Friday, October 19, 2012

Full report for the 2012 New England Open

New England Open Champion Great River Ice with Mark McClain, and Runnerup Champion Klee's Handsome Hank with Stacey Goodie. Rear from left, Chayton Scheuritzel, Bob Reed, Elias Richardson, reporter/chairman Janice Gregory, Karen Reed, judge Dave O'Brien, Jim Hathaway, Mike Tracy, judge Jeff Smith, Tom Gates and Dick Bembenek.

Full report, including pictures and video, for the New England Open Championship, and an update on Aidan Malone.

AT 84TH 

Klee's Handsome Hank Named Runnerup

POMFRET, Conn. -- There were a number of “firsts” at this year’s New England Open Championship.

It was the first time in the 84-year history of the championship that the winner and runnerup from the previous year had a reversal of fortune and would wind up winning the opposite placements the following year. 

Harry Townshend, center, with Gene Casale, left, and Bruce Jacobs, at the 2011 New England Open Championship
It was the first year in 45 years of consecutive running of the trial at Ragged Hill Farm that host Harry Townshend wasn’t in attendance. Harry passed away this past August and he was sorely missed at this event.

And it was the first time the New England Open Championship had received a gift of thousands of dollars with the dual purpose of honoring the late Harry Townshend and to make sure that the Championship would continue for at least the next 10 years at Ragged Hill Farm.

Judge Dave O'Brien
Judge Jeff Smith

The New England Open Championship was held Oct. 15-16, 2012. Thirty-four dogs were drawn for the two-day event. Field trial chairmen were Dick Bembenek and Janice Gregory. Judges were Jeff Smith of Loudon, NH, and Dave O’Brien of Marlborough, CT. 

Chairman Dick Bembenek


Champion Great River Ice with scout Mark McClain. Rear from left, reporter/chairman Janice Gregory, judge Dave O'Brien, handler Mike Tracy, and judge Jeff Smith.


This year’s New England Open champion, with a race that judge Dave O’Brien said he viewed as “a once in a lifetime” experience, was Great River Ice, handled by Mike Tracy and owned by Great River Kennels. Ice was runnerup in the 2011 New England Open Championship.

Ice, a pointer male, was paired with Maple Valley Cowgirl, a pointer female, handled by Jeanette Tracy, in the 10th brace on Day Two. The birds were plentiful and there couldn’t have been many that Ice didn’t manage to point. [Cowgirl had her running shoes on this day and wasn’t seen after the breakaway.]

Ice had 11 sharp-looking, well-spaced finds, including a number of limb finds in far-off places where no dog had looked at all the previous day. He hunted hard through the woods, a requirement at Ragged Hill where the cover is thick and the birds are likely, and he rimmed the edges of the old fields, always on the lookout. Ice was consistently to the front and stood his birds with tremendous intensity.


Klee's Handsome Hank with Stacey Goodie, along with reporter/chairman Janice Gregory, judge Dave O'Brien, handler Mike Tracy, and judge Jeff Smith.

Klee’s Handsome Hank, also handled by Mike Tracy, and owned by Susan and Roger Duerksen, was named runnerup champion. Hank had been the winner of the 2011 New England Open event.

Hank ran in the fourth brace with Covey Up Woodie, a pointer male handled by Jeanette Tracy. [Woodie had two finds and one back. A flashy dog, he ran hard, searching the woods. Unfortunately, the tracker was called for when he became lost.]

Hank logged six powerful finds and exhibited exactly what judges were looking for -- a good shooting dog race. He ran strong, could be seen hunting through the woods, and was always to the front. He had good style on his birds.

Part of the course at Ragged Hill Farm

Judges were looking for a good shooting dog race by a dog that could be seen hunting. They wanted to be shown more than a dog pointing at each bird location. And they were looking for a biddable dog, something that’s necessary at Ragged Hill, for if the course goes to the right and the dog goes to the left, it’s often tough to get them back. There are hills and hummocks, hundred-year-old stone walls, pine trees, mountain laurel and rocky footing, all kinds of natural elements that make it hard for a dog or handler or scout to hear or traverse in an attempt to get back on course.

