Sunday, April 25, 2010

Region 1 AHSD Championship Report and Pictures

From left, Brian Sanchez, Casey Foster with Ch. Great River Magnum, Dick Bembenek, Judge Vinnie Ballester, Aidan Malone, Stacey Goodie, Judge Steve Browder, John Malone with RU Ch. Ironstone Jungle King, John Fino, Janice Gregory, Dave O'Brien, Elizabeth Malone, Elias Richardson and Bill Hyland.


EAST WINDSOR, Conn. - Thirty-six pointers and setters, including some of the top-ranked shooting dogs in the country, were entered in the Region 1 Amateur Horseback Shooting Dog Championship held April 16-18, 2010, at Flaherty Field Trial Area.

Judges rode for three days and watched intently, having to really split hairs to determine the difference between the top contenders.

Judge Steve Browder, in green jacket, speaks with field trial chairman John Malone while Dick Bembenek greets judge Vinnie Ballester, right.

When they were through, Great River Magnum, a pointer male owned and handled by Brian Sanchez of Central Islip, N.Y., was named champion, and Ironstone Jungle King, a setter male owned and handled by Elias Richardson III of Uxbridge, Mass., was named runnerup, and it was just a matter of strength that separated the two.

Judges Steve Browder of Pinewood, S.C., and Vicente Ballester of Simpsonville, S.C.. said from the get-go that they weren’t going to count finds. They were looking for a dog that would take an edge and stay with it. Birdwork, obviously, was a necessity for a well-rounded hour, but ignore that edge or break off it before the end and you were done.

Said Browder, “We tried to pick dogs that were capable of going on to win the National Amateur or an Invitational championship.’’

Judge Vinnie Ballester keeps an eye on Dick Bembenek, right,
while he cleans the mud off his horse.


Great River Magnum, just days away from his third birthday, won the championship by virtue of a massively powerful, forward race. He had good clean birdwork for a total of six finds, a strong finish and looked beautiful pointing.

Owner/handler Brian Sanchez, scout Casey Foster
and Region 1 AHSD Champion Great River Magnum.

Braced in the 12th with Ravenwood DT Joe, a setter owned and handled by Joe Cincotta, the two dogs started out with a divided find. Joe would go on to have an unproductive followed by two more finds but was eventually picked up for not pleasing his handler.

Magnum ran as if he were on a mission. There was no objective left unsearched. His gear was always overdrive – fast and forward-hunting. His finds were well-spaced and if there was an edge to be taken, he took it – to the end. With two minutes left, the pointer had a final successful piece of birdwork. With time ticking down, judges asked the handler to put the dog on the edge to see what he’d do. Magnum did exactly what was expected. He ripped down the edge to the end like it was his job.

Ironstone Jungle King had the find of the stake. The setter ran a strong, forward ground race and hunted all the objectives. He had three finds and his third and final find was exceptional. Braced with Lloyd Miller’s setter, Limbsmoke Windfinder, the two were loosed in the sixth brace, the last brace of the first day just as the threatening weather was about to live up to the promise of rain. Windfinder wasn’t himself today. He was doing a lot of hunting, but was unable to come up with any solid evidence of birds. He ran a pretty race though and had one back.

Jungle King was running a big race, eating up the ground. The only criticism judges could find was that the setter was ever so slightly sticky on a couple of corners, but he wound up with three bang-up pieces of birdwork.

With four minutes left in his hour, motoring to the front, Jungle King crossed the brook and cut to the right. Away for a few moments, handler went to check and point was called from a good distance away. As the field trial party arrived, there stood the setter, quite confidently. As the handler flushed, a covey of quail lifted from the underbrush with the dog standing solidly on point quite a distance away.

Judge Browder grinned and shook his head as he wrote in his notebook, knowing that he just might have witnessed the find of the championship.

Richardson took Jungle King on and released him onto that final edge, and as time was called, he was rocketing down the right-hand side looking for more birds.

Said Browder, “It was a dug-up limb find that pretty much defined the stake. The dog took the edges strong, and was pretty much one of the only dogs that took that big edge [after coming off the Dearborn Property] and went all the way down.’’

