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Result: Continental Open All-Age Championship

Location: Greeville, Florida

Post Date: Feb 14, 2022

Submitted By: Andrew Campbell

continental-aa-ch

Continental All-Age Championship. John Mathys and Judd Carlton with winner Notorious Dominator Heir, Tracy Swearingen with R-U Dunn's True Reign, Cathy Priddy, Lee Phillips, Kira Jenkins, Maria Bassham with Jacob McCormick, Brianna Ryan, Shawn Mathys, Diane Mathys, Judge Sean Derrig, Larron Copeland, Julie Livingston Ripley, Tracy Haines, Morgan Hooks, Todd Kellam, Claudia McNamee, Luke Eisenhart, Patty Ewer Sanderson, Garland Priddy, Chip Jenkins, Dan McCormick, Shannon Braden, Ken Mathys, Destiny Braden, Alex Jackson, reporter Andrew Campbell, John-Michael McCormick, Cecil Rester, William Smith, Morgan Hooks, Tommi Smith, Randy Floyd, Clay Sisson.[Photo by Chris Mathan]

GREENVILLE, FLA. -- For its 127th running, the Continental saw a smaller-than-usual field of 23 pointers and three setters, from which the well-known judges, Sean Derrig and Garland Priddy, selected Notorious Dominator's Heir, an almost-four-year-old white and liver pointer bred by Chris Mathan, owned and handled by John Mathys as champion, with Dunn's True Reign, an almost-five-year-old white and orange pointer bred by Will Dunn, owned by Claudia MacNamee and Norris Sims, and handled by Luke Eisenhart as runner-up.

The Continental Field Trial Club is extremely grateful for support from its old and new families, the Livingston Family and Tall Timbers, as well as the following companies and individuals: Nestle-Purina for its perennial support of this event in particular, and the great sport of field trialing in general; AgPro for its financial contributions and the loan of two John Deere Gators for the duration of the trial; the anonymous donor who added an additional $15,000 in prize money for the winner and runner-up; Miss Gloria Hagen for her ongoing hospitality and administrative support; and the following donors for their sponsorship of the water tanks distributed regularly around the course -- Kent Cantrell, Larron and Laura Copeland, Dr. Ron Deal, Dixie Trace Field Trial Association, Jim Hamilton, Hancock Construction, Karen and Bruce Norton, Alex Rickert, and Mike and Laura Shea.

With the recent acquisition of the American Field Publishing Company by the United Kennel Club, the club also appreciates UKC Vice-President Todd Kellam coming to ride for several days of the Derby and Championship to come to understand the magic of pointing dog field trialing.

The trial could not have gone smoothly without the help of the entire Livingston Place staff, and especially that of John Michael McCormick and Shannon Braden for their course marshaling skills.

While the first afternoon saw warm, short-sleeve weather, the remainder of the trial was cool, if not cold, with light, steady rain on Friday afternoon and into Saturday morning. Birdwork was at a premium throughout the Championship -- and while there were occasional pockets of finds, it could not be said that any of the competitors suffered from "too much birdwork."

That the grounds had apparently only experienced a single killing frost so far this winter was obvious from a visual point of view with the cover far taller than in the previous two years -- which gave plenty of overhead cover for birds to run through, as well as confounding both dogs and handlers trying to keep track of each other. The other intriguing detail to come from the resident Tall Timbers wildlife biologist, Alex Jackson, was confirmation of these birds' preference to run rather than flush. With radio trackers on coveys on two of the Livingston Place hunting courses, Jackson has been following the hunting parties on those two courses throughout the season - and has come to the startling realization that if the birds were not flushed within 8-12 seconds of being pointed, they would start to run -- and run fast and far. And this would be borne out during the trial by the number of successful relocations: of 23 relocation efforts, only a single one would prove fruitful and that just a single (presumably the mythical "Wilson bird") -- while the remainder of that covey would rise in a two large clusters a further 30 yards as the dog was collared and taken on. In short, birds were either pinned close or not at all.

THE WINNERS

Notorious Dominator Heir had initially run on Friday afternoon in the ninth brace, drawn with Supreme Confidence, owned by Claudia MacNamee, and handled by Luke Eisenhart. Turned loose from above the Livingston Road crossing, the action would begin with a call of point for Confidence at 3 some 100 yards above a small, wet pond, looking up into some dense bramble cover -- but despite vigorous flushing and an extensive relocation effort, it would be like almost every other, and prove for naught. Heir would also come to a stop at 4 near the prominent oak a little further closer to the hayfield edge, but this too would yield nothing.