 Ice caught the judges' eyes, they said, because of his quick ground race, flashy style and impeccable manners on his game. Both dogs stayed to the front with minimal handling, but Ice was the one pointing birds where no other dog had looked. And he had an impressive 11 finds when all was said and done.

The difference between the champion and runner up, said the judges, was the intensity of the run, and Ice's pointing style.   “Clearly [Ice was] the better of the dogs today,” said judge Jeff Smith.

“Both dogs were very good,” said O’Brien, “but I thought [Ice’s] was a memorable performance.”

“On any other day, there were lots of dogs that we liked that we could have used,” said Smith. But once Ice ran and had 11 finds and a race that matched, he became impossible to beat.

Congratulating the winner, Mike Tracy, are, from left, Tom Gates, Elias Richardson, Jeff Smith, Jim Hathaway, Dave O'Brien and Mark McClain, seated.


Before the first brace on a beautiful warm October morning where temperatures would reach the low 70s, a moment of silence was held for Harry Townshend, "for what," Dick Bembenek said, "Harry had done for us in the past and for what he's doing for us now." 

The breakaway.

Richfield Silver Belle (M. Tracy) and White Spider (J. Tracy) broke away. Belle had three finds, one back, one unproductive and a wide race. Spider had five finds, one back, one unproductive and a fair race.

In the second brace, Tall River’s Chico (M. Tracy) was paired with Grand Heritage Motion (J. Tracy). Motion was just off his championship win at the Northeastern, but the very close grounds at Ragged Hill aren’t for every dog and while they both dogs had finds and looked pretty on their game, they, overall, weren’t performing up to expectations.

Big ’N’ Rich (M. Tracy) and Land Cruiser Scout (J. Tracy) comprised the third brace. Rich had one find. Scout had five good finds but suffered an unproductive, all the while running a pace that was somewhat slow for the judges.

The 'Big House' at Ragged Hill

The fourth brace was Klee’s Handsome Hank (M. Tracy) and Covey Up Woodie (J. Tracy). Previously described.

In the fifth brace, Southbound Strech (Fino) and Octavio (M. Tracy) broke away together. A bold-running dog, Strech had six well-spaced finds and stood them staunchly. He was handling well until he disappeared at 50. Octavio had one find and one back.

Rockabull (M. Tracy) and Sukara’s Grace (J. Tracy) made up the sixth brace. Bull had two finds; Grace suffered an unproductive and was picked up.

The seventh brace paired Talisman (M. Tracy) and Chiseled In Stone (J. Tracy). Talisman suffered an unproductive and was lifted. Stone didn’t back and was leashed.

Runnymeade (M. Tracy) and Woodland’s Money Pit (J. Tracy) comprised the eighth brace. Runnymeade didn’t back and was picked up. Money Pit, a Brittany, started nicely with two finds then got lost.

In the ninth brace, Serious Investment (M. Tracy) was braced with Richfield Silver Lining (Stolgitis). Investment had one find and two backs. Silver Lining had two finds and a fair race.

The 10th brace paired Great River Ice (M. Tracy) and Maple Valley Cowgirl (J. Tracy). Previously described.

A view of Rhode Island from the top of the hill.

Shaula (Richardson) and Buffalo Bull (M. Tracy) made up the 11th brace. Shaula did a nice job with three good finds but her race was somewhat lateral and to the rear. Bull had a good start but hung a right when the course went left and wound up on the road where he was grazed by a car. He was taken to a local vet with bruising to his left shoulder and hip but is expected to make a full recovery.

Heading back after a pickup.

The 12th brace featured Mt. View Decision Maker (J. Tracy) and Klee’s Shooting Star (M. Tracy).  This was a fun brace to watch as both dogs were out there hunting up a storm. Decision Maker, a flashy little dog, had four nice finds. Star also had four finds of his own and a good race.