“The first-place dog was stronger all the way,’’ said Browder. “Eli’s dog got hung up a few times but it was a nice performance. No scouting was needed and he ran the edges.’’

Lots of people must have taken the day off from work on Friday
because the gallery was good-sized by New England standards.


In the running on the first day was East Coast Pete, a pointer male owned and handled by John Malone. Pete was braced in the fourth with Sugarknoll Jack, a pointer male owned and handled by John Fino.

Both dogs had four well-spaced finds. Jack had three finds early on, suffered one unproductive but followed that up with another solid, workmanlike find and finished his hour hunting away.

John Fino flushing for Sugarknoll Jack.

Pete was in it for the money this hour. He blasted through the course searching for birds, running a powerful, forward race. When he stopped, he was high on both ends, the very definition of intensity. However, because so many of these dogs were so good, the judges again had to be very analytical. On one of Pete’s finds, the bird flushed close to his face and he moved slightly to mark its flight. In an ordinary trial, this would have been no infraction. In this case, said Browder, “it wasn’t enough to pick him up,’’ but it was enough of a bobble to open the door to possibly let another dog move in.

At the end of the first day, judges were carrying Ironstone Jungle King in first and East Coast Pete in second positions. Only because of that slight movement on that particular bird would Pete be pushed out of the standings the second day as Magnum came in and edged Jungle King down. That’s how close this championship was.

Including East Coast Pete, honorable mentions were also given to, in no particular order, Currahee (O’Brien), Waybetter Jade (Bishop), Our Big Bully (Saniga), Buffalo Bull (Saniga), Heard Hill’s Queen Mary (Heard), Class Act Special (Walker), Annabull (Saniga), East Coast Slick (Malone), Calico’s Catch ’N Release (Henderson), Silverback (Bembenek), Windflower (Pombrio), Bluebell Sue Z (Mamounis), and Southbound Strech (Fino).

The gallery heads out of the Dearborn Property on a drizmal day.


Peace Dale Duke (Sanchez) and Hyland’s Blackie (Bembenek). In the first brace of the championship on Friday morning, Richie Frisella was riding to watch his Peace Dale Duke, who was being handled by Brian Sanchez. Duke started out with a find about 15 minutes into his hour. He stood nicely on his birds, with Blackie backing. Both dogs were loosed and headed for the pines behind the pond. At 19, Blackie was making game but came unglued and was picked up for chasing a bird. Duke had a find nearby and all was in order, but then he, too, gave chase and was picked up.

From left, Dave O'Brien, handler of Currahee, and championship co-chairman; Jim Kilrain, owner of Currahee; and Elias Richardson, Region 1 trustee.

Peace Dale Blackjack (Pombrio) and Currahee (O’Brien). Both Richie Frisella and Jim Kilrain were riding to watch their dogs, Blackjack and Currahee, respectively. Bob Pombrio was running Blackjack. Currahee stopped at 15 to score on a single quail. It was Blackjack’s turn four minutes later when he had a find for himself under the pines behind the pond. Currahee, standing about 50 yards away, also was pointing. After this find, Blackjack wasn’t himself. He wasn’t responding to his handler and kept going into the gallery to check for his owner. His mind wasn’t on his work and he was picked up. Currahee went on to have four more well-spaced finds and finished his hour going away. He applied himself well and had good birdwork.

Look At Me (O’Donnell) and Waybetter Jade (Bishop). In the third brace of the morning, Jade started the hour hot having finds at the first two feeders. A little liver and white pointer female, this dog runs like the wind. Look At Me scored a find at 23 in a swampy area going back to the Dearborn Property. A single quail was flown for the intense-looking dog. Jade had another find at 42 and finished her hour going away.

Sugarknoll Jack (Fino) and East Coast Pete (Malone). Previously described.

The Jazz Singer (J. Braman) and Great River Class (Sanchez). In the fifth brace of the day, Class stopped dead in his tracks and styled up at 13. As positive as the dog looked, birds couldn’t be produced. He went on to have a successful find five minutes later. At 24, Class locked up on point with The Jazz Singer backing. A pretty picture. Class would eventually be picked up for not pleasing his handler, and while The Jazz Singer had only one back, he ran a strong race and finished his hour going away.

