A PERSONAL VIEW
Crufts is always one of the highlights of the UK show scene
and has an atmosphere different to any other show I have attended worldwide.
This year I was particularly looking forward to it because Gina Rose of the
Stonebar kennel was judging. In 1977 Gina sold me Stonebar Reflection, who went
on to become my first champion and is the foundation bitch behind all my current
European Borzoi no. 62 Spring 2013
The weekend before Crufts I had another event to look forward to. My young dog Ryazan Anton had qualified to attend the East Anglian Supermatch, an annual competition open to the top winners at certain open shows in the region from the previous year. He had also qualified as a puppy in 2012 but we were unable to attend, so were particularly keen to go this time. Two days before the event, Anton suddenly started to show signs of neck pain, probably caused by an over-vigorous romp with my puppy Portia. Very disappointed, I rested him all day, much to his disgust, and amazingly he was back to normal the next morning. After his bath we duly went off to the match the following day. Anton was beaten in the first round by a top-winning Elkhound, but we still had a great time at the black tie dinner and dance which followed.
A few days later, just two days before Crufts, I found Anton holding one foot up. This time one of his toes was slightly swollen and painful. I could not believe that this had happened a second time just before an important event. Rest was once again the order of the day and the next day there was an improvement, but lameness was still detectable at the trot. Luckily the weather had been fine so Anton was still fairly clean from his previous bath. I decided it was worth washing his legs and taking him to Crufts on the off chance that he would be sound enough to show.
On the day of the show my husband gloomily pronounced Anton still slightly lame. My friend Tanya Prokhorova was visiting from Denmark, so we set off with Anton, Portia and her dam Ch. Ryazan Natasha. On arrival I could still detect a slight lameness on the gritty surface of the car park. We had a long walk into the show in the drizzle and finally got the dogs settled on their benches. We were the second breed in the ring so I dashed off for a quick look around the vast number of stands. Crufts is a shoppers’ paradise with so much merchandise available, some of it not even connected to dogs! I managed to keep my money in my purse although very tempted by a couple of Borzoi statues, one a rare piece I had never seen before.
Coming back to the benches it was time to look at Anton. On the smooth surface at the NEC I could not see much wrong with him. Just before he was due in the ring, I asked Dee Roth-Brown, who is very experienced with both dogs and horses, to check him out, and she pronounced him sound! The ring was carpeted so that was even better. I felt that Anton was going well, but every time I ran him back to Gina I dreaded that she would shake her head and tell me that he was lame. I need not have worried, as we soon found ourselves at the head of a post graduate class of 10, with second place going to Anton’s litter brother Andre, owned by Christine Spencer (Strelkos).
Well-wishers then started to tell me I would win the CC, but I didn’t pay too much attention. Anton is only just 2 years old, very young for top awards, and I was just grateful that he had been sound enough to compete. Back in the ring for the challenge I began to feel more hopeful, and soon Gina was handing me the coveted ticket. This was the first CC I had ever won at Crufts although I had taken the reserve on two previous occasions, most recently in 2005 with Anton’s dam Ch. Ryazan Heather when she was just 17 months old.
There was just time for a quick phone call home to order the champagne before I was back in the ring, this time with Portia, the puppy. Her brother Palantroika, owned in partnership with Dee, had already won the dog puppy class, so I was delighted when Portia followed suit in the bitch class.
It was soon time to show Natasha, in a strong open bitch class of 11. On her previous judging appointment at the Northern Borzoi Association Ch. show in 2009, Gina had given the then 2 year old Natasha the reserve CC. This time she said to me ‘She must be getting on a bit!’, but I assured her that Natasha was in fact celebrating her sixth birthday that very day. I was quite sure that I had already done my fair share of winning and hoped for nothing more than a place in the class. I was expecting Gina to make a short list, but no, we were straight out into first place.
After that things became rather surreal. It was ridiculous to imagine doing the double, especially at Crufts of all places. I had done it just once before, in Scotland with Heather and her brother, but the dog was no longer in my ownership by that time. Natasha easily gets bored in the ring but this time she rose to the occasion and moved out well with her head up as though she was really enjoying herself. Gina then beckoned me forward from the line and I found myself with a second CC in my hand. The two winners are cousins, both sixth generation homebred in an unbroken line of a dual CC winning son of Reflection followed by four champion bitches.
Now I needed help from a handler. Natasha had previously lived with Dee when we had her in co-ownership, so she came into the ring to handle her in the BOB challenge. This award went to Anton, which pleased me as I thought he would probably give a better performance in the big ring. After a quick photocall we rushed off to get the puppies, and Portia beat her brother to give me a clean sweep. By this time I was so amazed that I had to check the awards board to convince me that we had taken best puppy as well. Personally I have great respect for any judge who is strong-minded enough to judge to type, even if that does mean putting up all the dogs from one kennel.
Luckily previous BOB winners Sue Carter, who had won the hound group the previous year with Anton’s sire Ch. Rothesby Sholwood Snow Hawk, and Lena Hamel were on hand to tell me what to do next, as it was all rather chaotic. Tanya and I took the dogs on the long trek to the benches outside the arena where the groups are held. I was reminded that there was prize money on offer, so Tanya went off to track it down. This proved to be no easy task although she succeeded in the end. Meanwhile, I filled in a form required for the big ring commentary giving information about Anton. Once in the collecting area things became much more efficient. We were sent to two photographers, one for a formal standing shot and the other for an informal picture of the handler sitting with the dog. The lights were so bright it was impossible not to be dazzled, but Anton took it all in his stride. We were then directed to the chair reserved for our breed and asked to stay put while the terrier group finished. After that we were straight into the big ring, in alphabetical order as usual, under the glare of the TV cameras. We were given very specific instructions about where to move and stand. The ring surface was artificial grass which was very soft to run on, so I had no fears about Anton becoming lame again. He put on an excellent performance for such a youngster and I felt very proud of him. I was sure he would not appeal to the group judge so just relaxed, soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed the experience.
Once out of the ring we faced an enormous trek back to the car in the dark and the rain. I would probably still be wandering around the NEC if Tanya hadn’t managed to find the way. It was nearly midnight by the time we got home, so the champagne had to stay on ice until another day.
Over the next few days I was overwhelmed by all the messages and phone calls, which made the wins even more special. It was a while before I plucked up courage to watch the TV coverage, but after a couple of messages saying that Anton looked good I saw it for myself and felt he represented the breed well. As I had had no time to watch any of the judging I also studied the catalogue to fill in the details.
The day after Crufts Portia came into season and two days later she was lame with an infected foot, so the jinx nearly struck again!
European Borzoi no. 62 Spring 2013