The Derby Revisited by Peter Betteridge
Retrieving is a very callous sport. as I know of no other sport where you can train for months on end, spend 6 hours driving to get to an event. Furthermore, you can stand around for hour after hour on the weekend only to be put out of a trial in 1 minute, without so much as picking up a single bird. We are also a sport that is very good at kicking people out, for example, three wins in Novice Stakes and you are out and likewise in Restricted Stakes. Miss just one bird and likely you’ll spend the rest of the day on a thrower or gun stewarding. I believe that the sport loses many participants through discouragement .All Age swallows up marginal dogs. These dogs should be able to compete at their own proficiency level. Many handlers do not have the time, expertise, motivation or training grounds to compete on difficult tests. We must keep people in trialling!
As a NSW trailer and someone who is generally unaware of the trialling situation in other States, I have come to the conclusion that the reintroduction of the Derby as a test would be an excellent tonic to trialling in NSW, in particular, and trialling in general. It seems to me that the current situation with Retrieving Trials in NSW has a very strong All Age which is at the upper level and a reasonable Novice, but Restricted competition is very weak numerically. Unfortunately this means that dogs that are inexperienced are rushed into All Age well before they are ready and consequently it is very discouraging to keep competing and going out trial after trial. Alternatively they are pulled out of competition for long periods of time to receive further training. Either way trialling suffers. Many trainers and dogs are simply not equipped to be competitive on long tricky blinds and the other multitude of complexities that All Age has to offer.
The answer may lie in the reintroduction of the Derby. The rules seem strangely ambiguous in relation to what constitutes a Derby stake. Yes it is a stake that carry’s no official recognition. It is simply a marking test. I can only presume that could include multiple retrieves at the discretion of the judge. The Americans have such a test and like us they limit its participation to dogs under 2 years old. They give points to all the place getters and at the end of the season award a high point Derby dog, quiet a prestigious award to win. I would like to see the eligibility rules changed to encourage participation. I surmise that all gundogs be encouraged to enter with the exceptions of Retrieving Trial Champions. No one would ever be eliminated from a derby but simply receive 0 points for that run if they were called in. All point’s gained would stand at the end of the day. Now I know what you trial secretaries are thinking. “We need another Stake like we need a hole in your head!” Simple, DON’T HOLD A DERBY! But for situations like the current one in NSW, it would be prudent to run a Derby instead of a restricted maybe every 3rd trial, resulting in bigger entries, more triallers, more revenue, and more people having fun running their dog.
Retrieving Trials need to cater to all its participants! As a sport we need to compete in the market place and be able to offer dog lovers a viable and enjoyable sport to participate in. All sections of the trialling community must be accommodated and afforded the opportunity to compete in a stake that offers a reasonable chance for success given their proficiency level.
COME-ON working gundog clubs how about offering the trialling community a choice in 2003 and be innovative; change the eligibility rules just a little and put on a Derby!!!!!!!!!!