Jetsettin Jenny (M. Tracy) and Chasehill Little Bud (Stolgitis) made up the 13th brace. Jenny had two finds and a back. Bud hunted hard through the woods and had four finds. Judges liked the way he handled his game and said at the rate he was going, he could have won the championship on another day without the two top dogs they already had. Bud was picked up at the 30 minute mark. 

Short video clip from the big field, the second location for birds where dogs are required to head out of the thick woods, maneuver across a pond, head up a hill, hopefully hit a bird at the beginning of this field, then grab an edge and go. Commentary by Dick Bembenek.

 Redgate Sassy Pants (J. Tracy) and Our Big Bully (M. Tracy) were in the 14th brace. Working hard through the woods, Sassy had three finds and Bully had two finds and a back. Both showed good hunting ability and had nice races. 

Short video clip of Brace 15, Iron Lady and Heritage. Commentary by Dick Bembenek.

In the 15th brace, Iron Lady (Stolgitis) was paired with Heritage (M. Tracy). Bill Bonnetti was riding to watch his dog, Iron Lady, who had one find. Heritage was picked up for not pleasing his handler.

Owner Bob Reed, left, and bird planter Tom Gates

The Lobbyist (J. Tracy) and Coosawhatchie Chief (M. Tracy) made up the 16th brace. Bob Reed was riding to watch his dog, The Lobbyist, who had a nice race and a single find. Chief had two finds.

Video of the breakaway of the final brace of the championship.

In the final brace of the championship, No. 17, Ironstone King’s Ransom (Richardson) was paired with Erin’s Box Car Willie (M. Tracy). Ransom had one find then was picked up for a bird infraction. Willie wasn’t pleasing his handler and was picked up.


Deb Townshend presenting a $5,000 check to ANEFTC president Richard Giuliano.

On Monday night, marking the passing of her husband Harry along with noting the 45th consecutive running of the New England Open at Ragged Hill Farm, Harry’s widow, Deb Townshend, made a presentation on behalf of herself and the Townshend family of a gift of $5,000 to the Association of New England Field Trial Clubs. Mrs. Townshend specified that each year for the next 10 years, the winning handler of the championship will receive $500 from this fund. The donation stipulates that “if the trial should ever be moved from [Ragged Hill Farm], arrangements should be made as to the designation of this yearly award.”

As the field trialers looked on, obviously touched by this thoughtful gift, Mrs. Townshend presented the check, along with Harry’s gavel from when he was president of the ANEFTC, to current ANEFTC president Richard Giuliano.


*Following the presentation was a sumptuous cocktail party hosted by Susan and Roger Duerksen, owners of 2011 Champion Klee’s Handsome Hank.

Beer and wine were overflowing and hot and cold hors d’oeuvres were served running the gamut from a variety of crackers and aged cheeses, to red grapes, sweet meatballs, cheese and basil wrapped prosciutto, vegetables and dip, to many, many pounds of shrimp served over cracked ice. Field trial participants ate and drank their fill and then started in on the 75 lobsters provided by the ANEFTC to make the New England Open Championship what it is – a food fest!

*Bob and Karen Reed were in attendance to watch their pointer, The Lobbyist. After a summer fraught with medical concerns, Karen looked great and we were very happy to have a chance to visit with them both.

From left, Stacey Goodie, Mike Tracy and Dillon Shaffer.

* Jeanette Tracy brought a new scout with her this year, Dillon Shaffer. Anyone who has ridden a brace at the New England Open knows how easy it can be to get lost in the thick woods. Despite our concern about possibly losing Dillon in the woods forever, he did a tremendous job, didn’t get lost and was in the truck and headed home with Jeanette when we last saw him. Good job, Dillon! We’re quite sure he never saw woods this thick in his life.

