With kind permission of landowner Brian Goodenough.
At the start of April, it seemed like Spring had sprung, but in the days running up to our meeting rains returned, followed by a cold snap and snow falling in Berkshire the day before. With many out door events around the country being cancelled, there was concern that we would have to cancel too. However, we were assured the ground was well drained, and we took a leap of faith in the weather forecast that predicted a dry and bright day being right for once, for which we were rewarded glorious sunshine.
Eiling Farm was a new ground for the 2016 season, and we couldn't have wished for better. Being just a hop from the motorway and easy for everyone to find was a bonus. The only vehicle to get stuck entering the field was the van carrying The Big Red, which could be blamed on the weight of the load rather than the skill of the driving instructor behind the wheel! The ground itself was a large, slightly sloping farm field. We parked the cars at the top of the slope, giving great space to run on. With great views and no dead ground, the field committee had free rein to come up with some fantastic courses and freshly strip grazed the grass was an ideal length for the dogs to run on.
Thank you to everyone who arrived early to help set up, it was greatly appreciated. Apologies that we still ended up starting a little late, our Judge got stuck on the M25. However, once running got under way, the day ran smoothly and without a hitch. Last month I commented that many of the 2015 Finalists needed to buck up their ideas having seen the up-and-coming talent in the puppy stakes. It seems many of them didn't heed the warnings, and several of last year's best whippets were knocked out by the youngsters and newcomers in the first round, including the winner of the Harerunner Trophy.
For the second round, Andy and Mike set up a course designed to really test the dogs, with long straights for speed, unexpected turns and tricky combinations of turns for agility, and the total being 750 yards for stamina. A second chance to prove themselves and again, some of the 2015 elite showed their wisdom in all the wrong ways. Laguna Lucie Lockett and Wheatroyd Blissful Chimes went in near opposite directions out of slips, which probably cost WBC her ticket to the final, Harerunner Hedgehunter was so determined to cut the first corners she pushed her young opponent right out the way. The two young Harerunner brothers Hornet and Hawkridge showed what proficient hunters they would be, running neck and neck and following true , then right at a turn employing a very cunning pincer movement to grab their prize. On their re-run they were only separated by Hawkridge's clownish skid in a cow-pat that left him caked in green and gave his brother the win.
The course for the finals was a much shortened version of round 2 with many of the straights taken out but maintaining the turns. Sadly, having been firstly very lucky to get awarded the first round against Bonny Roamer at Mannerpool, and then redeemed herself in the second, Moonlake Mercedes was withdrawn from the finals due to an injured toe. However, the remaining finalists put on a great show, with some very close runs . Stand out performances, for the bitches Florancy First Footing, fresh from her lure coursing debut in last month's puppy stakes and SWC newcomer Crème Anglaise's Sacre Coeur, and for the dogs a very fast and furious head to head with a pair of boy pups Harerunner Hornet and Winterfellin Gotta Dash. Lowering the level slightly were Penny Paynes Blue Grey and Berlioz Von Svantevit, who got a little creative with their route but provided entertainment and certainly showed spirit, PPBG literally trampling her rival as he stumbled in order to get ahead.
Congratulations to all the runners, there really was some great competition on some challenging courses. Several dogs knocked out on their first rounds were just unlucky, having put up very worthy performances. At SWC our aim has always been to promote the dual purpose whippet that “should look good in the show ring yet still be capable in the field.” We were really pleased this month to welcome Jan Doherty and her trio of dutch Crème Anglaise's imports who have all excelled in the ring, with two being Dutch Champions, and Crème Anglaise's Hello Look At Me winner of the bitch CC at Crufts 2014. Jan took home a stake Winner and Runner Up from their first competition, showing that they really are 'fit for function'. Congratulations Jan!
We were without Bryan and Tracy at this meeting, so extra special thanks must go to Biddy and Lorraine for taking over the tea stall and looking after us all so well, and to all those who donated cakes and goodies which raised £92.24. Thanks again to Lilah for looking after the raffle, there were some wonderful prizes (including a bottle of champagne!) which boosted the ticket sales I'm sure, and raised a further £130.
Thank you to our guest judge and slipper Tony Dent and George Sell, you got us through 12 trials and 7 stakes made up of 12 Bitches, 7 Dogs, 17 mixed Open and 4 Veteran with ease!
What a cracking start to the 2016 season. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Photos of Round 1, courtesy of James Newman