Swinging around underneath the hayfields below the Big House, Confidence would swing around the outside edge down along the swamp, Heir the upper shoulder to the left. As the gallery climbed the red clay track towards Livingston Road, Heir was moving with purpose along the upper, roadside edge of the hayfield to the left (albeit then turning west along the next section of woody cover, to be met by his scout and turned back forward). As the gallery reached the height of the track, Eisenhart called point at 17 for Confidence down on the Cadillac Pond edge to the right, the dog perhaps 50 yards from the pond edge looking upslope and upwind into an oakey thicket, a small handful of birds flying out at first flush. The call of point came for Heir at 18, high up on the shoulder of the bowl, only a couple of birds leaving from that spot too -- leaving one to speculate whether the two dogs had pinned two parts of a larger, scattered covey.

As the gallery approached the Oil Drum Field, the call of point would come for Heir from far out on the other side of the pond on the long, low rise to Kudzu Hill at 28, the birds still pinned directly ahead of him in the shaggy cover block. Confidence's scout would also call point from roughly 200 yards further up the same slope at 30, his dog over on the right side of the feed trail. After a vigorous flushing effort, the dog would be asked to relocate -- and after dropping down to search the lower slope, the scout, the reporter, and the dog's owner would begin to move toward the handler and dog only to have a single bird pop from the edge of the trail. Unable to score it a find because the dog had not (yet) accurately located this single, it was nonetheless recorded as a "nothing" (rather than a non-productive) because circumstances had prevented the still-searching dog from doing so.

Through the Big Garrett Field, and swinging up to the north across the slope, Confidence would come to a stop at 47 roughly three-quarters up the slope below the prominent oak, birds readily flushed ahead of him. Both dogs would finish their hour below Kudzu Hill -- their multiple finds and strong races earning them both a place in the championship proper.

Notorious Dominator Heir then ran on Sunday morning in the third and final brace of the Championship callback series, once more braced with Supreme Confidence.

Turned loose from the regular morning course breakaway at 9 a.m. to allow some of the frost to dissipate, both dogs initially broke away down the right field edge, Heir then swinging east across the front through the wooded corridor between the first two open fields. As the gallery passed roughly halfway through this 150-yard wide corridor of oaks and scrub cover, Heir would be seen roughly 175 yards up the slope to the left at 5. Field trialing is about painting pictures for the judges - and as a reporter I like to spend a little more time describing the find that best captures what is so magical about the sport, the find that if a complete stranger were to see it would leave even perhaps the coldest-hearted spectator spellbound. As it happened, the future winner of the Championship would card that find.

I was reminded of Ozark Ripley's first paragraph in Quail and the Quail Dog (1924) which ends: "a running pointer or setter suddenly wheels and becomes frozen into a marble-like posture, inflexible, tense of muscle, yet with nostrils aquiver and eyes overly large staring into vacancy as though in a self-hypnotic state." (p.11)

We had not seen him wheel into his stop, although he must have done as he stood facing back up into the westerly breeze, standing tall despite standing diagonally across the angle of the slope, the golden rays of the morning sun creating warm bands of color against the green understory. His head was cranked upward, his eyes nevertheless fixed downward, and not a muscle moved as the birds were flushed out directly ahead of him. Confidence would also come to a stop at 7, on the far side of the next open field, on the front edge of the low rise, Preacher's Hog Pond to the right. But we were now in the territory of ghosts and specters -- and as it would a few minutes later -- the "Phantom Covey" would claim another victim, despite extensive flushing and relocation efforts. Heir had been taken past the scene along the cow pasture field edge to the east and, roughly parallel with where the course turns west past Cindy's Oak, he would come to a stop at 11 in the feed trail adjacent to the oaks on the pasture field edge, looking westward into the next section of cover blocks. But whatever wraiths of scent had stopped him had left no other trace. Having already reached the road crossing, Eisenhart informed his fellow-competitor when he rejoined him at the front that his dog had successfully crossed over and moved out into the woods to the northwest. In the meantime, Confidence had come over the road and dropped along the upper edge of the No.1 Cotton Field down towards the lower swamp edge -- where he would be found standing at 21, the birds readily flushed out ahead of him into the sweetgum trees.

