Last-minute replacement steps in to help England gundog team retain Home International title

England’s gundog team needed a last-minute replacement on the final day of the Home International at The Game Fair 2019, but it didn’t do the defending champions any harm.

Adrian Slater stepped in at the 11thhour with his four-year-old English springer spaniel Drummer – also known as Kenquartz Ballycastle Lord – but didn’t just help the team to retain the trophy at Hatfield House on the 50thanniversary of the prestigious competition. The Lancashire handler also finished the two-day competition by winning the individual award for best hunting spaniel, scoring 78 points out of 80.

“I had helped our captain pick the spaniel team and didn’t include myself,” he explained. “I didn’t even put myself down as reserve. When the lady who was reserve ended up having pups with her dog, I named myself reserve. Then, on the actual morning of the second round, Andy Skinner – an absolute gem of a team member – decided his dog wasn’t right and he asked me to run in his place. I know my dog can hunt, and he did very well. It’s been fantastic all round.”

In a competition held every year since 1969,the four teams gathered at the International Gundog Arena to compete against each other in a series of demanding tests designed to best demonstrate each dog’s ability, with all the dogs’ performances contributing towards the overall team score. Each team worked five spaniels and five retrievers, and it was England who came out on top again.

Winning captain David Latham was “immensely proud” of his team and topped off a weekend to remember by going home with the individual top dog and best retriever awards too. “It’s all about the team and teamwork,” he said after England came out on top with 1,011 points, ahead of second-placed Ireland on 890, Wales on 984 and Scotland on 899.

“I’ve worked well with Adrian this year. We’ve got on and communicated well. The team worked hard, trained hard and fought hard – and the proof is in the pudding. These competitions are so difficult to win. It’s the biggest competition there is in the dummy season. It’s the one we all want. They’re so tight, and to come out as top dog is an added bonus for me personally.”

He won that award after his black labrador retriever, Fendawood Harold, finished with 114 points, just one ahead of teammate Annette Clark and Castlesmans Gobi of Garrenpoint. Ireland’s Declan Boyle, with Miller McDuff, was third on 111. Nathan Quinn of Wales claimed the top-scoring individual spaniel trophy, and helped his teammates finish as the best overall spaniel team.

Gundog chairman Steve Smith said: “It was ultra-competitive and the handlers and dogs representing all teams performed with amazing skill. It was great to see so many spectators watching what is the biggest gundog event on the calendar.”