Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010 New England Open Championship

Front from left, Ch. Caladen's Sawmill Struttin' with scout Bill Kerr, and RU Ch. Great River Ice with handler Mike Tracy. Rear from left, Richard Bembenek, Ed Marin, Janice Gregory, judge Pat Casey, Rich Anselmo, judge Vicente Ballester, John and Erin Stolgitis, John Fino and Jeff Smith.


POMFRET, Conn. - With seven staunch finds, and a consistent hour on the ground where he showed off his strength and hunting skills, Caladen's Sawmill Struttin', a pointer male
handled by Mike Tracy and owned by Ross Callaway and Echo Plantation of Chester, S.C., earned
the title of champion at the 82nd New England Open Shooting Dog Championship. The event was
held Oct. 18-20, 2010, at Harry and Deb Townshend's venerable Ragged Hill Farm.

Runnerup honors went to Great River Ice, a pointer male also handled by Mike Tracy, and owned by Great River Kennels of Long Island, N.Y. Ice had five strong finds and pointed his birds from impressive distances.
Caladen's Sawmill Struttin'

Great River Ice

The difference between the first- and second-place dogs, according to judges, was their power on the ground. Struttin' had by far the strongest race and no other dog would prove to be a threat.


Judges for the event were Pat Casey of South Hill, Va., and Vicente Ballester of Simpsonville, S.C. They made clear at the beginning of the championship that they weren't looking for the fastest race or the most finds, but for a dog that could hunt because that's what the grounds called for.

Judges Pat Casey, left, and Vicente Ballester


The champion came from the second brace on the first day, setting the bar high for the rest of the competition.

Struttin' was braced with Mt. View Decision Maker (J. Tracy), who would turn out to be a fine dog in her own right.

The two pointers dashed from the breakaway. Point was called fairly quickly by both handlers and the dogs were found to be standing for different birds several yards away from each other. While the dogs stood rock solid, quail were flushed and shots fired. Both pointers were taken on.

They cruised over the dam and up the hill to the big open field. Decision Maker continued through without making bird contact, but Struttin' scented something interesting and came to a stop under a pine tree where his handler rousted a single quail.

At 21, Decision Maker had a dug-up nice limb find where she was discovered by scout Shannon Davis. After considerable flushing, a bird was produced. Another divided find was logged at the halfway mark along a stone wall. Shots were fired and all was well.

Judge Vicente Ballester keeps an eye out for the bird while Jeanette Tracy flushes for Mt. View Decision Maker.

Decision Maker stopped again four minutes later. Handler said the birds had left and the dog was taken on.

Struttin' went on to have three more well-spaced finds in his hour. This pointer was consistent, always tight on his game when he pointed and hunted the woods hard, checking out the logical birdy areas. He had the strongest first and second halves of any hour, and would run the strongest race of any dog in the championship.

With good birdwork and a strong finish, Decision Maker was placed in the runnerup position, and at the end of the first day, it was Caladen's Sawmill Struttin in first, and Mt. View Decision Maker in second.

No other dog would pose a problem for Struttin', and it would be the 11th brace before Decision Maker was pushed out of contention by Great River Ice.

In the fourth brace on the second day of the championship, Ice was braced with Triple Nickle Nick (Basilone). Owner Brian Sanchez was on hand to watch his dog run.

Ice had a find almost immediately off the breakaway in a strip dividing two fields where no other dog had previously pointed. In what must have seemed to his handler as an "uh oh'' moment, there was indeed a quail hidden in the heavy grass and it was flushed. A nice start for Ice.

Nick had a find at the first feeder, pointing his birds from a good distance away. He had his running shoes on this day, though, and would not be seen again.

Ice stopped again 10 minutes later under heavy mountain laurel. This solid white pointer marked each find standing with his head and tail high. There was no question that a bird would be found.

Ice had another impressive find at about the halfway mark when he stopped on point in the middle of a field. He had these birds pinned from a good distance away. He was relocated and the quail was spotted perched on a nearby stone wall.

Great River Ice stops on point in a field, above.
Knowing he could have his birds from a good distance away, handler Mike Tracy relocates the pointer, below, who pins his quail on an old stone wall yards to his right.