Through the Big Garrett Field, Heir would be seen swinging out on the little apron of woods to the right at its conclusion before swinging forward, disappearing into the woods cover on the left where Confidence had already moved out into. As the gallery reached the head of the long field, Heir would pop out at the entrance to the #4 Field, swing across the narrow gap and punch up the wooded shoulder towards the summit of Pike's Peak. He would be gathered up and taken over the Cadillac Pond crossing at 42, although by this time Confidence had not been seen in some time. And as the gallery reached the beginning of the Cadillac Field, Heir could be seen running the field edge and dropping back into the woods at its termination, to then run the lower left edge. He then watered the dog shortly before the hour, shortly before the start of Acorn Hill, sending the dog out on the left side of the woods -- where he would be seen pushing out the facing slope below Gene's Field. In the meantime, Eisenhart had acknowledged defeat and asked for his tracking unit at 58. Gathered up at the top of the rise, Mathys began a regular cycle of watering the dog at roughly 10minute intervals - perhaps as much for his own benefit as for the dog's -- the dog certainly still appearing to move well past the Turkey Field at 1:20 and down around to the Boy Scout House. Sent directly over the hill to the southwest of the house, Heir would nevertheless swing around to east as the gallery crossed the dirt road, climbed the low rise and made its own turn east past the Livingston Family water tank, the dog seen by the judges out ahead towards the edge of Long Pond. At the call of time, he would be readily gathered up from that pond edge towards its culmination at the dirt road, consistently forward, and still moving smoothly even if there had been little opportunity for him to really show hard to the front in the final twenty minutes.

If the Continental were a two-series trial, with the cumulative effort of almost-three-hours work taken into consideration, and with Tommy Davis handling him for a sick Luke Eisenhart, Dunn's True Reign would certainly have been on the podium last year. As it was, this year he was nevertheless fortunate to have been the recipient of some good fortune and good sportsmanship -- which is not to diminish the dog's performance in any way, but rather to say that sometimes even great dogs need good luck.

He had initially run on Thursday afternoon in the third brace of the qualifying series, drawn with Showtime Mockingjay, owned by Larron and Laura Copeland, and handled by Larron. With the previous brace ending prematurely, the two dogs would be turned loose westward at the Long Field heading for the Livingston Road crossing. With Mockingjay taking the left edge, True Reign was sent up the wooded corridor on the right, in a flashback to how he had concluded the qualifying series the previous year, coursing boldly up its center, visible almost the entire time. Crossing the road, Mockingjay would initially make for the upper field edge, flirt with some scent, and then push out almost directly southwest for the swamp edge, True Reign having descended directly into the bowl from the road and headed in the same direction perhaps a minute or so ahead of her. Mockingjay was found on point at 16, down towards that lower swamp edge but as with so many before and after, even an extended, wide relocation would yield nothing. True Reign had stuck on that righthand edge and stopped at 21 down near the swamp edge below the northernmost corner of the Cadillac Field. Both dogs would swing through the valley above Cadillac Pond and as the course swung west, both dogs would swing south around the far side of the pond, coming back to their handlers at the end of the Oil Drum Field and taken through the Moccasin Creek crossing. As True Reign moved smoothly along the swamp edge towards the Rogers Pond crossing, Mockingjay had been promptly gathered up and taken through in a final effort to locate birds around Kudzu Hill. Copeland called point seconds before the call of time down on the left slope, but no manner of flushing or relocation would produce a bird. With this consistent sixty-minute effort and single stylish find, True Reign would earn his place in the Championship.

He would run in the first brace of the Championship callback, drawn with Erin's Tin Star, owned by Mike Sweet, and handled by Judd Carlton. The dogs would run on the Saturday afternoon, using the conventional afternoon course.

Both dogs moved swiftly through the woods below the Hagen House, reuniting with their handlers at the Boyd Corner tank. Into the Big Woods and both dogs would push out to the right shoulder, Tin Star then swinging across ahead of his handler as the course more obviously angled parallel to the pond edge on the left. Roughly three-quarters along that edge, a more defined swale with several live oaks in its hollow funnels up to the low ridge at the Big Woods conclusion. The call of point came for Tin Star at 22, looking out into that swale. Despite a deliberate, extended relocation effort, the ghosts of quail-past exacted their revenge. Moving roughly north past Long Pond, the call of point would come for True Reign from out on the left side at 0:33. He would be found roughly 200 yards northwest above a small wet pond (and about 150yds north of the Cypress Pond), standing in a prominent feed trail head high, almost squinting into the scrub oak cover ahead of him - the birds rising as soon as the flushing effort began -- one of the great finds of the trial. By the time the gallery had reached the 11 o'clock Crossing and climbed up past Esquire's Pine, True Reign had begun to establish a pattern of intermittent glimpses out front.

As gallery crested the hill beside Gene's Field, he was seen out towards the edge of what became known as the 'Gin Trash' field before crossing into his handler to water up at the prominent oak just across the sandy road crossing at the start of the Long Field. (Oddly, for all the layers of history, for all the ghosts at Dixie, encapsulated in intimate place names like Gene's, or Paul's, or even the Preacher's Hog Pond, this field apparently has no name. And so, bearing in mind that an especially aromatic, cotton gin 'waste' was being spread over the field as a compostable mulch this year, it is being referred to as the "Gin Trash" field.)

