Result: Florida Open Championship
Location: Branford, Florida
Post Date: Feb 2, 2021
Submitted By: Tom Word
BRANFORD, FLA. -- Fifty-four dogs, including two English setters, were drawn for the Florida Open All-Age Championship, starting Sunday, January 10, at Chinquapin Farm, Branford, Fla., under the experienced eyes of Judges Cecil Rester of Angie, La, and Woody Watson of Leesburg, Ga.
The 54 would go first in 40-minute qualifying braces, four before and four after lunch. When all had run, twelve were called back for the one-hour finals, commencing after lunch Wednesday. They were, in the order of running: Dominator's Rebel Heir (named Top Qualifier) with Lester's Storm Surge; Knight Moon with Miller's Stray Bullet; Dogwood Bill with Touch's Gallatin Fire; the winner and runner-up; and to conclude, Dominator's Rogue Rebel and Chinquapin Legacy.
Uniquely, three of the finalists, including the runner-up, are full siblings, sired by Just Irresistible out of Miller's Bring the Heat.
Quail were abundant on all courses, but as always, inclined to run, not together as a covey but scattering in all directions through the wiregrass. Cold, damp mornings greeted us daily, then warmed slightly after lunch. Conditions were ideal throughout, except for a light shower briefly during the second finals brace.
THE WINNERS AND FINALS BRACES
Named champion was Touch's Mega Mike, powerful six-year-old pointer handled by Mark McLean for owners Eddie Sholar and Ted Dennard. He ran an epic race on the famous second morning course, perhaps quaildom's most scenic, and scored dug-up finds at 26 in thicket at the front just right of course path, and beyond power line on left at 36, a beauty on the limb. From there he coursed wide and forward, swinging to the limits in true all-age form. He finished far forward toward the highway. Mark Haynes scouted.
Mike won the All-America and National Derby Championships in 2017 and subsequently the Masters Open Quail Championship. He was Purina Dog of the Year for the 2017-2018 season. He was sired by House's Ring of Fire out of Touch's Blaylock Bess.
Bracemate Miller Unfinished Business, handled by Joel Norman for Benjy Griffith of Senah Plantation, Leesburg, Ga., ran a forward, handling race at good range and found birds at 18 near fire lane by highway on right, again by that fire lane at 23, and at 59 on a distant swing, a big, smooth race throughout. When they finished, the fifth of six finals braces, the judges knew they had strong candidates for winner and runner-up, and so it transpired. Jamie Daniels scouted Business.
Business, whelped February 27, 2014, won the Masters Open Shooting Dog Championship in 2016 and 2017, and the National Open Shooting Dog Championship in 2018. He was sired by Just Irrestible out of Miller's Bring the Heat, a remarkable nick. Two siblings of the runner-up were finalists, Miller's Stray Bullet (Norman) and Miller's Blindsider (Daniels). Sibling Miller's Bushwacker (Daniels) also competed but was not called back.
In the first finals brace after lunch Wednesday, Dominator's Rebel Heir, Top Qualifier, (Daniels) on "27" nailed birds at 10 and at the finish in a good run, redeeming one unproductive at 7. Bracemate Lester's Storm Surge had an unproductive at 18 and went birdless.
In the second finals brace Knight Moon had a bobble at 30, hard luck for Tommy Davis which plagued him all week. Miller's Stray Bullet (Norman) found birds at 32, 40 and at time in a moderate race.
In the third finals brace Dogwood Bill (Daniels) and Touch's Gallatin Fire (McLean) put on a good show with wide, forward races. Bill scored at 10 and 53, Fire at 15, 30 and 59 near the clubhouse.
In Thursday's first finals brace, Dominator's Rogue Rebel (Daniels) had finds at 3, 8 and 25, only to be lost at 55. Last year's champion Chinquapin Legacy (Sikes) which backed Squire at 3, was also lost.
The champion and runner-up went next.
In the last finals brace, Miller's Blindsider (Daniels) was lost. Lester's Speed Dial (Lester), last year's National Champion, started with a spectacular limb find in Swallow 'Em Bottom at 15 and found birds again at 30 and 33 but was soon after picked up on handler's motion to conclude the trial.
