2009 VCA National Field Championship

Vizsla Club of America

November 1-4, 2009 – Cloverdale Farms, Sutherlin, VA

Hosted by Dave Pomfret, Grace Anne Lawson and the other dedicated members of the Old Dominion Club, the 2009 edition of the National Open Field Championship was contested over Fred Leggett’s beautiful 1,100 acre Cloverdale Farm, east of Danville, VA. The site of many past championships, including the recently-concluded Gordon Setter Nationals, as well as the 2009 AKC Gun Dog Championships, the grounds featured huge cut-over corn fields with multiple edges along a scenic river bottom. Though the weather during the second, third and final days’ running was spectacularly clear and seasonably cool---ideal for the dogs---Sunday’s running was marred by extremely heavy rains overnight into the afternoon, which made the course muddy and the going difficult for those unlucky enough to have drawn an early brace.

Commencing on Sunday, November 1 and concluding late morning Wednesday, November 4, fifty-two dogs were put down for the initial thirty-minute "pop gun" series before the watchful eyes of noted Britanny fancier Ed Kerr, hailing from New Jersey, and Pointer pro Ed Hart from Ohio. Three of the four possible placements were eventually awarded after ten aspirants were called back for the second forty-five minute series, with a retrieve on course, after which Kerr and Hart named "Lotto" (2X NFC, FC Berry’s Taking Chances) as their Champion (the second one in as many years!). Owned by Carrie and Michael Syczlo and handled by Diane Vater, Lotto was braced with the judges’ choice for runner-up red honors, Clint and Valerie Sails’ "Cutter" (DC AFC Bitteroot Semper Fi Cutter), handled by Clint and scouted by Val. While both dogs demonstrated intelligent and independent application in both heats and uniform style on their birds, the difference came down to Cutter’s hunting a little too much for the judges between 36 and 42 in the second series, as he shortened up in the multiple lanes of heavy cover approaching the huge cut-over corn field that marked the finishing field of the course.

Howard Schultz’s owner-handled "Stormy" (FC AFC Bitteroot’s Stormy) emerged as the judges’ choice for third. From this writer’s perspective, Stormy’s finish would have likely been higher had he had a stronger first series but luck plays a significant role in these matters and his second series was impressive!

Notable in the placements is the fact that Cutter and Stormy are littermates, exemplars from Al Lucas’s NAFC FC AFC Semper Fi Gust O Wind x Laura and Jay Bernhardt’s CH Bitteroot Bittersweet Belle 2003-breeding.

The Running- First Series

Brace 1:
Deacon (Rob Tomczak) ran as a bye in heavy rain with muddy going; lost after a big cast off the breakaway, Tomczak called for the tracker and the brace ended early.

Brace 2:
Darcy (Jim Rowell)
Sam (John Reid)
As the rain continued unabated, Sam is observed under a bird, at 14, and is retired early. Darcy stops at 21 but, no point having been called, moves on on her own, finishing the half hour without bird contact.

Brace 3:
Topper (Bob Seelye)
Molly (Randy Caldwell)
More rain. Molly is absent at 9, without birds; this is not Topper’s day either as, though he is down for his full thirty minutes, he doesn’t get going and finishes without birds.

Brace 4:
Yoghurt (Deb Goodie)
Rock (Mike Dalby)
At 5, Rock stops but continues down course on his own as no point is called; he finishes without bird work. Yoghurt scores the first bird work of the stake, at 12, in order and has an additional broke find at 25, in order, after a relocation, but her intensity is wanting.

Brace 5:
Red (Tomczak)
Edie (Lisa Durham)
With the rain abating somewhat, this is the first brace of the first afternoon. Though Red makes several nice casts, he is seen coming up from behind several times and finishes without bird contact. Edie scores once, at 15, at what is to become known as "bird island", an area of light cover in the middle of a cut-over cornfield where the course turns for home.

Brace 6:
Octane (Seelye)
Briggs (Jerry Jordan)
Octane bumps his bracemate off the breakaway, but settles thereafter, scoring finds at 15, loose with style lacking and 18, where he takes a hop on the flush. Briggs is missing and, at 18, his handler calls for the tracker.