After the 30-minute mark, the woods break out into an emerald green field which leads to the second half of the figure-eight shape of the course. Ice grabbed the left edge of the field and rimmed it. At the end of the field, he was again found on point. Ice was loosed and after a slight leave of absence, he returned from the front - a good place to come from as judges were adding demerits to any dog who showed up from the rear.

Ice logged his final find with 4 minutes left on the clock on another single quail.

Ice had five nice finds in total, and ran a very good first half. His second half was commendable, but his brief disappearance, even though he showed up to the front, hurt him slightly.

He always pointed his birds stylishly and from far away, and made nice casts after which he was found standing, but judges felt he just didn't have the power of the first place dog.

Judges complemented the handlers who had to get their dogs to work in the heavy cover of Ragged Hill Farm. Said Pat Casey: "The handlers all tried to put their dogs off the path and they did a great job of handling their dogs. Every year you come here, they have eight or nine finds but you don't see the dogs. We didn't have that (this year). We wanted to see a dog between finds. We wanted to see them running the country. And it's hard (in this thick cover) because most of these dogs want to grab (an edge).''

John Stolgitis gets ready to run another errand.


Honorable mention was given to Mt. View Decision Maker; Chasehill Molly, owned and handled by John Stolgitis; and Ragged Hill Danny, owned by Harry Townshend and handled by Bruce Jacobs.

An always-smiling Becky Johnson.


The first brace on a chilly Monday morning paired Fazan's Delite (Basilone) and Gamestopper (M. Tracy). Gamestopper logged his first find early on. Delite stopped at 18 with Gamestopper backing. Delite was sent on to relocate twice but couldn't produce a bird. Gamestopper had another find at 43. At 52, the dogs had a divided find, and at 59, Delite stopped for her final bird. These dogs finished their hour strong.

Mt. View Decision Maker (J. Tracy) and Caladen's Sawmill Struttin' (M. Tracy). Previously described.

Waybetter Rex (Bishop) and Stone Tavern Matrix (M. Tracy). Although Matrix had a find early off the breakaway, both dogs in this brace eventually were lost.

From left, Carl Bishop, Tom Gates and Dick Bembenek.

Fazan's Stress Free (Basilone) and Nottingham's Classy Chance (M.Tracy). Dogs shared a divided find at the first feeder. Stress Free went on to point a bird at 14 under heavy mountain laurel and followed this up with another find at 22. Chance stopped at the halfway mark but no bird could be produced. At 35, Stress Free was found standing with Chance backing. All looked good when the bird was flushed. The dogs had another divided find at 41 under some brushy pines with another single quail being rousted. Chance pointed his final bird with eight minutes left, and both dogs finished the hour going away.

Harbor City Cash (Basilone) and Caladen's Railway Max (M. Tracy). These pointers had a divided find at the first feeder, and Cash followed that up with a find at 16 under the mountain laurel. He stood tall and turned his head ever so slightly to mark the flight of the bird. Cash was found standing four minutes later and when his handler went in to flush, he found the other dog standing there also. (To say some the mountain laurel is thick at Ragged Hill Farm is an understatement.) When the birds were flushed, Max took a jump and was picked up. Cash got lost after this and his handler called for the tracker.

Tad Dorry gets ready to release Sugar Knoll Jack at the breakaway for John Fino.

Sugar Knoll Jack (Fino) and Serious Threat (M. Tracy). Sugarknoll Jack was his usual bird-hunting-machine self this day as he logged eight finds and one unproductive for his handler. No bird is safe from discovery when Jack hits the ground. A very workmanlike dog, he'll find them all and stand patiently with head and tail high until he's found by his handler and the birds are flushed. On his last find, however, he was sent on to relocate, and when he winded the birds, he went with them and was picked up. Threat had one find but was picked up at the half-hour mark for not pleasing his handler.

John Fino flushing for Sugar Knoll Jack.