Luke Eisenhart was called home for isolation before the start when his wife tested positive for COVID-19, leaving Tommy Davis to handle his string as well as his own. He began in the first brace with True Confidence which suffered unproductives at 28 and 31 just beyond the new gas line station. Bracemate Miller's Bushwacker (Norman) scored at 39 all in order.
Hilltopper Debutante (John Russell) moved on birds to be lifted at 8 (John had forgot his pistol and she apparently became frustrated by the long silence). Touch's Dancing Nancies (Kent Cantrell) scored at 3 and 38, but moved a bit on the second at the end of a pleasing ground effort. She is a nice one and handler and gallery enjoyed her performance.
Lester's Storm Surge (Lester) scored at 4 on left, suffered an unproductive where a rabbit was seen after restart and had a good find at 18 in a wide effort to gain a callback. Wild Hawk (Carlton) tallied the limb at 20 with relocation and was forward throughout. Storm Surge backed here.
Dunn's True Reign (Davis) scored at 32 in a race that was short. Chinquapin Bear (Warren) suffered unproductives at 10 and 16.
Chinquapin Bill (Warren) had the same fate as Bear at 13 and 20 on "27", the second divided with Dominator's Bull Market (Daniels) which had finds at 5, 14 and 20 in a pleasing race.
Touch's Breakaway Fred (McLean), a first year, suffered the two unproductive fate. Southern Sparkle Jule (Cantrell) gave her handler a thrill with a strong race and finds at 33 and 39.
The day's best had been saved for last as Dominator's Rebel Heir, champion here in 2017, hunted the last course to the limits and scored at 14 and at the end of a spectacular finishing cast where he came back from the front looking for handler. He was at the front and distant start to finish, using all the ground available in an epic race to be long remembered, earning top qualifier. Touch's Joy Ride (McLean) suffered unproductives at 2 and 20.
Touch's Folsum Blues (McLean) was lost early. Confident Nation (Davis) found no birds.
Erin's Prometheus (Davis) and Rebel Cause (Daniels) crossed Buck's Hill coursing right to left and were next seen in the depression left side of the course beyond, then again near the last left turn. Rebel Cause had scored at 6 and was wide and forward throughout. Prometheus found birds at 30 and 38 and hunted with diligence.
Chinquapin Boss (Warren), a young Derby, was exciting. He found birds at 14 and whirled but his rear feet stayed put. At 22 he had a rabbit, a non-event, then scored at 30 with good manners and finished reaching. Lester's Georgia Time (McLean) found no birds. His owners, Jim Clark and Baker Hubbard, had been on hand Sunday.
Dogwood Bill (Daniels) found birds at 30 and 32 and covered the country attractively. Woodville's Yukon Cornelius (McLean), a handsome setter found birds on relocation at 15 and twice more at 21 and 23. They had an unproductive divided on edge of power line near time.
Miller's Stray Bullet (Daniels) on "27" found birds at 16 and 22 and hunted at good range. Knight Moon (Davis) found birds at 7, 15 and 30 and suffered an unproductive at 23 in a worthy race. Both were called back.
Touch's Gallatin Fire (McLean) found birds at 30 and 39 and ran a forward wide race to gain a callback. Strut Nation (Jordan) scored at 37 and hunted wide.
Miller Unfinished Business (Norman) found birds at 1 and 35, and suffered an unproductive at 39 in a smooth, wide run to gain a callback. Chinquapin Legacy (Sikes), last year's champion, scored at the front at 16 and divided the find at 35. He suffered an unproductive at 38. He too was called back.
Lester's Shock Wave (Lester) found birds at 25 and covered lots of country. Touch's Red Rider (Davis) scored at 12, then suffered two unproductives to be lifted at 37.
Touch's Mega Mike (McLean) scored at 32, and went big to gain a callback. Johnny Paycheck (Rice) scored at 25 and backed at 32 in a moderate race. (He was scouted by Murphy Renfroe, grandson of Joe Hicks, who trained Paycheck for Chester Stokes who was riding with Joe.)
Dunn's Tried'N True (Davis) had owner Will Dunn riding. He ran a smooth forward race and connected with birds at 4 and 15, all in order. Dominator's Rogue Rebel (Daniels) scored at 35.
Northwood's Sir Gordon (Rice), a handsome setter, was lifted on handler motion. Connor's Trigger Man (Rayl) scored at 3 on edge near highway, then ran a big race covering lots of country.
