she made a sweeping forward cast smack through the middle of a big covey, ten or more birds hitting the air, and Jubullee was done.

Bail Me Out (PM/M. Tracy) never seemed on his game right from the breakaway. Jessie’s Bonanza (SF/J. Tracy) had the first find at 5. Bail Me Out was in the neighborhood of the birds and Mike drove him on. The two dogs shared a find at 9 separated by twenty yards. Bonanza, so stylish on point, had her third find at 14. Again, Mike handled Bail Me Out away from the situation. Then, four minutes up the course, Bail Me Out seemed to wander into the area where Bonanza was already standing. Mike got his attention a bit too late. Bail Me Out was up. Without a bracemate, Bonanza showed no ill effects. She tore up the course, logging three more finds. Her last stop at 48 ended with an unproductive. After Jeanette allowed her to relocate a couple times Bonanza was moved on and completed her hour forward with style.

The judges were figuring that this would be the last brace of the day. Mike Tracy had pointer male Walden’s Ridge Shadow Dancer, George with pointer female Touch’s Mae Mobley. Again, for the fourth time today, a dog stopped in that same spot not a minute off the breakaway. It was Shadow Dancer. I was just about to mark an unproductive in my notebook. No hard flushing or relocation was needed this time. That bird was right where Shadow Dancer said it was. Unfortunately, by the time we got up the hill and caught up with George he was putting Mae Mobley in  harness. From here Dancer pushed the limits of the course. He tallied eight more finds, the last at 55 when Mike flushed at least ten quail bursting out in all directions. Dancer didn’t bat an eyelash.

The second morning was probably the coolest of the fall. Once Jim Curtin arrived back with his car, the bird wagon, from seeding the course, we were off.

Backcountry Bonnie (PM/M. Tracy) and Neely’s Paint the Town (PM/G. Tracy) broke away right at 8:20. Bonnie stopped at about one minute. Whatever was going on there yesterday resumed again today. Bonnie got a quick unproductive. Mike caught up to George at 12. Both dogs were standing. It was played out as a divided find. Bonnie had another bird at 18. At 23 Bonnie logged her second unproductive so Mike ended her run. George wasn’t in contact much with Paint The Town since his find at 12. At 29 George ended the brace and got out the harness for his dog.

I missed the part the day before when, right after running Dry Creek Jessie James, Jeff Smith packed up and headed back to Virginia. He scratched his dog Dry Creek White Lightning. We had nothing to move up. Mike Tracy ran Erin’s War Creek which was picture perfect for each of his nine finds. I have seen War Creek run a couple other times. He is always sharp and fast. I have to believe it was the lack of a bracemate that showed. He finished the hour but there was not the usual spark to his run.

We were at the halfway mark in the stake. The judges and I were at that point that we really wanted to see something that would stand out. Sometimes it’s the little things that seperate dogs in a championship. This was one of those times for Adjusted Attitude (SM/M. Tracy) and Ladywood’s Keepsake (PF/J. Tracy). Mike’s young setter was pointing, his tail ticking.. Only his first point. For Jeanette’s Keepsake, she had an unproductive at 17. Then at 27 something odd went on at a birdy spot that probably only the handlers saw. Both dogs were handled out of the area and up the course. The small things were enough. Mike harnessed the setter at 40 and Jeanette followed five minutes later.

Mike and Jeanette were in back-to- back braces. In No. 12, Mike was handling pointer male Bulltaeo; Jeanette had pointer male Steel City Storm. I’ve said it before, this handling match-up does pick up the pace. This time we hit that bird station at the top of the hill at 4 minutes. When the judges arrived both dogs were standing the same birds side by side, separated by ten feet. Bulltaeo had a find at 16. At 21 he had another point but Mike couldn’t kick up a bird. Storm got into something funky at 22. Jeanette handled him out. Then both dogs had trouble handling for different reasons. Fifteen minutes later, with no more bird work, handlers picked them up.