* Mike Tracy had affable scout Mark McClain with him. It’s always great to be around Mark, with his big smile and dry sense of humor. When Mike’s dog, Buffalo Bull, got hurt, Mark was first on the scene and took care of the dog, rushing to the vet with driver, Stacey Goodie. With that kind of care and concern, owners can rest easy having dogs with these two men. Their dogs come first. Period. 

The always-smiling Miss Stacey. :-)

* Helping out with the championship were bird planters Dick Bembenek and Tom Gates, Tad Dorry served again as top chef, horses were provided by Elias Richardson and Jeff Smith. John Fino was anywhere and everywhere, always with a helping hand. Ragged Hill Farm caretaker Keri Scheuritzel attended daily to keep an eye on the goings-on. Lobsters, steamers and littlenecks were prepared by the amazing chefs from the Thompson Rod & Gun Club, without whom we couldn’t run this gastronomical extravaganza. In general, everyone who attends a field trial in New England is always available to help. If something needed to be done, someone was there to step in, and for that we say thank you to all.

* Many thanks also go out to Purina for their sponsorship of this event, and to Nutrena for providing horse feed.

Aidan Malone, on the mend and sending out a big Thank You to everyone who donated to his Heavy Equipment Operator Training School fund. ;-)

*A big shout out here to every field trialer and friend who chipped in with a donation for 17-year-old Aidan Malone, who is recuperating from a severely broken leg.

Aidan has been a friend and a huge help to everyone involved in New England field trialing and beyond since he’s been able to clamber up on a horse. He’s the son of Connecticut field trialer John Malone and his wife, Suzanne. Aidan cut his teeth on field trialing thanks to his dad.

An accomplished rider and a tremendous scout, Aidan doesn’t have “no” in his vocabulary. He’s always available to scout, to plant birds, to wrangle horses, to help anyone who needs it.

Recently, Aidan found himself trapped when the Bobcat he was using rolled and caught his leg between it and his truck. Despite being in considerable pain after his leg broke when the Bobcat hit it -- “I heard [the bone] crack,” he said. “It was gross.” -- Aidan had the presence of mind to hit the control on the Bobcat and get it in reverse to move it off him. After that, he fell to the ground and rolled under his truck for protection should the Bobcat roll again.

He first called his mom, a nurse, and then his dad, who we all know is not the best in situations like this, and lay there writhing in pain for the 15 minutes that it took for help to arrive. As EMTs were working on Aidan, Sue said that Life Star, Hartford (CT) Hospital’s critical care helicopter, was hovering overhead. Just a little disconcerting, to say the least.

 EMTs determined Aidan’s injuries weren’t life-threatening and called off the helicopter, much to everyone’s relief. Aidan was transported to one Connecticut hospital and then to another which had better care facilities for his particular injuries.

After undergoing surgery, Aidan was in the hospital for a considerable amount of time. When he first came home, he was confined to his bed, but that was OK because Sue, who was staying home with him, gave him a bell for him to ring if he needed her. Well, that got old quick, and after a while the only one coming when the bell was run was the dog!

Aidan was able to attend the handlers’ dinner at the New England Futurity. Looking a little pale and a bit thin, he smiled through the pain-killers and seemed genuinely happy to be out of the house for a bit.
The can. ;-)

When Aidan was first injured, friend and fellow field trialer Dave O’Brien took it upon himself to take up a collection for Aidan, so he got a yellow and black Chock Full O’Nuts coffee can and inscribed it with “Aidan Malone Heavy Equipment Operator Training School Fund.”

That can made its way to all four New England championships -- the Northeastern, the New England Futurity, the Region 1 All-Age and the New England Open -- and the money piled up. At the end of two weeks, the can found its way to the New England Open, the final New England championship of the season.

When the count was finalized, generous field trialers had donated $500 to Aidan. What better way to give back to a young man who’s given his best for all of us. And on Aidan's behalf, we say “thanks!” 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

And let's not forget the dogs . . .
. . . or the horses, because without them, we couldn't do what we love.

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