Elias Richardson, owner/handler of Runner-Up Champion Ironstone Jungle King and Jennifer Braman, owner/handler of The Jazz Singer.

Limbsmoke Windfinder (Miller) and Ironstone Jungle King (Richardson). Previously described.

Calico’s Cotton Candy (Quackenbush) and Class Act Mark (Walker). Starting out Saturday morning, Candy stopped shortly after the breakaway on the right side of the road before the culvert. No bird could be produced and she was taken on. The dog went on to have another find at the third feeder where she stood nicely and pointed the bird. Once she started rolling, there wasn’t a bird on the course that Candy couldn’t find this day and she made Dick get on and off his horse many, many times. She had a total of six finds, all well-spaced, and suffered one unproductive. Her intensity on her birds was a little lacking however. Mark had one find but wasn’t getting the job done was picked up at about the halfway mark by his handler.

Roger Dvorak flushes for Some Kind Of Trouble.

Minnie (O’Donnell) and Some Kind Of Trouble (Dvorak). In the eighth brace, Minnie had her running shoes on and was gone out of the country. Trouble had three nice finds during the first half hour. On his final find, coming out of the Dearborn Property, he was sent on to relocate and ran over the bird. He was picked up.

Our Big Bully (Saniga) and Waybetter Rex (Bishop). Rex hit the highway and nothing more was seen of him after he backed Bully at the first feeder. Bully had a nice race with four finds and an unproductive. He finished his hour to the front.

Lynn Heard giving Heard Hill's Queen Mary
a quick pep talk prior to her brace.

Buffalo Bull (Saniga) and Heard Hill’s Queen Mary (Heard). This brace drew a large gallery to watch Bull and Queen, points leader for the Purina Top Amateur Shooting Dog Award. Bull scored the first find at the top of the hill. Head and tail high, a single bird was flown for the pointer. He was loosed and both dogs were found standing at the end of the first big field with a divided find being taken. Bull had another find at the third feeder with Queen standing about 50 yards away under a clump of brush for her own bird. All was in order and both dogs were sent on. They’d next be found standing on the right in the woods behind the pond. Shots were fired for both. Heading into the Dearborn Property, Bull was found pointing with Queen backing. Again, all was in order. The dogs were loosed, and not 100 yards away did they slam onto point, trading positions this time with Queen pointing and Bull backing. A pretty picture. Both dogs stopped in different spots at the back end of the Dearborn Property. A single bird was flushed for Queen. No bird could be produced for Bull and he was taken on. Queen was making some very pretty swings through the country and taking some nice edges. The little pointer floats over the ground. She logged another find in a spot where no other dog had pointed – at a large island of pine trees on the right coming out of the Dearborn Property. Queen was spotted a good distance away. Bull could be seen swinging into a back. A single bird was flown for Queen. She went on and stopped at the end of the Dearborn Property. Handler flushed and relocated but no bird could be produced. Both dogs were picked up at 43 at the judges’ suggestion only because they weren’t beating the winners.

Judge Vinnie Ballester with handler Buck Heard, scout Lynn Heard and Heard Hill's Queen Mary.

Class Act Special (Walker) and Blue Ice (LeVasseur). In the 11th brace, Ice, a derby, suffered two quick unproductives only minutes into his hour and was picked up. Special had four nice finds and big race. He finished his hour going away.

Great River Magnum (Sanchez) and Ravenwood DT Joe (Cincotta). Previously described.

Annabull (Saniga) and Fazan’s Stress Free (Fazan). In the last brace of the day for Saturday, Annabull and Fazan’s Stress Free were loosed. Stress Free had the first find at the top of the hill with Annabull backing. Shots were fired and all was in order. Annabull went on, grabbed the right edge of the field and traveled it until she found a bird. She stopped, the bird was flushed and all, again, was in order. Taking the left onto the Dearborn Property, Stress Free had an unfortunate run-in with a bird and was picked up. Annabull would have five finds and one unproductive to complete her hour. When time was called, she was still to the front.

East Coast Slick (Malone) and Smokin’ Hot Trouble (Dvorak). Slick was running a fast pace this day, hitting all the objectives and staying forward. The dogs shared divided finds at the first and third feeders. Trouble then grabbed the right edge and styled up in the woods behind the pond with Slick taking the back. A single bird was flown. Slick was found standing on the corner going into the Dearborn Property, but Trouble wouldn’t back and was picked up. Slick was putting out a good performance but judges advised the handler he wasn’t beating the winners, and he elected to pick up.

