After what has arguably been our most successful season so far, we reached our finals day with great excitement.
Sadly we lost two qualifiers from the stakes due to injuries, so we wish them speedy recoveries. However, from such a strong season, deserving reserves stepped forward and for the first time we had full stakes for all the groups.
Our advertised main Slipper, George Sell couldnt be with us because of illness, but Duncan Nicholls filled his shoes admirably. We had two judges for the day, head judge Mark Bicknell for the main stakes, and Sandra Marcovecchio taking the Supporters and Puppy stakes for her first appointment. Thank you to all of you.
We couldnt have been more blessed with the weather, especially in comparison to what we battled last month. Just a gentle breeze and a generous amount of warm autumn sun, we couldnt have hoped for T-shirt weather, but that it what we got.
The field was in lovely condition and the big space gave us plenty of scope for laying out courses. Thank you all who helped come and set up, we were ready to go on time. My heart stopped and stomach hit the floor when before we had begun, there was a load bang and smoke rising from the field. I had instant flash backs to 2015 when on this ground our lure machine blew up, and then on Finals day another new machine bit the dust and the whole day had to be abandoned. Thankfully, it was 'only' poor Andy's car that went bang and not our precious Big Red!
Our first course was designed to test agility and had a succession of turns in the home 'straight' that were quite challenging. There were certainly some twists in this first round, proving that there were no guarantees even at the climax of the season. Special congratulations to Veruglas Simply Saffron who took her place as a late reserve and outran and knocked the number 1 seed in her group out the competition.
After the first round, a presentation was made to all the top qualifying whippets in each group, and the Wheatroyd Trophy awarded to the overall highest scorer. Congratulations to Loraine & Michael Florek with Silverhare Foxy Sundance.
The Second round was the stamina round, 710 meters, again incooperating a couple of tricky turns, one of which was directly behind the judges tower from my point of view, so on many occasions I saw 2 dogs disappear from view and only one re-emerge! A tough round which saw a few competitors lose their legs and take a tumble, but all get back up and on it in a heart beat.
In the second break we held the raffle, and it was a whopper of a raffle with super prizes, which lead to whopping ticket sales of £210! Thank you everybody. And not to be out done, our super-fabulous tea-stall (or should we rename it 'cake emporium'?) took £220 – WOW! I know there is joking friendly rivalry between Lilah and Susie but between their efforts selling tickets and teas, and the generosity of all members who bought them, we have been able to have have comfortable 'comfort breaks' all season and I know everyone is grateful for that.
On to the finals of the Finals with a 480m course, and by now the real cream of the 2017 crop. For the dogs, the 2017 top whippet beat theb2016 top whippet and Harerunner Trophy winner. For the bitches, two girls who last met in a final at the March opening meet, and reversed that result. For the Open group a dog that didn't get off the starting block last season took on and beat last year's runner-up. For the veterans, the top qualifier of 2017 was beaten by the only whippet to have qualified for Finals every season since the club was founded.
MASSIVE CONGRATULATIONS WINNERS AND RUNNERS UP!
Now, having focused on the main event, the Supporters and puppies deserve a mention. We had two supporting stakes for adult dogs. With these being mixed age and sex there were some unusual pairings. Monelli Mississippi, the oldest dog running, had a lovely time with the youngsters. Laguna Lively Leveret in mixed company rose to the challenge, defeating his sister and daughter in the process. Among the Supports were several dogs who will be joining the veterans when they return next season. It gave us a taste of what looks set to be a very competitive group next season. Talking of hot new competition for 2018 – the 8 youngsters running in the puppy stakes look set to shake up the other three groups next season too! Among them are 3 new bitches, 3 dogs and 2 for the open group. The dogs al this stage look particularly promising – they obviously have designs on all those Trophies S. Foxy Sundance took home!
So there it is, season over and a Winter of work for some and rest for others, but what a season it has been, and what a fabulous day to end it with.
To all those who came, whether to compete or spectate, thank you for making it a day full of fun, laughs, cheers and tears!
Martin Abbot's photographs: