Welcome to day three of Crufts 2013, with a huge crowd ignoring the somewhat showery spring weather to flock to the NEC in Birmingham.
Today was Gundog day, usually the shortest of the four days due to only a single group being judged, but this year transformed into the longest to accommodate tomorrow night’s live primetime TV coverage.
But longer hours means even more to cover, not least an amazing array of activity in the Arena. Starting at the end, it was renowned judge Zena Thorn-Andrews who took on the challenge of overseeing the day’s only group. Zena chose It Ch Loch Mor Romeo, a Labrador Retriever owned by Franco Barberi from Cesara, Italy as the fifth dog to secure a place in tomorrow’s Best in Show final.
That was the culmination of a remarkable evening, which also saw finals of the Agility International Invitation for Large dogs, flyball and International Junior Handling competition.
The latter was perhaps my favourite moment in my ten years of coming to Crufts as I was sat next to the mum of the American girl who took second and then witnessed first-hand the worthy winner, Naomi van Mourik from the Netherlands being reunited with first her dad, and then her mum. My eyes were a bit damp, I don’t mind admitting.
Following that, there was a parade of the Obedience winners from Crufts 2013, followed by another final, this time the Kennel Club Breeders’ Competition, supported by Agria Pet Insurance and media partners Our Dogs . The winners were the Meadowpark Bernese Mountain Dogs owned by mother and daughter Bernice Mair and Carole Hartley-Mair from Rochdale, Lancashire. The top four in the final were all Kennel Club Assured Breeders, which was a great source of joy to scheme manager Bill Lambert whose laptop I’m typing this on!
The other big event of the day actually took place away from most of the viewing public but scores of veterinary students and other special invitees witnessed the first ever International Canine Health Awards, supported by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and underwritten by an extremely generous donation from the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation. Three special awards were given to recognise and reward innovative veterinary work carried out by eminent researchers, veterinary scientists and students from around the world and included a total prize fund of £60,000 towards the winners’ ongoing work to improve the health and well-being of dogs.
The sheer breadth of activity on what may become known as Super Saturday in years to come just serves to highlight the many ways that Crufts supports the Kennel Club’s main objective, to promote in every way the general improvement of dogs.
And talking of improvement, it almost goes without saying that Sunday night at the NEC will probably top the lot, with Best in Show, Friends for Life, Mary Ray and so much more. It’s your last chance to enjoy the biggest and best celebration of dogs in the world for another year so don’t miss it!