Grousewood Skeeter (Basilone) and Our Big Bully (M. Tracy). Bully had a pretty find at the first feeder. Point was called for Skeeter at 20, but when the gallery approached he released himself to hunt some more. He was picked up. Bully had two more finds, both times with good manners, and he finished strong when time was called.

Chasehill Molly (Stolgitis) and Caladen's Rail Hawk (M. Tracy). For the first brace of the second day, the weather was overcast and damp. Both dogs were loosed and Molly was found on point at the first feeder. A good sized covey was flown for the intense pointer. The dogs shared a divided find at 15 under the mountain laurel. And at 19, Hawk was found pointing with Molly backing. A pretty picture. Birds were flown and all was in order. Hawk was picked at the halfway mark. Molly went on to have two more stylish finds in her second half hour but shortened up considerably, according to judges.

Elhew Dancing Fire (Jacobs) and Talisman (M. Tracy). Talisman scored a find at the first feeder, where after a relocation he pinned his birds. Fire, a young pointer who’s very light on her feet, stopped at the second feeder and the handler flushed a quail for her. All was in order. Talisman scored again at 15 on the corner under the mountain laurel, and Fire countered at 16 by stopping on the right side of path. Unfortunately, no bird could be produced and she took an unproductive. Five minutes later, both dogs stopped, and again, birds were produced. At the halfway mark, dogs shared a divided find. They were again were loosed and Fire stopped in a cut-through behind the main house, a likely place for a pheasant. However this day it resulted in an unproductive and this being her second one, Fire was lifted. Talisman scored one more find in his second half hour where he let down slightly but hunted the woods.

Klee's Gentle Ben (J. Tracy) and Klee's Shooting Star (M. Tracy). Star had a pretty find at the first feeder and again at the 15 minute mark. Ben stopped at 18 where his handler flew a bird for him. Both were found pointing at 21, and Ben was found standing again at the halfway mark. Both dogs were running strongly when their time was called.

Triple Nickle Nick (Basilone) and Great River Ice (M. Tracy). Previously described.

Sukara's Come Home Jessie (J. Tracy) and Buffalo Bull (M. Tracy). Owners Ted and Jane Foust were riding to see their setter, Jessie. Bull was up early after a bird infraction. Jessie had three finds but her race today wasn't quite up to snuff.

Bay Country Hope (J. Tracy) and Caladen's Elhew Sarah (M. Tracy). Sarah was up early after a mishap with a quail. Hope pointed at 15, but was lost before the halfway mark.

Great River Dominator (J. Tracy) and Klee's Handsome Hank (M. Tracy). Jeanette called for the tracker at 42 for her missing dog. Hank had three finds and was going away when his time was up.

White Spider (J. Tracy) and M's Kid Rock (M. Tracy). White Spider had three nice finds for herself, and M's Kid Rock had one. Both dogs hit the woods hard and hunted and stood their birds nicely.

Wednesday morning started with I Wanna Be A Cowgirl (Basilone) and Buffalo Creek (M. Tracy). Matt called for the tracker at about 20 after Cowgirl disappeared, and at the 30 minute mark, Mike did the same for a missing Buffalo Creek.

Handler Bruce Jacobs flushes for Harry Townshend's setter Ragged Hill Danny, while Caladen's White Hawk takes the back with Mike Tracy. Judge Pat Casey looks on.

Ragged Hill Danny (Jacobs) and Caladen's White Hawk (M. Tracy). In his first half hour, Danny had three well-spaced, well-executed finds followed by an unproductive at 30. Hawk had one find and was backing Danny when handler picked him up. Danny went on to hunt the whole right side of the green field at the beginning of the second half of the course and added two more nice finds before he finished his hour.

Southbound Strech (Stolgitis) and Coosawhatchie Chief (M. Tracy). Strech's owner, John Fino, was scouting for his dog. Both dogs had a divided find at the first feeder. Strech took a hiatus after that, after apparently jumping a deer. Chief went on to have five more well-executed finds, and was running well to the front when time was called.

Richfield Silver Lining (M. Basilone) and Avalon Creek (M. Tracy). Silver Lining started out with one unproductive then followed that up with one nice find. Avalon Creek suffered two unproductives early on and got the hook.

