NATIONAL AMATEUR ALL-AGE INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
By: Jim Atchison
The Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America (AFTCA) sponsored the 40th running of the National Amateur All-Age Invitational Championship on the historic grounds of the Ames Plantation December 7-9. Of the 12 dogs initially invited, 11 accepted and the roster was filled by inviting the next most qualified dog. Qualifications for invitations were based on points earned from placements in qualifying stakes run August 2019 through May 2020.
The Championship was won by Hendrix’s Touch Up, owned by Burke and Guy Hendrix from Hernando, Mississippi and handled by Burke. The Runner Up was Mohawk Mill Trail Warrior, owned by Gary Winall from Powhatan, Virginia. Both of the winning dogs are three-year old male Pointers. The champions were selected by Greg Bain from Town Creek, Alabama and Joe Hughes from Remlap, Alabama. Both judges are avid field trialers who constantly compete with their own dogs and are well versed in the performances expected of champions; those being the Invitational Championship Rules, adopted by the AFTCA in 1983 and distributed to the competitors during the drawing.
The drawing, and all the gatherings and social activities during the Championship, were held at The Ruben S. Rhea, Sr. Memorial Clubhouse due to the Covid-19 pandemic. AFTCA Secretary, Piper Huffman, launched the 40th anniversary renewal with a social hour prior to the drawing. During her opening remarks she thanked Dr. Rick Carlisle and the Trustees of the Hobart Ames Foundation for continuing to host the running of the Championship on Ames Plantation. She also introduced Ryan Braddock and Chris Weatherly, who are long- time associates of Dr. Carlisle and key members of the Plantation staff. The continuing sponsorship of the Nestle Purina Company who provided financial support and caps and bags of dog food for the handlers was appreciatively acknowledged. Huffman also thanked Garmin for the generous gift of collars to be awarded to owners of the Champion and Runner-Up.
The weather and dry ground conditions of Ames Plantation were exceptional. Morning temperatures were such that morning frost was followed by sunshine and temps into the 40s and 50s. The Mid-South’s dry fall weather caused harvesting conditions to be ideal with the continuing dry weather resulting in the many miles of courses on Ames being amazingly dry and firm.
Dr. Carlisle and Ryan Braddock marshaled the galleries and accompanied the judges throughout the Championship. Chris Weatherly was unable to ride, due to recently having vertebra fused, but he was on hand daily to help if needed. Ken Blackman manned the dog wagon, while Aubrey Green and a Deputy Sheriff of Fayette County ensured safe crossings at all the public roads.
As already mentioned, all the gatherings occurred in the Rhea Building. Lunches, the Monday night dinner, and the Tuesday evening gathering, prior to announcing the dogs to be called back and held on standby, were all catered by Tom Stewart, who has the Southern Eatery in Holly Springs, Mississippi. The food and service of his staff were excellent. Another much appreciated opportunity to eat occurred at the end of the first brace each morning when Piper Huffman handed out warm sausage and biscuits.
THE CHAMPION AND RUNNER-UP
Hendrix’s Touch Up was declared Champion following his competition in the fourth brace on Monday, the second brace on Tuesday, and the second brace during the call-backs on Wednesday morning. The three-year old champion had birds during each appearance and was intense and stylish each time he stood, and while waiting for each flush and shot. He was strong, forward, and consistent during every leg of the contest. The Champion, called Hank by Hendrix, ran big in the places where he was seen well and stayed on the edges as he performed. His style and strength were impressive. The popularity of both the handler and his dog was apparent, as evidenced by the number of friends and family who joined the gallery each time they competed.
Mohawk Mill Trail Warrior also had birds in each of his appearances as he earned the title of Runner-Up.. He stood long and patiently at 51 on Monday afternoon while waiting a long time for his owner to ride to where he stood. Again, at 10 in his Tuesday morning race, he was found at a great distance away and waited while a judge and others galloped from near the Avent house to the edge of the Morgan field. He then had an unproductive near Buford Ellington Road in that hour. He shared a divided find with the champion during the call-back along the edge of the field hunted just before crossing the National Championship Road at Kyle’s barn. He then had an unproductive at 34 during that hour. The Runner-Up was smooth, big running, biddable, and pleasing to watch.