Brace 7:
Hit (Reid)
Luke (Jamie Fountain)
Hit is down for the full thirty minutes but comes up empty. Luke points at 8 but his style is wanting today.

Brace 8:
Zeko (Ray Dohse)
Lotto (Diane Vater)
Lotto stops on what turns out to be a rabbit, honored, softly, by her bracemate, who then self-releases; Diane relocates Lotto and comes up with a covey find, in order. She finishes with broke finds at 13 and 17, with appropriate style, and, according to Judge Kerr, in classic understatement, "a decent job on the ground".

Brace 9:
Greta II (Dalby)
Brutus (Reid)
These bracemates hunt together for the first half of their brace; they have what are scored as divided finds at 5 and 7, Brutus in front on both occasions, with considerable more style, in order on the flush. Finally, at 15, when both stop simultaneously, Brutus better maintains his style throughout a lengthy flush, in order.

Brace 10:
Cruzin (Vater)
Potter (Fountain)
Cruzin scores first, at 5, but is seen roading in considerably as riders approach; flush and shot in order. At 17, Potter points, in order, on a small covey.

Brace 11:
Tzeitel (Dohse)
Tinker (Mark Smith)
Tzeitel comes up with broke birdwork, at 10 and 25, in order, with respectable gun dog ground speed. Tinker points and turns to mark, without advancing on the flush, at 12.

(Day two of the running; though still muddy, the course improves steadily throughout the day, benefitting from temperatures in the low fifties and a steady, drying� wind out of the north of about 5-6 mph. Humidity in the high eighties combines to make for good scenting conditions.)

Brace 12:
Reba (Fountain)
Axel (Reid)
Reba points at 7, flush and shot in order, and backs her bracemate, at 10, style wanting. Axel comes up empty, at 10, after a relocation, and points a rabbit at 16.

Brace 13:
Ulee (Richard Coleman)
Coach (Seelye)
Though Coach has an early find at 7, in order, he’s up at 16 for declining to back his bracemate. Ulee has two pieces of bird work, at 15 and 16, and gets birdy at 17, joining his handler only after committed calling, but his ground speed is wanting from the start.

Brace 14:
Stoli (Fountain)
Remington (Allen Blakemore)
Stoli points at 11 but is forced to take an unproductive; he redeems himself at 21, with a covey find. Remington has his lone bird work simultaneously, at 21, producing a covey but lacks championship style.

Brace 15:
Easy (Mike Mullineaux)
Thomas (Smith)
Mike’s charge has a huge initial cast but, at 3, is absent, showing again at 11; she produces at 17, in order, but has been gone too long to make the second series, despite impressive ground speed. Thomas has finds at 12 and 27 but shortens measurably in the final minutes.

Brace 16:
Cutter (Clint Sails)
Farley (Reid)
Farley is absent off the breakaway. Cutter is busy throughout his hour with three mannerly finds, evenly spaced during his run, with style and maturity.

Brace 17:
Rigby (Mark Spurgeon)
Rio (Fountain)
Both dogs come up empty during this half hour.

Brace 18:
Huck (Greg Ritchings)
Huck runs as a bye, with a largely forward race and three mannerly finds, at 10, 18 and 29.

Brace 19:
Paige (Rohs/Tomczak))
Boone (Seelye)
Paige points at 6, handler producing the bird quickly, then at 28, calls but waves off a point. Boone is up, at 12, after being observed under a bird.

Brace 20:
Robby (Fountain)
Jack (Jim Gingrich)
Robby points at 15 but comes up with an unproductive. Jack scores, at 17, in order, for his sole bird contact.

Brace 21:
Ruby (Seelye)
Rusty (Dalby)
Rusty points in the cedar tree line, backed, initially by his bracemate; however, Ruby leaves shortly thereafter without handler’s permission. Rusty finishes his time but is absent from 15 to 18.

Brace 22:
Bryn (Dave Pomfret)
Rex (Brian Gingrich)
Bryn runs big but comes up birdless. Rex has an orderly find at 10 but comes up with an unproductive at 25 after a relocation.