Miller's Heat Advisory (Daniels) was lost. Awesome's Country Justice (Davis) scored at 15 and 21 and suffered an unproductive at 28.
Charitable Deed (Rice) scored at 8 and suffered an unproductive at 17 in a moderate race. Aces R Wild (McLean) scored at 20. At 32 he was tagged with an unproductive when birds left before judge's approach and was lifted.
Miller's Blindsider (Daniels) scored at the pond at 34 after a relocation and hunted wide to gain a callback. Frontline Rebel Obsession (Rice) found no birds.
Touch's Malcom Story (McLean) found no birds. Lester's Speed Dial (Lester) had a big race and went lots of places, with a distant find called by scout near power line left of Big House, to gain a callback.
Dominator's Rebel Squire (Daniels) was picked up on handler's motion, and Oceola's Rebel Chief (Davis) had an unproductive at 11 and was lifted.
Touch's White Water (McLean) scored at 26 and 35 in a smooth race. Just Thrillin' (Rice) was lost.
Senah's Back in Business (Norman) scored at 30 and was responsive but not wide enough. Sandhill Little Juney (Rayl) scored at 21 and 32 but did not gain a callback.
Chinquapin Dynasty (Sikes) had started his career in the Robin Gates string where he had success as a Derby in Canada. Brought home to Chinquapin, he gets lots of duty in the hunting string. His biggest hazard would be finding birds early, putting him in a bird-hunting frame of mind. And so it transpired, with finds at 3 and 11, followed by an unproductive at 14, and he was lifted at 22. Grand Prairie Thrill (Rice) was picked up at 17 on an unproductive.
The twelve callback dogs were announced at lunch, three braces to go Wednesday afternoon and three Thursday morning.
Branford, Fla., January 10
Judges: Cecil R. Rester and Woody Watson
FLORIDA OPEN ALL-AGE CHAMPIONSHIP
[Forty-Minute Qualifying Heats; One-Hour Finals] -- 52 Pointers and 2 Setters
Winner--TOUCH'S MEGA MIKE, 1669609, pointer male, by House's Ring of Fire--Touch's Blaylock Bess. Eddie Sholar & Ted Dennard, owners; Mark McLean, handler.
Runner-Up--MILLER UNFINISHED BUSINESS, 1661405, pointer male, by Just Irresistible--Miller's Bring The Heat. Benjy Griffith, owner; Joel Norman, handler.
OBSERVATIONS AT CHINQUAPIN
The grounds were immaculate and laden with quail. A club hunt on Friday yielded 44 coveys moved. The cover at Chinquapin - wiregrass under widely scattered pines - makes the birds extra wary of avian dangers - hawks and birdshot - so they run, run far and fast and not as a group but in all directions. Relocations are perilous, unproductives frequent. Dogs trained and run mostly on released birds often fail here. It takes a wise dog with a good nose and experience on wild birds to succeed here.
Every second week of January produces a house party at the Chinquapin Big House. The judges occupy their own rooms in a separate structure on the east side as does Ted on the west side. Others sleep on the ground floor. The top floor, with concrete beamed cathedral ceiling, is the fun room, stage for conversation, libations and meals fit for royalty, all warmed by a giant fireplace, frequently staked with split oak logs honoring the late Tom Kennard.
Ted Baker, Howard Brooks and John Milton are accomplished chefs. The ladies make the salads. Certain dishes are traditional, sure to appear during trial week -- white acre peas and rice, leg of lamb, turkey, tenderloin, roast chicken and desserts, including ice cream and cakes.
Breakfasts are special, prepared by Tee Hicks, who arrives at 5:30 a.m. Bacon and sausage with scrambled eggs, buttered and toasted English muffins and Mahaw jelly, everyone's favorite. Grits are done to perfection by John Milton, the Grits Master. Pounds are not lost at Chinquapin trial week.
This year Holly Parker Rester joined by Kathy Jones and Vivian Milton led the merriment. Ted's lifelong best friend, Jimmy Stockton, who has lead a charmed life, told fascinating tales of African safari adventures. He's collected them in a book.