ALSO CALLED BACK AND STANDING BY
Dialed In, owned by Jim Pendergest of Lexington, Kentucky, and Touch’s Indiana Joan, owned by Keith Wright of Covington, Indiana, were the other two dogs called back. Small’s White Stryker, owned by Mike Small from Evansville, Indiana, and Touch’s Grey Street, owned by Keith Wright, were asked to be on stand-by and ultimately were asked to run in a third brace during the call-back.
Dialed In was the Champion of this Invitational last year and returned this year with the highest number of qualifying points. He competed in the third brace on Monday, the fourth on Tuesday, and the first during the call back. On Monday he experienced some absences and found no birds. On Tuesday he scored two excellent finds, with the first coming at 11 while making the loop before crossing Ames Road early on the first afternoon course. He then had a second nice find with about 30 seconds remaining on the clock during that brace. He had no birds during the call-back on Wednesday. Dialed In was forward and worked well with his owner throughout his three days of competition.
Touch’s Indiana Joan ran in the last brace on Monday. She had an unproductive at 7 and then found a nice covey along the Chute at 46. She ran well, came around to her owner at the right times and stayed to the front but did not find any additional birds during her third brace effort on Tuesday or in the call-back on Wednesday.
Small’s White Stryker backed his brace mate’s unproductive stand at 7 in the sixth brace on Tuesday. He then had birds again at 22 during that brace. He had an unproductive in the Turner pines at 35 in Tuesday morning’s first hour and finished the rest of the hour with no more birds. He ran his biggest race on Wednesday morning, but, unfortunately, was lost and Small asked for his tracker before the end of that hour.
Touch’s Grey Street ran strong races during each of his three appearances but had no birds. Non the less, he is a great dog with a history of winning, as evidenced by the fact that his qualifying points were the second highest of any of the 12 invited.
THE OTHER COMPETITORS
The remaining six, listed in the order of their qualifying points were as follows:
John Ivester brought Marques Armed Robber, but was unable to ride horseback and had Matt Pendergest handle his dog. The dog had a lengthy absence during the first brace on Monday, but Pendergest got him back to the front at 37 and continued, having a nice find at 44. He then had an unproductive at 21 in in the sixth brace on Tuesday and handled well but found no birds.
Mike Small handled Phillips’ Off Line, owned by Nathan Phillips. He had two finds during the hour. The first was at 19 in the loop before crossing Ames Road in the fourth brace on Monday. He then had a second find at the end of the hour. Off Line ran his edges well and was particularly impressive as he skirted the edges of a huge wheat field. On Tuesday he found no birds and finished the hour with only an unproductive near the Avent house at 47.
Touch’s Malcolm Story was handled by his owner, Alex Rickert from Bozeman, Montana. Unfortunately, he became lost in the third brace on Monday and Rickert elected to ask for his tracker, thus eliminating his dog from further competition in the contest.
Rebel Pirate, owned by David Williams from Beech Bluff, Tennessee, failed to cross Buford Ellington Road early in the first brace on Monday morning. He was later found but not brought back into that hour of competition. On Tuesday in the fifth brace the dog had found no birds and Williams got his tracker at 55.
Confident Nation competed in the fifth brace on Monday and the first on Tuesday, handled by his owner, Scott Jordan from Minnesota. He had three unproductives, at 25, 32, and 40 during his Monday appearance. On Tuesday he found no birds and had one unproductive, which was at 57.
Joe Worsham’s Silver Comet was gone a lot during the second brace on Monday and found no game. He then became lost on Tuesday and Worsham asked for his tracker at 20 near the site of the former dairy unit.
Even in this year of the horrible COVID-19 pandemic the AFTCA sponsored a great 40th renewal of this prestigious championship. Yes, modifications had to be made. Being unable to have dinner at the National Bird Dog Museum and drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the Ames Manor was disappointing, but certainly understandable during this time when we have closed our schools, churches, hospitals, nursing homes, worn masks and modified most everything we do. But there is hope and anticipation of better days ahead soon. As the Championship ended the FDA approved the release of a COVID-19 vaccine and all gathered outside the Rhea Building while Piper Huffman thanked Dr. Carlisle and Ames Plantation, Purina, Garmin, the judges, and all who helped. She then announced the Champion and Runner-Up and everyone departed hoping for an end to the Corona Virus and looking forward to many more happy days of field trialing, like those just ended.