Brace 23:
Greta (Seelye)
Dart (Jan Wallace)
Greta is up, at 15, after breaking on the flush. Dart points softly at 10, is relocated but comes up empty. At 17, she points, lacking style, is relocated but bumps a bird. She is left down as she has not interfered and points again at 29, taking steps on the flush, as Day 2 ends.

(Day 3, Tuesday, November 3, dawns with fog on the river bottom but clear skies, temperature at breakaway is 45 degrees.)

Brace 24:
Stormy (Howard Schultz)
Jack (Warren Eizman)
Stormy gets off to a relatively slow start but, after a mannerly find at 11, applies himself with renewed interest, finishing with a covey find at "bird island", at 15, and another find at 25.
Jack also scores a covey find at 15, with high tail, but loses his composure when, at 27, he points and goes with a woodcock on the flush.

Brace 25:
Hoosier (Terry Syczylo)
Gus (Dr. Tom Pescod)
Judge Hart calls Gus bumping a bird, at 6. Hoosier points a covey, in bird island, at 12, in order, for his only bird work.

Brace 26:
Levi (Fountain)
Ruger (Spurgeon)
Ruger points first, at 10, Levi having been whoaed to a back. Ruger produces again, at 15, in order, and goes spritely to the front. Levi is not having his day, hunting from 14 to 24, showing little ground speed.

The Running- Second Series

Brace 1:
Cutter (Sails)
Lotto (Vater)
At 10, Lotto stops 100 yards to the left of the corner in the first cornfield but a lengthy flushing attempt and relocation fail to produce a bird, forcing an unproductive; despite that, she maintains her high style and composure throughout. At the same time, in the right corner of the same field, Cutter points, with style, in order, after a brief flushing attempt. At 28, Lotto points, flush and shot in order. At 30, Cutter scores again, in order. At 40, Lotto has a find in the last big corn field, completing her retrieve, in order, again with style. Unfortunately, the judges note that Cutter shortens to hunting the cover from 36 to 42, probably the difference in the championship. Cutter is called back for his retrieve immediately upon the conclusion of the brace, which retrieve he completes without difficulty.

Brace 2:
Paige (Rohs)
Brutus (Reid)
At 41, Paige points, backed by Brutus; Paige takes a hop on the flush and is, unfortunately, as a consequence up, Brutus continuing. The brace ends without further birdwork.

Brace 3:
Greta (Dalby)
Yoghurt (Goodie)
Greta is ordered up on the breakaway for interference with its bracemate. Yoghurt retires early, at 10 minutes, not pleasing.

Brace 4:
Tzeitel (Dohse)
Jack (Jim Gingrich)
At 10, Tzeitel has her initial bird contact, pop gunned, in order. She moves up another five hundred yards, points again, successfully completing her retrieve. At 26, however, she runs over a bird and is unable to halt, resulting in her early retirement. At the same time, Jack points a covey in bird island and, in a difficult situation, the gunners having harvested two birds on the rise, is sent for a retrieve though he fails to adequately mark his quarry and, as a consequence, is unable to complete his retrieve to the satisfaction of Judge Kerr.

(Day 4, Wednesday, November 4, dawns clear, with heavy frost, a perfect day for the running, though there is fog on the river bottom that occasions a short delay in the announced 7:30 a.m. start of this last brace of the Championship.)

Brace 5:
Stormy (Shultz)
Ruger (Spurgeon)
At 22, Ruger strikes first, in bird island, but the retrieve is deemed less than satisfactory. Mark elects to leave Ruger on the ground despite judicial advice that he will not be used.
At 25, Mike Mullineaux, scouting Stormy, finds his dog, deep in the cover, in standing corn, pointed on a covey. The covey flushes but some birds remain on the ground, making a clean retrieve nearly impossible; after some delay, however, he returns to Howard with the bird. Stormy has another orderly find at 42 to end the brace.

This writer wishes to express his sincerest thanks to the Vizsla Club of America and the Old Dominion Vizsla Club for the invitation to serve as judges’ marshal and reporter for this event. The uniform hospitality and many courtesies extended during my stay will not soon be forgotten!

Tim Carwile