While True Reign pushed forward towards Livingston Road and disappeared from sight, Carlton would come in for his retrieval device at 1:00, admitting that his dog had slipped out of contact. And then there was one of those little sequences where you just barely catch the understated mastery of a handler who knows exactly where all the pieces should be -- the kind of mastery that, frankly, Robin Gates excelled at. As the gallery approached the road, Eisenhart had already quietly gathered the dog and then sent it with a quiet whistle blast such that by the time judges crested out at the road, the dog was already moving out westward into the shallow bowl with purpose and in full stride, dropping out over the slope a couple of minutes later. He would then disappear. As the gallery passed under the Quail Lodge and approached Cadillac Field, there was a palpable concern. By the time the gallery dropped off Livingston Road to the southwest with Cadillac Pond to the right, Eisenhart's sherching arcs had become increasingly wider -- and by the time the gallery had made the harder turn west past the blown-over oak, Eisenhart had ridden back to help his scout try to locate a dog they were sure they had left on point.

As the gallery briefly stopped, True Reign appeared at the very beginning of the Oil Drum Field at 1:33, still within time, and very much to the front. And then, we got to witness another example of what marks the profound sportsmanship in top-tier, all-age competition in the South, and the deep belief in putting the dog first. Jamie Daniels immediately gathered the dog and watered it while the gallery hollered for Eisenhart - who now was so far out of earshot that he apparently could not hear even the dog wagon truck honking its horn three times. And so, without hesitation, Daniels and Judd Carlton (as scout) took over finishing the dog's final 15 minutes. And such they did: as the gallery reached the conclusion of the Oil Drum Field and dropped into the next woods section, he would be seen just seconds before the call of time pushing out through the woods to the front on the right side. He would be successfully gathered up at the Moccasin Creek crossing on the far end of the Big Garrett Field, finishing strong, but his extended absence nonetheless creating a dilemma for the judges.

THE RUNNING

The first brace of the Continental qualifiers would feature Dominator's Bull Market, owned by a consortium simply identified as "The Morning Brace," and handled by Jamie Daniels, paired with Touch's Blue Knight, owned and handled by Woody Watson. Turned loose where the final brace of the Derby had concluded just before the Big Woods and the Brown Jug, the conditions warm and humid, both dogs punched up the slope, Bull Market moving out to the right, Blue Knight the left -- and indeed as the gallery reached the top of the rise and began to angle southwest, Blue Knight would successfully swing off that left field edge and across ahead of his handler. Both dogs would still be moving successfully out front as the handlers crested the rise above the Boyd Corner, both down in the woods to the left as the gallery approached the Brown Field Loop, the conditions warm enough to see the gallery peeling off layers -- and in fact be the warmest of the entire stake. Turning north again, both dogs would push out around the swampy bottom to the right and out towards the Peanut Field and Joe's Oak, moving well despite the sapping combination of moderate temperatures (in the 60s) but high humidity (close to 80%). Turning south underneath Ben's Hog Pond, Bull Market would be seen moving strong along the far edge of the cover crop field out to the southeast as the gallery approached the Dixie Trace water tank near the Horseshoe Field, Blue Knight apparently moving out on the right side. The call of point for Bull Market would come out on the left at 56, in between two skinny cover crop fields roughly 200 yards south of the Dixie Trace tank, although all flushing and relocation efforts would prove fruitless. The hour would end shortly before the power lines cross near the Cemetery Road, both dogs having moved well, Bull Market seen a little more, but both unable to connect with quail.

The second brace of the qualifiers started after lunch on the regular afternoon breakaway -- Shadow's Lord Magic, owned by Carl Bowman who was riding in the gallery handled by Luke Eisenhart, with Rebel Cause, owned by David and Angie Williams, and handled by Jamie Daniels. Swinging under the Hagen House and headed roughly east up the lane of live oaks, both dogs would swing up and across the grassy shoulder to the right. At the Showtime Sam Houston tank at Boyd Corner, both dogs were out in the woods to the right. As the course angled parallel to the pond, Lord Magic would swing across the front and down into the live oak swale before coming to a stop on the next rise at 24. Eisenhart would get in front of his dog to flush and then see something he didn't care for and immediately elect to pick up. Swinging northwest under Hickory Hill towards the Flush's Wrangler tank at the 11 O'Clock Crossing, Rebel Cause was moving well around a dry pond bed out to the right, a light rain having begun to fall. However, he would slip out of touch somewhere soon thereafter, the gallery denied any further view of him as they passed Esquire's Pine and up past Gene's Field. Daniels would come in for his tracking device soon after crossing the sandy road at 53.