Erin's Boxcar Willie (M. Tracy) and Chasehill Little Bud (Stolgitis). In a competitive brace, Willie scored four finds with Bud (last year's champion) taking five and a back, yet here as in some other braces, judges would have like to have seen more hunting through the woods by each dog.

Green Mountain Keeper (M. Tracy). Keeper, running as a bye, wasn't pleasing his handler this day and was picked up early.

Handler Mike Tracy, left, and judge Pat Casey during a lunchbreak.


*Field trial chairman Elias Richardson found himself under the weather for the better part of the period leading up to and during the championship. Richard Bembenek was pressed into service as co-chairman and many thanks go to him for all his help. Eli was missed though, especially during the cocktail party when the shrimp was served. We hope his recovery continues to be successful and uneventful.

The barn at Ragged Hill Farm, above, and the front of the main house that sits across the street.

*Harry Townshend, also recently released from the hospital after suffering from a bout of bronchitis, visited the championship with his wife, Deb, on Monday. He followed the braces along in a mule (the four-wheel kind) chauffered by Dick Bembenek, and attended the cocktail party and lobster dinner with Deb, his son Tim and daughter-in-law Sue.

Each year the Townshends open Ragged Hill Farm to host the New England Open. It's always fun to visit with them and relive past championships. Their kindness and generosity is very much appreciated.

From left, Bruce Jacobs, Harry Townshend and Dick Bembenek.

*Tom Gates made his annual trek down from the hinterlands of way-upper New York State to assist with the running again this year. Tom travels from New York periodically throughout the year to assist at Ragged Hill Farm with Tim Townshend and Dick Bembenek and caretakers Adam and Keri Scheuritzel and help keep the courses open for the championship.

*The Scheuritzels’ son, James, took time off from his busy school schedule to help plant birds. Also helping were John Fino, John Stolgitis, Tad Dorry and Ed Marin.

*Judges' gifts included copies of the lovely coffee-table book, "In The Field - A Photographer's Journey With Sporting Dogs.'' The books, written and photographed by Nancy Whitehead, were donated by Joan LaBree.

*Dinner was cooked nightly by Dick Bembenek and members of the Thompson Rod & Gun Club. Karen Fino and Pat Richardson provided their always amazing blueberry and apple pies.

There's always time to chill and eat and chat at the New England Open. Judge Pat Casey, left, takes a break with John Stolgitis, center, and Jeff Smith. Pam Townshend is at right.

*A cocktail party - which wound up spanning two nights - was hosted by John Stolgitis, owner and handler of last year’s champion, Chasehill Little Bud. When it comes to seafood, John, who can count being a chef as one of his many talents, gets only the best and knows how to prepare it.

Lobster, shrimp, littlenecks, steamers, all seemingly by the bushel, made the picnic tables under the pavilion in the backyard groan. This along with his homemade sopressata, stuffed peppers, and cheese and crackers provided for a gastronomic delight.

On Tuesday morning, after Monday night’s lobster dinner, John was busy shucking all the remaining lobsters to make dozens of lobster salad sandwiches for lunch. No one can say they’ve ever left the New England Open hungry.

Sitting above the fireplace at Ragged Hill Farm, under one of Harry Townshend's many setter paintings, this one of Ragged Hill Nip and Ragged Hill Tuck, is the historic sterling silver tray that lists the winners for the first 68 years of the New England Open Championship. Below, on the desk against the wall, under Harry's Field Trial Hall of Fame scroll, are wooden trophies hand-carved by Harry and presented in 1996 to provide ongoing recognition to winners of the New England Open. The winner's trophy is a hunter with his dog, while the runnerup's is a carving of two dogs. As wrote Margaret Drew in a 2007 NEO report, "The detail and resemblance of Harry himself and his dogs is evident in the two trophies.''


The Association of New England Field Trial Clubs welcomes comments on any of its procedures, or the running of any of its trials. We’re happy to hear from anyone who has something constructive to say about the way field trials are run in New England. We would love to hear suggestions. To keep this sport going, we need to work together to improve what we do. To leave a comment, email

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