2020 is going to be year that will all want to forget, and l refuse to use the C word. We have all heard enough of that. So l thought to look back in detail to the leading group winners in the UK for 2019.
l will start with the top dog of the year, the California-bred Australian Shepherd Ch/AKC/ASCA Wyndstar Magic Marker, owned in the partnership of breeder Kerry Kirtley/Dori Erdesz/John Shaw/ Melanie Raymond, the latter who handles him.
His story starts back in February 2015, when Dori Erdesz saw the litter on social media and made enquires to have a male puppy to show. She initially looked at another litter, but Kerry insisted that Mark was a better puppy, and that was that. He started his new life in Hungary in co-ownership with Kerry. Melanie Raymond saw him in late February when she went with her husband and son to what turned out to be a very cold ASCA show in France, held at a camp site! Melanie was watching the classes when, in her words, she saw this "quite awkward young Mark." He was just over a year old, and she thought, "Wow!"
From then, Mark went back to the U.S. to stay with Kerry and made his debut at the USASA, taking Reserve Winners Dog under senior breed specialist Nannette Newbury (Stonepine). He then went onto gain his ASCA title and later that year took Premier (AOM) at the ASCA Nationals in Oregon. He came back to Europe, where he continued to do well in the ASCA and FCI rings. Then in 2017 he went back to the U.S. to finish his AKC title, which he did in style, taking BOB over many specials at the prestigious Santa Barbara Kennel Club.
Once back in Europe, he was shown by the well-known handler Katja Rauhut, who took him to a big show in the Philippines in January, where he gained his GCH title along with some group wins. Katja also gained his Swiss title, which gave him his international title, too, although Dori has yet to claim this.
Melanie had been watching his progress on social media and saw the young junior had turned into a very handsome male that took her breath away. So she asked Dori if she would consider sending him to the UK, though not for another year as she had been campaigning another top Aussie, namely the famous Austin. Melanie and her family were on an adventure, traveling the US and showing Austin as well. But, sadly, Austen developed T cell lymphoma, obviously very distressing for the family.
Melanie, whose family owns the famous Dialynne kennel in the UK, was judging a Beagle show in the US. After the judging she went over the watch the Aussies being judged. She had been speaking to Kerry prior about Austen's illness and so got chatting ringside and told her how much she admired Mark and that she had spoken to Dori about the possibility of showing him for them in the UK at some point. Not then, as Austen's illness was still a concern.
Sadly, 10 weeks after diagnosis Austin died, and Melanie decided to cut short their trip and come home. Of course there were no thoughts of showing another dog at this point, as Austen was such a part of the family. But Melanie was still in contact with Dori and Kerry, with just an occasional message, and then Dori asked if Melanie was still interested in showing him, and she agreed to show him at a small show called Crufts!
So two weeks prior, Melanie took a journey to Calais to meet up with a mutual friend to collect Mark and get to know him better before the show. Mark went to Crufts and was BOB and then took a Group 4. At this point Dori, sensibly, decided to leave him with Melanie to try and gain his UK title. However his next show wasn't in the UK, but back to the US for the USASA, where he took 1st AOM under senior judge Rhonda Silveira with an entry of more tjam 600 Aussies. He then came back to the UK and attended a large championship show, took his second certificate and was Group 1 and Reserve Best in Show. He then went onto to win 17 more challenge certificates and many group and BIS awards, making him the UK's top dog for 2019.
In second place and hot on the heels of the Aussie was the Spanish-imported Bichon Frise, Ch Regina Bichon You Rock My World at Pamplona, owned by Michael Coad and Rich Smith. "Pablo" is bred by Norwegians Regina Belstad and Oddvar Havelin in Majorca, and mostly of Michael's Pamplona breeding, being sired by the top sire ever in the UK, and the breeds record holder, Ch Pamplona Bring Me Sunshine.
Pablo's big winning didn't start until September, where he took his first BIS, and were his challenge started and in the end was a mere 10 points behind the Aussie.
Michael's Pamplona kennel has been top kennel in the breed for more than a dozen years now, and it was he who imported the big-winning, Ch/Am Ch Paray's I Told You So, who did so much for the breed in the UK.
The top Non-Sporting was the Akita, Ch. Stecals Remember Me, owned in the names of Faye Bevis/Rachel Corr and Keith Venezia. His sire was Ch. Ruthdales Notorious and his dam was the number 1 bitch 2019 and BOB at Westminster in 2020, Ch Stecals Billie Jean.
He was a group winner at nine months, something not often seen in the UK. He won 19 challenge certificates and was best puppy in show under your and our Peter Green. And in the same year he was top puppy all breeds.
Fay Bevis has now won BIS with four different Akitas: Ch. Stecals Step Out In Style, Ch. Stecals Love At First Sight and Ch. Dykebar Revenge is Sweet at Stecals.
The top Working dog is the red and white Boxer Ch. Lanfrese Argento, owned and bred by Mitch Griffiths. This boy is still young by Boxer standards, only two years of age, and in that time has created quite a record for himself. In this breed they regularly would have an entry of well over a 100, so it's quite something to win as much as he has bearing in mind his young age. Top Boxer and top working breed in 2019, BOB at Crufts 2020 winner of the Eukanuba Pup of the Year in 2019. He has 13 CCs, six group 1s and four general championship Best in Show wins.
The top Hound award went to a very much rare breed in this country, a Griffon Fauve de Bretagne, Hibeck Dino, owned and bred by Jean McDonald Ulliott. Jean bred Irish Wolfhounds for more than 40 years When she became interested in this breed she travelled extensively in Europe with the aim of finding the best foundation stock, and imported what she considered to be pick-of-litter puppies from leading breeders in Belgium and France. However, her first Griffon Fauve came from Sweden, from the first litter bred in that country. This was Hovrikets Baladin of Hibeck, whom she campaigned in the Irish Republic where the breed could be recognized before that happened in the UK (where the standard was eventually approved in 2014).
Jean's first litter was by Baladin out of her French import E'Mia de l'Equipage Las Fargues. This produced, among others, Hibeck Agatha Lady, also a consistent winner. New breeds in the UK have to go into what we call "imported register" breeds. Until the start of 2018 the best IR was allowed to only do a lap of honour in the big ring, but now they can compete on equal terms ( even if they are not allowed to have separate classes for each breed). Last year at the Hound Association of Scotland, Dino became the first Import Register dog to receive a group placing, and in 2019 he won the group at the same show. Since then he has made breed history by winning best in show at a general championship show under Ken Sinclair of the famous Araki Tibetan Terriers. He has been handled by several talented young handlers, Rebecca Ellrich was the first, Alex Paisey and now Claire Cooper.