The third brace featuring Dunn's True Reign and Showtime Mockingjay has already been covered in the placements.

The fourth brace drew Senah's Back in Business, owned by Benjy Griffith, and handled by Joel Norman head-to-head with Chief's Rising Sun, owned by John Mathys, handled by Judd Carlton. Turned loose from the top of Kudzu Hill and heading roughly north, both dogs would break away smartly up along the long going-away cover crop fields. The call of point would come from out on the left side at 11, some 350 yards out, Rising Sun looking up into a cover square just above Cadillac Pond, the first covey flushed immediately ahead of the stylish dog, a second large passel of birds getting up as the dog was collared and moved on. Across the Livingston Road and turning east, Rising Sun would be seen moving nicely up and over the rise to the left, although Back in Business had now been gone for some minutes. Swinging around the eastern edge of Windom Lake, Chief was still be moving nicely as the gallery rode up another sizeable covey of birds as it passed the Horseshoe Field. By the time they turned east at Ben's Hog Pond at 26, Norman had come in to ask for his tracking receiver. Chief was maintaining a steady forward race by the time the gallery passed the Dominator's Rebel Heir tank atop Paul's Hill. Unknown to his handler, he had crossed the front and was seen running the cover crop field edge on the right. While the handler was alerted, the dog stopped, tail ticking, perhaps at the sight of the gallery now motionless, perhaps at the numerous alerts to the handler. When the handler arrived to bring him forward, he would move up a few yards and then birds would get up in the process -- ending his bid.

The fifth brace drew Mauck's Wyeast Owyhee Jack, owned and handled by Alex Mauck, with Knight Moon, owned by Tucker Johnson, and handled by Luke Eisenhart. They were the first brace on the second day, the first to leave from the regular morning breakaway -- and on a cool, grey overcast morning. The action began quickly at 5 with Knight Moon coming to a stop down in the hollow below the front, righthand corner of the second cover crop field, the dog turned back up into the northwesterly breeze, with a covey rising as the judge approached, a handful nonetheless remaining that flushed as Eisenhart reached his dog. As the gallery approached the westward turn at Cindy's Oak (hung with a sign memorializing the seventh and final find at time for the 2002 top qualifier, Cindy Crawford, handled by Jimmy Edmundson), Knight Moon would be sighted some 150 yards further to the south, high and tight, but even after a significant relocation effort this would prove fruitless - the notoriously difficult 'Phantom Covey' claiming just another victim. Jack in the meantime appeared to be moving out hard through the woods on the inside of the turn, showing up on the lower swamp edge soon after the gallery had crossed the road and angled northwest. Knight Moon and Jack reached the Big Garrett Field together and were seen independently out in the woody knoll on the right ahead. Jack then dropped off the left side and apparently enter the wooded pocket to the left, Knight Moon popping out briefly in the going-away field before moving down into the No. 4 Field to the left. He would swing in from the far edge of that field and then begin the climb up the left hand edge of the slope below Pike's Peak, coming to a stop at 35. This would prove to be only successful relocation of the entire trial and, as noted in the introduction, it would yield a single leftover bird after a roughly 10yd relocation towards the base of a pine tree, the rest of a very large covey getting up in two waves some 30 yards ahead as the dog was collared. Coming down off Pike's Peak, Knight Moon would swing down the left side and come to another stop at 40 in tall, thick cover just beyond a patch of broomsedge -- a single bird flushed out ahead of him. Through the Cadillac Pond gap and up towards the field of the same name, Jack had swung out to the east through the woods before Livingston Road, Knight Moon down along the swamp edge to the left at 47. This would be the last both dogs would be seen and, in fact, as the gallery reached the water tank at the base of Acorn Hill at 58, Mauck came in for his device. Nevertheless, Knight Moon had done plenty to merit his being called back for the Championship.

The sixth brace featured Miller's Blindsider, owned by Nick Berrong and handled by Jamie Daniels, with Late Hit, owned by Chris Campbell, handled by Tom Shenker. Turned loose from the water tank at the base of Acorn Hill, both dogs would push up the rise past the brick chimney of the long-gone homestead. Approaching the "Y" at the top of the hill, Late Hit would have dropped off the left wooded shoulder, re-emerging on the left side of the "Gin Trash" field, Blindsider having appeared at its far end and swung up the hill through the woods on the southern side of Gene's Field. There was a brief moment of excitement for Blindsider at 20 on top of the ridge, but it would be waved off without incident as the dogs entered the Horseshoe Loop. Approaching the Boy Scout house, Blindsider would swing the outside of the turn south and drop forward along the swamp edge before punching through the little pinch and up past the house. He would come to a stop in a cover strip just beyond the house at 36, although the relocation would also prove barren; in the meantime, Late Hit came in from the swamp edge on the left and reacquainted with his handler just across the dirt road. Blindsider moved well through the next section, going out towards Long Pond and coming to a stop at 45 just before its head at the dirt road. A relocation proved fruitless, but with birdwork already proving hard to accumulate and Blindsider already amassing a strong forward race, the judge instructed the handler to keep his dog down for the duration in case they felt obliged to consider dogs for the callback based on race alone. Both dogs dropped over into the Emma May Block after rounding the head of Long Pond and were moving out into the Big Woods at the expiration of time. (As it would turn out, the judges would elect not to call back any dogs without birdwork and/or two non-productives -- nevertheless it should be noted that Blindsider's ground effort, especially, was among the strongest of the dogs run in the qualifiers.)