Backcountry Girl (PF/M. Tracy) had another of those quick finds right off the breakaway. For only the second time out of six a bird was produced. George, well ahead of us, had finds with setter male Shadow Oak Doc at 5 and 8 before we caught back up to him. At 12 Country Girl took herself out along with the birds she was looking for. Doc went on with four more finds to the end of Dearborn. When Doc runs and stands he is beautiful. Only one problem today, he had been seen on the road a bit too often. After his find at the far end of Dearborn George went for the make or break, go big or go-home move with Doc. Everybody else takes their dog on from that end of Dearborn and releases them on the right side. It’s safe. A long cast to the front. You can hide the dog over there. George had his scout release Doc on the left. If Doc made this cast it would be magnificent. The left is huge, long and open to view the whole way. Doc swept left of the course to the limit of the edge. Then he turned up and headed forward along that far edge. He only went about 200 of the thousand plus yards before doubling back. He came up from behind looking for George. He kept a few yards off the road until he passed George. Then Doc ran straight up the road. George knew it was up and did not try to get Doc off the road. We found Doc pointing way up front right in the road. Too bad. Other than the leaders’ runs, that was the most exciting part of the trial for me. Watching George go for broke with this young setter.

Seven more braces to run. Ladywood’s Miss Daisy (SF/J. Tracy) and Miller’s Unbridled Forever (PM/G. Tracy) broke away after lunch, a little after 2:00 p. m. Off the breakaway on this course it’s down, up, down and across a culvert. From there it’s straight up the hill to the first bird station. When we went over the culvert Unbridled took a bit of a left and went up the hill. Daisy took a right and kept going. Unbridled was doing a nice job but running alone. He had finds at 6, 14 and 18. At 12 Jeanette called it a day and headed out to find Daisy. Unbridled was putting down a better than good run. He had nice bird work at 25 and 30. Unbridled was on a big run. Then 15 minutes after his last find he was under birds. We rode back to the clubhouse.

Waybetter Rocky (PM/M. Tracy) and Steel City Karen (PF/J. Tracy) raced each other, hunting all the way to the top of the hill. When we got to the top the handlers had their dogs pointing along a treeline about forty yards apart. Nicely handled, flushed and shot. The dogs were led to the left side of the field on the opposite side of the treeline away from the fight of the birds. Both dogs headed forward through the field of fresh winter rye. About thirty yards on the dogs started to zig and zag like they were trying to avoid something they couldn’t see. Both handlers started hupping and whoaing. One dog stopped; the second almost stopped. Then about thirty quail hit the air from all around the dogs. Neither dog was able to whoa soon enough or long enough.

Thomas Adirondack Turbo (PM/M. Tracy) and Land Cruiser Benny (SM/J. Tracy) can tear up some ground, find birds, and look like a million doing it. Both were standing at that spot thirty seconds in that had already given four dogs unproductives. This time birds were flushed on this divided find. They swapped divided and solo finds for the next twenty minutes. Turbo was on fire. Benny had taken a wrong turn and left the course to Turbo. At 25 Turbo had a find at the far end of Dearborn. Mike had his scout George release Turbo down the right side. As I said in Doc’s run, the right side is the safe side. Turbo was looking so good he didn’t need anything as spectacular as the left side cast to catch the judges’ eyes. A half a minute after Turbo was released George told Mike that Turbo had crossed to the backside of the treeline and was going forward down the power lines out of our sight. We got to the end of Dearborn. No Turbo. George was back up the power lines on a little rise. He was looking for Turbo but couldn’t point him out. Mike rode on up the course. There were a couple more bird stations. No Turbo. There were a couple spots along the way where if he were way to the front, we should see him. No Turbo. At 16, without Turbo, we hit a long hill with a bird station at the top. Mike pressed ahead to get there before twenty minutes had passed. There  was Turbo standing. We don’t know how he got there or how long he had been there before Mike found him. It had been 18 minutes, but there he was. He went on the finish the hour with two more finds and no letup. That was a tough 18 minutes for both the judges and Mike, I’m sure.

Last chance, day No. 3. Thirty-two great dogs had already run; some of them were already champions. There had been a number of memorable performances. The horses were tired. The handlers were tired. The judges had a standard that needed to be beaten. And if you weren’t doing it by thirty, it wasn’t getting done.

Backcountry Tornado (PF/M. Tracy) and Miller’s Vanilla Snow (PF/G. Tracy) broke away at 8:30. For the first 27 Tornado was getting the better of Snow. Snow was either backing Tornado or sharing a find. We came all the way down Dearborn, Tornado had another point. After a couple of unproductive relocations Mike knew Tornado’s performance wasn’t up to standard and harnessed him. Snow was already in her harness. George had seen enough at the other end of Dearborn. Snow had always been a step behind Tornado.

Right from the breakaway Great River Survivor (PM/M. Tracy) was getting the better of Sassy Creek (PF/J. Tracy) on the ground and finding birds. Survivor had two finds before ten minutes. Quickly after the second find Survivor went off course. Mike must have sensed something was up. He thanked the judges and set out to track down Survivor. After a bit of a run about, Sassy had her first find at 15. She racked up three more fast finds after that. All in less than five minutes. Her fifth stop on game was at 23. Unfortunately no bird was produced after a couple relocations. Sassy had another find along the way. But without a bracemate she shortened up. When the course came closer to the clubhouse Sassy’s day was ended.

Running your dogs in an open single course championship is tough game. Especially when it comes to the last few braces. Having run over the same course repeatedly for two or more days you have standards for what a dog has to do and how well over certain sections of the course. The judges remember how well or not the preceding dogs handled this stretch, that hill or a certain edge. By the time you’re down to the last few dogs, they really have to impress almost right off the breakaway.

Braces No. 19 and No. 20 will be reported together. Obviously by this time the judges had two or more performances of championship caliber to choose from. Me, I was carrying four dogs for the top spot. I like to keep it a surprise so I hadn’t discussed much with the judges. There were only two more possible hours of running and we weren’t pressed for time. It was 9:45 when we broke away brace No. 19. We were seriously wanting to be impressed.

Unfortunately not one of the four dogs in the last two braces made it to the thirty-minute mark. By this time with four trials and a hundred or so braces having been run on the same grounds, though not necessarily over the same courses, in ten days, there were birds everywhere. Singles may be where you would expect and coveys large, small and gigantic where no one could guess. Each of these four dogs — Bully Bragg, Sugarknoll War Paint, Jessie’s Bojangles and High Tailing Bud — in his own way eliminated himself. Neither the handlers nor the judges had to intervene.

Before I announce the winners, as if you’ll be surprised, I’m going to do the thank-yous.

First, as mentioned, the Region and our Association of New England  had a major overhaul of officers. Both longtime secretary-treasurer Janice Gregory and President Richard Giuliano retired. It has taken the election of four of us to take on the jobs only the two of them did. Part of their jobs was the chairmanships and general running of the Region 1 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship and the New England Open. As such, our new officers had to fill in and catch up. I think we did a reasonable job this year. I know we will improve next year. Thanks to all who bore with us this year.

Thank you Jim Curtin who, as the newly elected president of Region 1, chaired that Championship. Then he stayed two more days of the New England Open to run the ground operations after our new Association of New England President Tim Cavanaugh was unable to be in attendance.

Thanks to Dick Bembenek; he has been the chairman and head organizer of the New England Open for years. He pulled our butts out of the fire a couple times. There were things, important things, that we had forgotten only days before the trial. With a call to Dick we found he had it covered.

Here is a thank you for duty above and beyond. John Olfson is our newly elected treasurer for both  Region 1 and the Association of New England. Not only was he there for his duties at both these Championships, he filled in last minute when one of our judges for the New England Open got tossed off her horse a week before. He also organized and helped with Jim Curtin when anything needed doing.

Thanks to Muriel Primm. Rather than the traditional cocktail hour last year’s winner usually sponsors, I’ll just say, she too went above and beyond. No finer or more memorable time will ever be had. Thank you, Muriel.

Greg Blair, out there with Purina, a big thanks from me. As the new secretary I was scrambling. Learning as I went and messed up plenty. Through our long email thread you made it all work out. Thanks to you and thanks for Purina’s sponsorship.

Now here are the winners. Runner-up,  was Palara, handled by Mike Tracy, owned by S. J. Morelli of White Plains, N. Y. This year’s champion is Walden’s Ridge Shadow Dancer, handled by Mike Tracy, owned by David Steele of Signal Mountain, Tenn.

See y’all next year!

East Windsor, Conn., October 16 — One Course

Judges: John Olfson and Cory Roy


33 Pointers and 7 Setters

Winner—WALDEN’S RIDGE SHADOW DANCER, 1661114, pointer male, by Roc Kit Man—Shadow’s Keeper. David Steele, owner; Mike Tracy, handler.

Runner-Up—PALARA, 1628048, pointer female, by Tommy’s Rebel Son—Brodie’s Lil Ann. S. J. Morelli, owner; Mike Tracy, handler.

Comments (1)
Posted by: James D Hathaway | Dec 09, 2017 15:06

If any reader would like to read the original story as I wrote it, before The American Field's editors whittled the life out of it, send me an email at . I'll send you the original in PDF


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