Series one of the Super Retriever Series Crown Championship began today at the Palmetto Country Club in Benton, Louisiana under beautiful sunny skies—prime conditions for a day that would see competition from the top handler/retriever teams in the country. As the day began, handlers were called to the judge’s tent, the course was explained, and guns were up at 9 am as the first team of the day walked to the line.
The first series proved to be a true test on many levels; a left bird with a long line paralleling a stand of pines stretching approximately 265 yards and finishing over a small rise, a middle bird of only slightly less distance situated to the right of the same tree line, and the final “go bird,” a difficult 110-yard mark across a small pond and tucked behind a cattail patch that challenged the entire field of competitors throughout the day. In each one of the marks, the retriever/handler teams were judged on their ability to travel in straight lines that took them towards water and over mounds of land and other obstructions like cattails and trees that blocked full view of the marks. One aspect in the teams’ favor was the lack of cover due to an absence of rain. Dogs that were within the area of the fall typically were able to find their marks.
Amateur handler Ray Caito came out with a strong start with his dog Traeger, scoring an early 33. Later in the day Caito/Frank would have another solid performance, scoring a 58. Amateur handlers put on a good showing across the board in the morning with eight amateur handlers scoring under 60 by noon.
“It felt great to see Traeger do so well early on,” said Caito. “There is usually a larger gap between the amateur and professional divisions, so that has been surprising, but it is good to see people having success.”
Many competitors noted the changing light conditions throughout the day which at times made marks difficult to spot as shadows shifted across the course. With the varying light, some competitors elected to go after the long, left-hand bird second, while others preferred the middle bird, working progressively longer marks.
“This is a challenging course that really tests a dog,” said handler Lyle Steinman. “The judges did a good job of putting it together.”
Despite the challenging course, Steinman and his black female Labrador-retriever, Jordan put on a show just before noon. Jordan charged to her marks with speed and style, earning an impressive score of ten, one of the lowest scores of the day.
“She’s been on fire recently,” said Steinman, “That’s the dog we wanted to hang our hat on when we left the drive, and she really did well today. I just want to stay out of her way. I’m going with the same strategy tomorrow,” he finished laughing.
Other impressive showings in the Open Division included handler Lee Howard and his dog Shooter who scored a remarkable seven and Stephen Durrence/Nick only a few points behind at 12.
As previously mentioned, the Amateur Division also had several strong performances including Steven Guzman/Dre with a stylish eight, John Lamar/Smokie picking up birds quickly and scoring an 18, and J. Wesley Hamm/Winston who picked up birds cleanly with no major faults scoring 41.
Series one was temporarily postponed at 6:30 CST due to the loss of daylight with two teams left to compete. Series one will resume tomorrow at 8 am CST (light conditions permitting) at the Palmetto Country Club in Benton, Louisiana after which series two will begin. You can watch the action live and for free by viewing the live-stream at superretriverseries.com
*All scores remain unofficial until Series 1 has completed.