Calico’s Catch ‘N Release (Henderson) and Tony’s Redneck Bear (O’Donnell). Catch had eight finds in his half hour with some very good birdwork. Judges found his race and application a little lacking however. Bear had four finds but wasn’t often enough to the front.

RJ’s Hardcopy (Walker) and Full Of Bull (Saniga). Hardcopy had two finds but wasn’t having his best day so his handler elected to pick up at the halfway mark. Bull was up early for failing to back.

Silverback (Bembenek) and Windflower (Pombrio). In the 17th brace, Silverback had four well-spaced finds and a driving, forward race. Windflower also had four finds and a good race, but neither was overtaking the leaders and picked up at the halfway mark.

Judge Steve Browder watching Bluebell Sue Z on a find.

Bluebell Sue Z (Mamounis) and Southbound Strech (Fino). In the final brace of the championship, Bluebell Sue Z was broken away with Southbound Strech. Sue Z was fresh off her runner-up win a week prior at the Region 1 Amateur Walking Shooting Dog Championship in Rhode Island. She would have two finds during her time on the ground with one unproductive after a very lengthy relocation. This setter stands her birds nicely with head and tail held so high it looks like there are strings coming down from the heavens pulling her up. A pretty running dog, she took her edges nicely, floating along on the ground. She just wasn’t beating the winners this day and was up at the halfway mark. The renegade Southbound Strech had himself his best day ever today – although it was an abbreviated race. He listened to his handler, ebbed and flowed with the course, took his edges nicely and had four crackerjack finds before he was picked up at 30, again only for not beating the winners.

Judge Vinnie Ballester watches as handler John Fino
heads back to Southbound Strech after flushing a bird.

After the announcements were made, Judge Browder reflected, “It was a good, smooth-run trial with plenty of good, quality dogs. Lots of sportsmanship. Some of the handlers that came here, when their dogs weren’t doing the job, they were courteous to the other handlers. It was a good stake.”


* The trial was efficiently run by John Malone, who was busy keeping things in order when he wasn’t running his dogs.
Field trial chairman John Malone, left, and Don Gustafson.

* On-call scout was Aidan Malone. Whenever a handler needed scouting help and wanted the most skilled scout who best knew the course, the most-often asked question was, “Where’s Aidan.’’

Judge Steve Browder chats with John Stolgitis
while John Malone and Joe Cincotta carry on a coversation behind.

* Lunch and dinner were served Friday by John Stolgitis. An avid chef, John always brings something homemade – and usually out of venison, the only red meat his family eats, he says. This time it was tasty venison meatballs for lunch courtesy of a deer taken on his property, along with sopressata for the cocktail party.

This year's cocktail party was hosted by Mike Flewelling, owner of 2009 Region 1 AHSD Champion Sunkhaze Fast Break.

Dick Bembenek also brought some of his delicious summer sausage that he made from venison. And what’s a New England field trial without lobsters? Dick kindly donated dozens of those directly from East Coast waters for the hungry field trial group. You can’t get food much fresher than that from two guys who can really cook up a storm.

Master Chef Tony Forte slaving over a hot stove.

* Dinner on Saturday night was cooked by renowned Italian chef Tony Forte. He served platters of chicked marinated in oil and vinegar, pork with rosemary, ziti and red sauce, and salad. A perfect meal to end a perfect day.

Region 1 treasurer Jeff Smith, left, and John Fino.

* How fun was it to see license plates from Georgia and Florida, bringing up the warm weather from the south to New England. Meeting new friends and getting to see dogs only written about in The Field was an excellent part of the weekend.

* Thanks to the judges for their patience and helpfulness to many of the handlers. This was, after all, an amateur championship. The people running the dogs this weekend don’t do it for a living. And while judges were mindful that it was still a championship, they went out of their way to offer little snippets of guidance to handlers when they looked like they might be struggling.

* Many thanks also go out to Purina for its sponsorship of this championship, and to the members of Region 1 who help support this trial.

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