The seventh brace drew Erin's Tin Star, owned by Mike Sweet, and handled by Judd Carlton, and Miller's Unfinished Business, owned by Benjy Griffith, and handled by Joel Norman. Coming down out of the Big Woods, Tin Star would go through the gap below Boyd Corner first and climb out on the right side, Unfinished Business having dropped all the way over the slope to work the pond edge. He would stay low on the slope around the bottom of the pond and come to a stop at 10 some 50 yards below the Showtime Sam Houston tank looking down into an oaky thicket -- although the relocation would prove as fruitless as the initial stand. In the meantime, Tin Star had dropped over the slope to the left and come to a stop in the next bottom around 15, one of the few occasions the birds would rise ahead of the dog before the handler had even dismounted, the dog nevertheless as taut and stylish as he was accurate. Tin Star would swing wide around the lower wooded edge of the Brown Field Loop before coming forward under the Hagen House, Unfinished Business moving comfortably directly ahead of his handler. Approaching the Double Pond Gap, astute scouting would locate Unfinished Business off the southwestern corner of the upper pond at 32, the dog standing tall looking upwind into a block of broomsedge. After an initial flush, he would be asked to relocate, and move another 10 yards up into the wind looking into the next cover block of broomsedge, but this too would also prove fruitless. He would nonetheless be instructed to keep his dog down for the remainder of the hour. Tin Star would come to a stop once more at 46, below Paul's Hill on the edge of a swampy bottom -- but this also prove a fruitless stand. As the course wound westward, both dogs would remain unseen until the call of time, Tin Star's ground race and successful birdwork earning him a place in the championship callbacks.

The eighth brace brought Confident Nation, owned by Scott Jordan, and handled by Luke Eisenhart, to the line with Miller's Stray Bullet, owned by Benjy Griffith, and handled by Joel Norman. Breaking away with gusto from behind the kennels and corrals, both dogs would push down into the first hollow and swing southeast despite the slow, steady rain. The call of point would come for Stray Bullet at 8 roughly 200 yards to the south of the Hagen House on the slight slope above a dried-out pond. The handler would call birds in the air, although these would be unseen through the pines by both the approaching judge and reporter; the handler would elect to simply take his dog on rather than chance an early unproductive. (The flight of the birds would be subsequently confirmed to the reporter by one of the course marshals, one of very few premature rises before the handler arrived.) Through into the Big Woods, and Stray Bullet pushed ahead along the shoulder on the right, after initially getting hung up out to the right below the Boyd Corner. Confident Nation had gone through the Boyd Corner and then swung out to the far right, but by the time the gallery passed the Cypress Pond, Eisenhart would come in for his tracking receiver at 28 below Outhouse Hill. Proceeding on roughly a half-mile on the winding path towards the 11 O'Clock Crossing, Stray Bullet would come to a stop at 33, just off the main feed trail, tail high, and the birds directly ahead of him. Through the Crossing and up around Esquire's Pine, Stray Bullet had pushed out on the left shoulder above the main dirt road. He stayed on that left side and, in fact, cross back over the road before being seen pushing out front along the cover strip to the left of the Long Field. He would last be seen climbing out along that edge at 58, the call of time coming from the judges shortly before the Livingston Road. His smooth ground race and stylish find would not only earn him a place in the championship but also the award of Top Qualifier.

The ninth brace featuring Supreme Confidence (Eisenhart) and Notorious Dominator's Heir (Mathys) has already been reported in the placements.

