Result: United States Open Championship
Location: Greensboro, Alabama
Post Date: Mar 20, 2023
Submitted By: Ruthann Epp
United States Open Championship Winners (front row): Mark McLean with Touch's Malcolm Story and Jerry Raynor with Woodville's Yukon Cornelius. (Second row): Ruthann Epp, Kirsten Givhan, Jennifer McKemie, Judges Ray Joye and Johnny Atkinson, and Schley Rutherford. (Third row): Royce Lowery, John Ivester, Chris Cagle, Claudia McNamee, Judd Carlton, and Luke Eisenhart.
Topping a field of 29, the 2022-23 Champion of the United States Open is Touch's Malcolm Story, a 7-year-old orange and white pointer male owned by Alex Rickert of Bozeman, Mont., and handled by Mark McLean of Doerun, Ga. He wowed the crowd with five finds and a strong forward race. The runner-up, also handled by Mark McLean, is Woodville's Yukon Cornelius, a 6-year-old tri-color setter male owned by Carl Owens of Awendaw, S. C. Cornelius had four coveys flushed in front of him with a strong race as well. Both dogs have distinguished themselves at multiple trials throughout this season. This year's United States Open was another year of high-level competitors.
The United States Open Championship, for the 12th consecutive year, was held at the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area between Greensboro and Demopolis, Ala. This 3,000-plus acre tract is owned by the Alabama State Lands Division and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Forever Wild program. With the retirement of Bill Mason at the end of 2021, Brae Buckner took the reins of managing the area for field trials of multiple disciplines. She and her team worked with the trial leadership to develop new continuous courses allowing these big running dogs to show off their range and talent. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, high humidity, heavy cover in some places, and mud, these top-notch bird dogs showed their stamina and abilities.
Judges Johnny Atkinson and Ray Joye made the trip from Marion, S. C., to judge the contest. They are popular seasoned field trialers who have judged events from Nevada to Florida and are regular participants as handlers, scouts, and club officials in the North Carolina Field Trial Association trials at Hoffman, North Carolina. This was their first visit to the Forever Wild Field Trial Area here in Alabama, and they were impressed with the grounds and look forward to returning. Everyone enjoyed their company and appreciated their attentive riding.
Touch's Malcolm Story's championship race began at 3:28 on Sunday afternoon with bracemate Lester's Boss Man handled by Gary Lester. They left from the parking area near Highway 32, and Story made a big cast past the cedars and around the fence line until out of sight. At 13, as the judges were going under the Brittany Pond dam, they looked to the left, and there was Story within 15 feet of them, standing at the edge of a fence row like a statue, even with the whole gallery almost on top of him. Birds were flushed, the gun fired, and the excitement began. He disappeared through Taylor Field with his handler riding calmly in the pocket, and the next time he was seen, Lester was calling point in the Wildwoods at 24 and, upon getting there, saw that Boss Man was backing Malcolm Story from 60 feet away. A covey flushed again, which was handled with impeccable manners. He then edged New Ground with a glimpse here and there and had point called at the big tree along the water tower road. Birds boiled out for find number three. Malcom Story headed across the upper part of Gum Springs Bottom and was next seen standing under the big oaks just before crossing the road for find number four. He crossed the road, took the edge of the hayfield to finish the hour, and just before time was called, he slammed on the brakes, and the gallery galloped across the field. It was tense for a minute when no birds could be flushed. McLean knew his dog, rolled the dice, and sent him in for a relocation. Story pinned them, and Mark stepped in front, fired his gun, and the judges said, "Pick him up." The larger-than-usual gallery rode into headquarters under a beautiful red sky with the sun below the horizon, feeling invigorated and privileged to have ridden that afternoon.
Runner-up Woodville's Yukon Cornelius ran the second brace of the trial. He was braced with Erin's Code of Honor, handled by Luke Eisenhart. Because of the thick cover, glimpses of the dogs were all you saw off the breakaway. Cornelius completed his first cast with a find at 10, just below the gap into Little Prairie Pasture. Both dogs showed speed and range, covering the big open area in Bodoc Pasture. Point was called again for Cornelius at 27 on one of the lines. The dogs were back in thick cover, so it took good scouting to keep up with the quick and agile athletes. At 38, Eisenhart's scout, Judd Carlton, called point along the fence line near the red barn for Cornelius. The gallery raced to see another impeccable find as the statuesque, high-headed setter stood for the flush and shot. Both dogs made their way across the road and showed edging the dove field before swinging back into Black Bottom Pasture, where point was called at 45 again for Cornelius. The fence line was thick, but McLean got the birds up for find number four. In the last 15 minutes, Cornelius and bracemate Code of Honor showed far in the distance and continued with a strong forward finish through two pastures up to the Power Plant on Cedar Hill.
