The captain of Great Britain’s gundog retriever team has hinted that it may well be the right time to bow out on a high after claiming the prestigious Euro Challenge title for the second time in three years at The Game Fair.
Phil Wagland, the annual countryside festival’s former gundog chairman who comes from Worksop in Nottinghamshire, was a proud man after guiding his three-man team of handlers to victory at Hatfield House, edging out defending champions German by just three points.
The impressive Euro Challenge triumph for the experienced Great Britain team, which also includes Paul Birkbeck and Gary Ellison, was a repeat of their 2017 success at the same Hertfordshire venue.
“It’s great because we have had the same team for three years in a row,” said Wagland, who was handling four-year-old Fieldquest Funnyline Kelbrook, the top golden retriever on the day. “The first year we won, narrowly from Belgium. Last year we came third when Germany won, so it is very satisfying to get a win again. But we’re all getting older, so this may be the last year we represent Britain. We may have to give way to younger handlers next year.”
He added: “We have thoroughly enjoyed this year’s event. The organisers set up an interesting working test that gave every dog the opportunity to shine. It was a great atmosphere and it was fantastic to see so many people watching the action from all round the arena.”
Germany captain Ursula Scholz collected the overall top dog award thanks to another impressive performance from four-year-old Labrador Retriever dog, Deep Impact Beam Me Up Scotti, who caught the eye at Ragley Hall in 2018 when he was top labrador.
“He’s a real talent and I’m very proud of him,” she said. “Overall, I thought it was a great competition, more difficult than last year. It was a real working test.”
Teams from Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Italywere also among the six nations taking part in the annual competition sponsored by Sporting Saint. It involves a variety of tricky retrieves, with each team consisting of three handlers and three dogs which have to be from different retriever breeds. The test simulated the many and varied situations that arise when shooting and picking-up with dogs, including walking-up in line; standing at a drive and retrieving from cover; over fences and from water.
Overall team results:1, Great Britain 204 points; 2, Germany 201; 3, Switzerland 170pts; 4, Netherlands 166; 5, Belgium 151; 6, Italy 114.
Overall top dog:1, Deep Impact Beam Me Up Scotti (Ursula Scholz, Germany) 87 points; 2, Kay of the Charmed Angel (Gaston, Maerievoet, Belgium) 80; Heather of the Spring Cottage (Petra Vingerhoets, Netherlands) 78.