22 April 2018
EILING FARM, THATCHAM, BERKSHIRE, RG18 0UD
After the atrocious weather and ground conditions that resulted in the postponement of the start of the lure coursing season, we couldn't have been more blessed. From a country in the grip of the Beast From the East, to never-ending rains and waterlogged grounds, Spring fast-forwarded straight into Summer – blues skies, blossom and temperatures soaring into the 20s.
Perhaps because of the late start to the season, we attracted a record entry of 63 whippets! Sadly due to injuries, illnesses and other causes we had a spate of withdrawals leaving 46 competititors, which is still more than average.
With such a big entry we had planned to start a little earlier than usual. Unfortunately, the best laid plans and all that... Apologies for the hiccups, but once we got going thankfully it was all smooth running, and on such a lovely sunny day, who can grumble about having a little more time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the show being put on by the curious kites?
The day started with some trials, Margaret brought Chester for a good stretch after a season off, Wren rediscovered her confidence, and Zaza and Nutmeg had their first tentative but promising runs.
The first round course was 560 meters, and a head-scratcher for many spectators. I believe (but might be misinformed!) most turns were in one half of the course, so that is where dogs put the work in and scored (or didn't). It is impossible to judge courses from the sidelines, and this layout certainly proved that. The second course was the first in reverse, the Finals course was a fresh layout, 470 meters with a run out that somehow tricked several of the dogs into thinking the lure was going somewhere it wasn't. Was there a kink in the run out? I'm not sure. What I do know is this course brought out the best in the runners and there was some cracking sport.
We began the card with the Veterans stakes, all 3 of them, in fact we had more veterans running in this one competition than we did all season last year. Needless to say, all enjoyed themselves, and as seniors, maybe they have earned the right to do things their own way? In that regard it could be said that Laguna Lively Leveret and Moonlake Mercedes were particularly successful! Laguna Lucie Lockett on the other hand, made her Veteran debut with a phenomenal run with Sandspring Special Envoy in the final.
The Dog stakes followed. After a late withdrawal and a re-jig of the card, all the 18.5 -20” dogs ran in one stake. Mannerool Its a Fine Life, just a few days after his first birthday, truly upset the apple-cart by first knocking out 2017's Top Whippet Silverhare Foxy Sundance and then 2016's Top Whippet, Winterfellin Gotta Dash. Harerunner Hercules, October's puppy stakes winner came out flying – literally going A over T over Orange Cone at the first turn, but managed to get up and go on to win the stake. Well done boys, the young guns have really made this dog group sizzling hot competition for the season ahead!
Onto the two Bitch (17.5 – 18.5”) stakes, one 8 dog that saw two of last year's leading ladies in the final, Collooney Candy Crush looking very strong and taking the win. The 4 dog stake was made up of two pairs of sisters, with the Lagunas getting knocked out 1st round and Combeholt Celestine stealing the win against her older sister in the final.
In Open bitch stakes, Combeholt Silvinka in her first adult competition also beat her big sister, last year'sTop Open qualifier Harerunner Halfpenny. The stake Final was a lovely run between Coppermow Evoque, a youngster making her SWC debut and Laguna Lawns Lia who has never looked so good, and has come on in leaps and bounds.
In the mixed Open stakes, after withdrawals, it became a battle between Caroline Osborne's Derohans and Diana Webber's Dark & Darkest Wings. Di's father/daughter duo won out with the elder taking the final.
Dog Open stakes saw another young Mannerpool making his debut and getting all the way to his final, which was sadly also his swan song, as he will be leaving for new shores before we meet again. Also of note, Twiggen Tit For Tat, the only winner from the 2017 Season Finals to win at this meeting!
Between the courses we held some clearing trials, and look forward to welcoming Roobarb, Sorrel and Quiz into competition shortly. The season ahead is certainly looking good with the quality of the youngsters this year.
I would like to offer some unofficial awards:
Runner-up – Zorro
Winner – Wren
Most Relaxed Hound
Third place – Razz
Runner-Up – Nutmeg
Winner – Ringo
I hope you all enjoyed the day as much as I did. Thank you to all of you who helped out in big ways and small. Especial thanks to Susie, who once again provided all the spectacular cakes and treats, I hope we have a few more bakers with us next month who can help with a donation or two. Between the tea and raffle we took in just under £200, thank you everybody. We can all pee in (relative) comfort for another month!
Now one slight dampener – we also took more money than we would ever wish in 'loose dog' fines. Please let these serve as reminder to ensure you keep our dog under control. A fine may seem unfair, but a reminder this way is preferable to a reminder from a dog getting seriously hurt or worse. Our delicate, dainty and well-behaved whippets turn into rabid beasts when on the lure field! Your everyday collar/harness/lead may not be suitable for controlling a demon. I have collar I use specifically for lure coursing, having learnt through trial and error (mostly error).
Now lets not dwell on that... congratulations to all the winners, I have rosette envy!
Our next meeting is 20 May in Somerset and I look forward to seeing you all and your dogs, and more sunshine there!
Thank you to Martin Abbott for all the wonderful action shots!