The tenth brace, the final one of Friday afternoon, featured Dominator's Rogue Rebel, owned by Jack and Sarah Schwarz who were also riding along in support of their fine dog, and handled by Jamie Daniels, alongside Game Ice, owned by Audie Brown, and handled by Jerry Raynor. They would be turned loose just below Kudzu Hill at the long going-away fields, the rain still steadily coming down. Both dogs would break away smartly, Game Ice initially starting on the right field, but electing to cross over midway down, Rogue Rebel pushing out along the field to the left. He would apparently maintain this line to the end of the field and then drop northwest coming to a stop roughly 100 yards below the southernmost point of Cadillac Pond at 7. A pair of birds would initially rise at the flush, and then several small packets would get up as the shot was fired and the dog gathered up and taken on -- one of the great limb finds of the trial. Taken forward across the Livingston Road, he would be seen out to the right swinging northeast around Cocklebur Bottom as the entourage reached the main gallery once more -- Game Ice apparently not having been seen for some time. The call of point would come once more at 17, Rogue Rebel having dropped over the ridge to the north and down towards Windom Lake, the birds once again directly ahead of him. Raynor would concede that his dog had probably not made the turn east at the road crossing and come for his tracking transmitter at 18. As the course turned north, Rebel Rogue would punch out to the east and swing along the wooded shoulder. At this point, he seemed to lose track of where his handler was and, despite his success locating birds, Daniels would come for his receiver at 28.

The eleventh brace would leave the regular morning breakaway on a cold, damp morning made less comfortable for the gallery by a strong breeze. The two dogs drawn were Sandwood Creek, owned by Audie Brown, and handled by Jerry Raynor, and Rester's Cajun Charlie, owned by Dr. Reuben Richardson, Tony Gibson, and Cecil Rester (who was riding along in support of his fine dog), and handled by Luke Eisenhart. Both dogs were away strong, and through the first two fields, both would appear to take the left edge down into Phantom Covey territory. Both would escape without incident, and would make the turn west -- Sandwood Creek crossing the road well ahead of Charlie who had turned hard west above Cindy's Oak. With Charlie deep down on the left side as the gallery exited the Big Garrett Field, Sandwood Creek would emerge from the woods on the left, cross the neck of the field, and climb up into the woods in the median below Pike's Peak and then abruptly come to a stop at 34. The flushing effort and the subsequent relocation would prove fruitless, however; Cajun Charlie would appear across the top of the peak above him during this before dropping back down to his own handler. While Charlie tended to favor the long, lower edge, Sandwood Creek was establishing a solid, forward race on the upper, nearside shoulder-- running the inside edge of the Cadillac Field before dropping out into the next section of woods. As the course swung under the hayfields below the Quail Lodge, the call of point would come at 52 for Charlie out on the left side down in the scrubby cover, perhaps 75 yards above the swamp edge. Sadly, despite an extensive flushing and relocation effort, this would prove unproductive. While both dogs would ultimately prove birdless, both deserve mention for a strong, flowing, forward race.

The twelfth brace saw Mauck's Wyeast Owhyee Dallee, owned and handled by Alex Mauck, and Touch's Dancing Nancies, owned and handled by Kent Cantrell. Turned loose from the water tank at the base of Acorn Hill, both dogs would climb the prominent rise past the brick homestead chimney, both initially favoring the left downward sloping side. As the gallery approached its crest, shortly before the Bruce and Karen Norton tank at the 'Y,' Mauck initially called point for Dallee at 7, roughly two lanes over to the left. He would wave it off, the dog would then self-relocate, and birds would pop from the bramble thicket immediately ahead of her. Dancing Nancies had stayed out to the left and would come to a stop towards the far end of the first crop field at 12, some 50 yards above the swamp edge. She would be found buried in a patch of tall broomsedge, looking at the base of a tall pine, a covey of birds balled up directly in front of her. Fancy moving, she would continue up past Gene's Field and out into the Horseshoe Loop where she would come to a stop once more just above the swamp edge at 28, also looking into a patch of broomsedge, this time near three young pines -- pretty as a picture -- although perhaps only a single bird ahead of her. She would drop down to the right side of the course and would be seen running the far edge of the Turkey Field (with its prominent, green, corrugated iron stand) before dropping into the woods and reuniting with her handler just past the Boy Scout house at 43. Crossing the road, she moved out to the left as the course made the slight climb up to the Dominator's Rebel Heir water tank at the field corner and then come to a stop at 48 in the hollow out towards the swamp edge, once again looking into a patch of broomsedge. As the handler and judges approached, however, she moved up several feet and, while she would stop herself in a mannerly fashion at their flush, a covey of birds would rise in that process -- bringing an end to an otherwise attractive, productive run.