And a special guest this year at the Big House was Danny Bardwell of Hammond, La., construction manager for the Lemoine Company which has played a major role in helping New Orleans' hospitals respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Involved in trials many years ago, Danny gave them up to raise a family but is back now, motivated by grandson Lane. He and Judge Rester went to North Dakota together to train this summer. Danny is a talented writer of short stories set in our sport, and has sold several to Sporting Classics, a very discriminating publisher. Like your scribe, he is not tall. But he is fun.
For Wednesday's afternoon finals, Danny was mounted on a three-year-old gray gelding of Judge Rester's he had ridden in North Dakota without difficulty. But this was the young steed's first field trial and it gave Danny a test. When Danny's same mount seemed restless before the Thursday morning start, waiting for ground fog to lift, Danny was supplied with a calm Chinquapin guest horse, much to his riding pleasure.
Several owners came to ride. It was good to have Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton from Kentucky. They are sponsors of Lester's Storm Surge and Lester's Shock Wave with Gary Lester. As always, they were mounted on fine horses. And speaking of horses, they are getting very expensive! This adds to the expenses of pro handlers, already pressed by rising campaigning and training costs.
There were many fine mounts at Chinquapin, ridden by handlers, scouts and gallery. Judd Carlton's buckskins are remarkable scout horses, and he rides them fearlessly. Tommy Davis is always well mounted, and rides magnificently. He worked hard at Chinquapin, handling his and Luke Eisenhart's entries after Luke was called home to quarantine.
Claudia McNamee rode most braces and on fine steeds. She reported the Invitational at Paducah in November. Asked about this experience, she said, "It was cold." Yes, it was, Claudia, this old scribe can attest.
The team at Chinquapin were as always efficient and helpful and had everything well organized for the trial. Manager, Slade Sikes, dog trainer, Ray Warren, dog truck driver, Darrell "Cowboy" Summers, Don Sparrow, Seth Thompson, Dusty Derringer and Jervin Johnson all performed well their assigned duties, including marshaling and wrangling mounts. Tee Hicks and Belinda Sikes prepared and served delicious lunches, including chili, free to all, and prepared the side dishes for Tuesday night's fresh ham dinner. Many friendships were renewed and memories shared.
WHO WAS NOT HERE
At the Big House and on tail gates, departed handlers and owners were recalled and missed. First among these were Robin Gates, so long a leader of the handler ranks. The winner's performance on the second course recalled Silverwood's epic winning performance there in 2002, and Sliverwood's owner, Dr. Everett Crouch, was on hand atop the dog truck.
Missing "Big" especially was Judge Rester. They had been close friends and partners in working dogs, fishing and turkey hunting for decades. Cecil is emotional in remembering Robin.
"He loved to work dogs, more than running them in trials. He worked hard at it and when that was done in the spring, he loved fishing. I turned him on to the great fishing in the Gulf, and we often enjoyed it together."
THE MORELAND-LEESBURG CONNECTION
Mark McLean was a successful farmer and business man and an amateur field trialer until a few years ago. And then he tried being a pro, handling a few dogs besides his own. His success was immediate, and he soon achieved Purina Top Handler status and has stayed at or near the top.
How he got there is part of the culture of the Moreland family (his mother's family). From the first George Moreland who assembled large farm and timber holdings, starting with nothing in the 1920s, and left them unencumbered to his children on his death in 1954, though Mark's uncle Big George (Jr.) and cousin Bubba (George III) the Morelands have long been pivotal in bird dogs and field trials and giving to the sport. Mark carries on that heritage.
Hailey Moreland, daughter of Bubba, loves Mark and rides front where he handles whenever she can, and she was overjoyed by Mega Mike's win here, a goal Mark has sought from his start as a pro.
Judge Woody Watson is part of the Leesburg culture too. His family has owned farmland there many generations and he manages farm and other real property in Lee County and the Albany area as well. He has long been part of the Masters trials, all-age and shooting dog, and judged extensively.
Cecil Rester is one of the special cadry of semi-pros, men who study and practice the art of bird dog development. He is a study in what it takes to breed, select and develop an all-age champion. He starts with the females - he keeps two brood matrons. They must be sound bird dogs, with good conformation and bird finding talents and mothering instincts. He believes a good bitch will produce winners from most any proven stud. His frequent presence in winner's lists proves his theory.
He brought four dog horses to Chinquapin. And he brought Holly, who added much to the success of the trial. And Holly too is from Leesburg.