The participants and gallery enjoyed the Southern hospitality that they had come to expect at this trial. Natural seasonal clubhouse decorations and evening bonfires created a festive mood. Handlers and visitors enjoyed delicious lunches and dinners, including steaks, barbeque ribs, and other local favorites. William Newman and his wife Sunette catered the meals, and homemade desserts were provided by Henrietta Mason, Theresa Justice, and Olivia Alison. Schley Rutherford managed the full bar and daily snacks and coffee for the dog wagon.
Everything ran smoothly with members affiliated with the club taking turns at marshaling: Bill Mason, Jennifer McKemie, Chris Koutras, Kirsten Givhan, Schley Rutherford, and Ruthann Epp, and hopefully, no one else was missed. John Ivester pulled a horse trailer around so trainers and scouts could swap out horses on the continuous course. With the heat and mud, and trainers running back-to-back, the club has decided that "the horse hauler" will be a permanent addition to every championship held on these grounds. Owners present to watch their dogs were Claudia McNamee, John Ivester, Ruthann Epp, and Chris Cagle, who handled his as well.
The U.S. Open Field Trial Club officers, Schley Rutherford, President; Ruthann Epp, Vice-President; and Jennifer McKemie, Secretary-Treasurer, especially thank Purina and their rep, Greg Blair, for their ongoing sponsorship of this trial and their donation of dog food to the winners. Anonymous donors are also greatly appreciated and are vital to continuing this long-standing field trial tradition.
Clear Creek's Jim (McLean) and Bonner's Hot Rize (Lester) started the stake in drizzling rain and 60 degrees. There was a nice size gallery. Hot Rize had nice finds at 19 and 29, a back, and a good finish. Jim was making some good casts but took a wrong turn and did not return.
Erin's Code of Honor (Eisenhart) and Woodville's Yukon Cornelius (McLean) are covered above.
Rester's Cajun Justice (Eisenhart) and Knight's Hill Little John (Lester) turned loose at 10:35, going into Bodoc pasture. Lester called point for Little John at 8, and Justice backed, but no birds were produced or seen for the remainder of the brace.
Touch's Midnight Rider (McLean) and Chief's Rising Sun (Carlton) started after lunch in hot, humid conditions; both called it quits at 25.
Miller's King Poast (Lester) and Erin's Silver Lining (Raynor) were unsnapped from the rein at 1:58. At 40, Lester fired his pistol over King Poast along the Little Prairie/ Bodoc Pastures' line. Both dogs fought the heat, but no more birds were pointed in the hour.
Lester's Shockwave (Lester) and Touch's Shadow Rider (McLean) started at 3:20. Rider had two finds at 10 and 25. On the second find, McLean had to look to find his dog on point. At 37, Shockwave scored a find with all in order. Rider disappeared and ran out of time, so the tracking device was taken.
Erin's Wild Atlantic Way (Eisenhart) and Haney's Storm Warrior (Cagle) started the second morning under overcast skies at 50 degrees. Atlantic Way had one find and pointed along the road on the bare ground, so Eisenhart took him on, but Atlantic Way was right; birds were there. Warrior had backed. Warrior had two finds at 36 and 46. Both dogs were strong throughout the brace.
Browntown Doc Holiday (Raynor) and Dunn's True Reign (Eisenhart) were turned loose at 9:18, and both went birdless.
Erin's Primetime (Raynor) and Miller's Heat Advisory (Carlton) went birdless and were picked up before the hour.
Southern Nation (Henry) and Touch's Gallatin Fire (McLean) took the stage after lunch. They scored a find and made some casts but did not change the standings.
Lester's Storm Surge (Lester) and Supreme Confidence (Eisenhart) put down at 2:09 for the second brace of the afternoon. At 17, the two dogs shared a find. Then at 48, Storm Surge had birds again with Confidence backing.
Lester's Boss Man (Lester) and Touch's Malcolm Story (McLean) are covered above.
Erin's High Note (Carlton) and Touch's Breakaway Fred (McLean) had the first brace on Monday. Fred pointed at 9, and High Note backed, but no birds were flushed.
Shadow's Lord Magic (Eisenhart) and Lester's Storm Chaser (Lester) were released at 9:03. Storm Chaser had a stylish find at 17, and then two minutes later, Lester called point, but all that was seen was feathers. Eisenhart asked for the tracking device at 35.
Erin's Perfect Storm (Eisenhart) ran as a bye. At 11, Storm had point called with birds below Black Cow Pond dam before crossing the culvert. He made a cast around New Ground and was found pointed below VIP pond for find number two but did not finish the hour.
Greensboro, Ala., December 3
Judges: Johnny Atkinson and Ray Joye
UNITED STATES OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] - 26 Pointers and 3 Setters
Winner-TOUCH'S MALCOLM STORY, 1675103, pointer male, by Touch's Knight Rider-Blackhawk's Sunflower. Alex Rickert, owner; Mark McLean, handler.
Runner-Up-WOODVILLE'S YUKON CORNELIUS, 1673091, setter male, by Caladen's Davinci-A Tarheel Miss Bo. Carl Owens, owner; Mark McLean, handler.