The thirteenth and final brace of the qualifiers would bring Showtime Game Changer, owned by Larron and Laura Copeland, and handled by Larron, to the line with Touch's Red Rider, owned by Tucker Johnson, and handled by Luke Eisenhart. Turned loose from the Rebel Heir water tank, the action would appear to begin quickly with the call of point coming for Red Rider at 5 down in the broomsedge fringe at the head of the Long Pond. After a vigorous, but fallow flushing effort, the dog would relocate roughly 5 yards ahead, but this too would prove unsuccessful. Coming down off the Emma May Block hill and dropping southwest, both dogs would initially set up at 13 right off the main feed trail to the right looking up into a scrubby grass cover block. Before the handlers arrived, Game Changer would move up roughly 5 yards further upwind to the north, then turn back and stop, head high directed in Red Rider's direction, tail not quite settled. As the handlers approached birds would rise directly ahead of Red Rider, Eisenhart alone firing to claim the find. Climbing up beyond the Boyd Corner and into the Brown Field Loop, both dogs would swing wide through the woods down to the left as the course abruptly turned north, the call of point coming for each of them at 41 down off the northwest corner of the second crop field. Both appeared to have independent finds, and both handlers would elect to relocate their dogs. Copeland would elect to take his dog on after that unsuccessful effort; Eisenhart would ask his dog to relocate once more out to the west towards the dark, swamp edge -- but after an extensive, fruitless search, he would elect to pick up his otherwise smooth-moving dog. Game Changer would continue to move smoothly as the course angled northeast, the stiff northeasterly breeze directly in his face as he dropped down into the broomsedge at the Double Pond Gap -- and appearing to shorten him up some in the effort. He would still be moving well along the outside edge of a small cover crop field out to the left at the call of time.

CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS

The judges elected to call back six dogs for the championship finals, selecting six that had successfully located birds during the qualifying series and eschewing dogs with strong races that had not. Other than one necessary adjustment to avoid handler conflicts, the dogs called back were braced in the order they ran. The braces were as follows:

(1) Dunn's True Reign (Eisenhart) with Erin's Tin Star (Carlton); (2) Knight Moon (Eisenhart) with Miller's Stray Bullet (Norman); (3) Supreme Confidence (Eisenhart) with Notorious Dominator's Heir (Mathys).

The first and third braces are already documented in the placements.

The second brace featuring Knight Moon (Eisenhart) and Miller's Stray Bullet (Norman) was turned loose at the beginning of the Big Garrett Field before the Moccasin Creek crossing. Stray Bullet would hit the far end of the lower field edge at the Mike and Laura Shea water tank and then turn right. In the process of being gathered up, he stopped and point at 6 along the swamp edge, still some 150 yds shy of the crossing, the birds nonetheless successfully flushed ahead of him. Knight Moon would soon come to a stop at 11, looking into a tall patch of broomsedge midway up the slope directly below the Livingston Place Main Office. Despite two relocations, this proved fruitless. He would nonetheless card one of the great limb finds of the trial at 21, the call of point coming from way out on the left side as the gallery descended off the backside of Kudzu Hill, Knight Moon having gone all the way westward to the edge of the dry grass pond below the Oil Drum Field, the birds still pinned ahead of him. After the road crossing at the Bruce and Karen Norton tank, Knight Moon pushed out directly ahead on the left side of the course, Stray Bullet swinging wide out into the shallow bowl to the right. As the course angled and climbed around to the north, Stray Bullet stoped on the righthand slope at 34, looking up into a patch of tall grasses at the base of a tall pine -- the birds nonetheless flushing out with relative ease ahead of him. On top of the same rise, Eisenhart would call point for Knight Moon at 37 standing underneath the canopy of a live oak -- but despite an energetic flushing attempt and an extensive relocation effort, these would prove fruitless and Eisenhart would end his bid at that point. Moving around Windom Lake, Stray Bullet would come to a stop roughly 200 yards upslope from its northeastern corner, looking up into a three-row stand of fire-blackened pines and the patch of tall grass beyond it, head high into the northeasterly breeze, the birds bursting out of the grass ahead of him. Around Ben's Hog Pond and approaching Hickory Hill, Stray Bullet was pushing out to the right along the lower slope, anticipating the course's turn south. This would be the last time he would be seen despite a patient wait by the judges atop Paul's Hill for an extended period of time -- Norman coming in for his receiver at 1:25.

Greenville, Fla., January 20

Judges: Sean Derrig and Garland Priddy

CONTINENTAL OPEN ALL-AGE CHAMPIONSHIP

[One-Hour Qualifying Heats; One-Hour and Fifty-Minute Finals] --

23 Pointers and 3 Setters

Winner--NOTORIOUS DOMINATOR'S HEIR, 1685788, pointer male, by Dominator's Rebel Heir--Bar P Fizz. John Mathys, owner and handler.

Runner-Up--DUNN'S TRUE REIGN, 1680537, pointer male, by Dunn's Tried'n True--Dunn's Get Out Sue. Claudia McNamee & Norris Sims, owners; Luke Eisenhart, handler.