Professional photographer Chris Mathan, who manages the wonderful field trialing website, Strideway, came Thursday and took photos, concentrating this year on the people. You can find them on Strideway.com.
Chris has had great success promoting the Youth Field Trial Alliance, and youth trials are growing fast. We owe you, Chris.
The Rebels and the White Dogs.
Pointing dog field trailers know what "Rebels" and "White Dogs" are. If you need a refresher on the origin of the Rebel line, go to Strideaway.com and read Everett Skeehan's marvelous interview with Fred Arant, Jr. from the March 29, 1997 issue of The American Field.
Fred Arant, Jr. was instrumental in the developing the line from a cross of Rambling Rebel Dan and Miss Mary Doone. Newman's Delivery Dan, by Fast Delivery, was the sire of Rambling Rebel Dan, and he sired A Rambling Rebel, and the rest is history.
The White Dogs started with Riggins White Knight. Ferrel Miller took over the line's breeding and development from D. Hoyle Eaton, whose handling career was sparked by White Knight. Ferrel has had many acolytes in breeding and developing the White Dogs, none so successful as Gary Lester, big-scale Kentucky farmer and now a pro handler and multiple winner of the National Championship. Gary has two jackets, one red and one blue, embossed on the back with the names of his National Champions.
The followers of Fred Arant breeding the Rebel dogs included John Criswell and Tony Terrell of Texas and go on to Tony's apprentice Fred Dileo, who had just achieved the goal of winning the National Championship with Funseeker's Rebel in 2007 when tragically killed in a freak vehicle accident. Fred's apprentice, Jamie Daniels, has admirably carried on with the line with Rebel offspring such as Dominator's Rebel Heir (top qualifier in the 2021 Florida and winner of this championship in 2017) and Just Irresistible (runner-up in 2016), sire of the three full-sibling Florida callbacks this year including the runner-up, Miller Unfinished Business.
There is another connection to the Rebel line and Fred Arant, Jr. competing at Chinquapin, Jack Schwarz, who owns Dominator's Rogue Rebel, handled by Jamie.
Jack, a renowned farrier at Aiken, S. C., horse facilities, worked for Fred Arant, Jr. scouting the Rebel dogs in Fred's hayday. His telling of it, which I heard in a Crosby, N. D., motel while attending the North Dakota Classics, is hilarious.
Jack's pay was thin, and to supplement his income Jack started shoeing horses at lunch break. Soon he was making more shoeing than scouting.
He and Fred had a big two weeks at Waynesboro one year and won a bunch. Joe Odom was out of commission so did not scout any. When the scout's share of purses was counted, Jack was looking forward to a nice payday. But Fred said, "Now, Jack, you now that Joe did a lot to get those dogs ready. Don't you think you should share with Joe?"
Jack did not think so, but did as Fred suggested.
Soon after, Jack left Fred to pursue shoeing full time, and the rest is history. Jack also developed a farrier supply business.
By Tom Word
A magic place
For fifty years
For bird dog folk
Where quail live wild
Neath every pine
And run when pointed
Before they fly
Where old handlers
Dream to run
To turn loose
A really good one
To watch it reach
Over the sand
To a distant ridge
And there to stand
Nose tilted up
Tail straight and high
To see quail flush
While dog stays put
A statue there
As all admire
As pistol cracks
And time stands still
Then water him
Bath in a tub
Scout collars him
Then turns him loose
To reach again
For quail in the wire grass
Way yonder there
It's been like so since '69
When Ted encouraged by Red Weddle
First opened Chinquapin
To bird dog men
To try trials here
A magic moment for our sport
To bring the handlers
A healthy purse
Built barn and clubhouse
Paddocks and pastures
Supplied the hay
Fed all lunch free
Plus highballs and an oyster roast
Lured by the purses
And the birds
The handlers came
From all the south
Gates and Moreland
Arant and Jines
Smith and Grubb
Rayl and Epp and more
Owners came to watch their dogs
Welcomed by Ted to the Suwannee Club
Some still come but many are gone
Wheat and Fiveash
T Jack and Murph and Tom Kennard
Missed by all
And so it's been
For fifty years
Heaven on Earth to Bird Dog Men
And ladies too
Thank you, Mr. Ted