MY COLLEAGUE Simon Parsons has a passion and enthusiasm for Crufts which is unequalled. Each year, on the first day of the show, he is in the hotel reception barely able to contain his excitement and determined to be at the NEC as early as possible – it’s testament to the hold that this sport can gain over us.

So there is no one better to give their reflections, views and opinions of Crufts 2014 than Simon and here is what he has to say about it. Slightly longer than normal but then we are talking about the greatest dog show in the world!

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what was most memorable about Crufts 2014.

It was ‘third time lucky’ for what must surely by now be Britain’s most successful exhibiting kennel of all time. Twice the Afterglows had won reserve BIS at Crufts – with their original breed, the American Cocker Sh Ch Boduf Pistols At Dawn with Afterglow, in 1997 and with their more recent interest, the Standard Poodle Ch/Am Ch Afterglow The Big Tease in 2009.

At virtually all the other shows in the country they have built up an incomparable record of best in show wins, with an amazing 16 different dogs of four breed bred or owned in the kennel taking the top spot at least once. Yet the dog game’s defining award had eluded them.

Ricky and Jason (onEdition)

On Sunday, at last it all came right and the Standard Poodle ‘Ricky’, Ch/Am Ch Afterglow Maverick Sabre, was Jack Bispham’s choice for the top spot.

Anyone watching will surely have to admit that under the guidance of his handler Jason Lynn, Ricky put up a mesmerising performance, standing absolutely four square at the end of a long lead, monarch of all he surveyed. As with ‘Jilly’ last year, it was hard to imagine the decision going any other way.

A Beautiful Entrance! (onEdition)

But the story doesn’t end there. During the 2013 show season, Afterglow – founded by Mike Gadsby and today a joint venture with Jason – produced two of the year’s group leaders, an unprecedented feat. Not only did Ricky, co-owned by Jason with Sandra and John Stone, end up top utility and eventually top spot all breeds, but the American Cocker Spaniel Sh Ch Afterglow Pearl’s A Singer, again bred by Mike and Jason, and handled by co-owner Susan Crummey, was comfortably top gundog, adding to the astonishing record of the Afterglow Americans in this table.

When Pearl appeared in the gundog group on Sunday, we began to wonder whether this unique double could be repeated in the Crufts group rings. And indeed it was, the first time the same breeders have had two dogs in the final seven at Crufts.

American Cocker Spaniel Sh Ch Afterglow Pearl’s A Singer (Karl Donvil)

I suppose the only way this could have been topped was if Pearl, the only bitch in the line-up, had ended up reserve BIS behind Ricky. It wasn’t to be but in any case these phenomenal achievements must give every other exhibitor something to dream about!

One can only imagine Mike’s emotions as he sat in the stands during BIS. For someone who so obviously enjoys handling it must have been a strange feeling, but with justifiable pride in the talents of both Jason and Susan.

Ch Nikara Diamond Dancer (onEdition)

In the event reserve was another of Britain’s most popular top winners, Sue Smith and Val Freer’s Samoyed Ch Nikara Diamond Dancer, twice a BIS winner in 2013. Sams have a good record of group winning at Crufts and a bitch was RBIS a few years ago, so perhaps the breed’s day may yet come.

So a black and white finale and what a picture they made on the green carpet.

Both winner and reserve are of course British-bred – though Jason is an American ‘import’ – but the international element was as strong as ever, with a record total of overseas entries well reflected in the number of visitors who appeared in the groups.

Proudest nation would surely have been Belgium, homebred dogs from that tiny country topping both Friday’s groups. Poland bred and owned another group winner.

Countries directly involved with group-placed dogs included Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, the US, Japan, Ireland, Spain, Slovakia and Slovenia. In the first generation behind the winners are Italy, Canada, Sweden, Thailand and Serbia. Russian exhibitors, with their lady handlers in their distinctive smart suits, seemed to be winning in breed after breed. How global everything has become.

Nine dogs were entered from Ukraine. Whether they made it I’m not sure but they were in our thoughts.

Pawscars Awards (DWUK)

The other big excitement this year was the Pawscars awards dinner on the eve of the show at the Metropole Hotel. Many of us have long felt that the British dog scene is somewhat slow, to say the least, at honouring those who both achieve consistent success and, even more importantly, who contribute to the smooth running of our world at every level. At last something has been done about it, stemming from the great enthusiasm engendered by last year’s BIS winner opting to put something back into the sport and to show what dogs and dog people are capable of, initially through Jilly’s Jaunt and then on to the Peek A Boo Trust and the Pawscars.

Last years Winner “Jilly” (onEdition)

The show itself, like last year it ran its course smoothly, thank goodness. It seems that the lessons of 2011 and ’12 have been well and truly learnt by the Kennel Club, that alienating the dog showing community at our showcase event is patently obviously a bad idea. This should surely be the time and place, above all others, where the emphasis should be on the positive.

As last year, every one of the now 13 high profile bests of breed sailed though the veterinary check. Perhaps one day, when the dust has finally settled, someone will be able to explain the difference between what vets were looking for in 2012, and in the subsequent years. It certainly isn’t visible to the naked eye!

Crowds take over the NEC (Alan V. Walker)

In spite of efforts by PETA and others to persuade the public away from dog shows, the British people are not so stupid, and came along in their thousands. Saturday was one of the busiest days I can remember, and Thursday was unusually packed for the first day. Selfishly, I get driven to distraction when trying to walk purposefully round the NEC with a destination in mind, only to come up against thousands of people who, to put it kindly, are not in any sort of hurry. Yet a moment’s reflection should make one thankful that they are there at all, and that they come back year after year.

Hall 3 is the flagship zone and in the days following Pedigree Dogs Exposed the message here tended to be health, health and health. Understandable and correct at the time, but there was a danger of overkill and today things are more balanced.

There’s still a big focus on health matters, and a major presence by the Animal Health Trust, now so intimately connected with the KC through the genetics centre. Each year a new project is unveiled – first Mate Select, then MyKC and this year the long-awaited estimated breeding values (EBVs) are now up and running for 15 breeds where there is a condition which is not caused by a simple recessive so cannot have a DNA test. So far hip and, in some of the breeds, elbow dysplasia are covered. Tom Lewis was keen to explain the possibilities and let’s hope that in these breeds this will be a useful aid to breeders when weighing up the choice of sire.

Bark and Read Foundation where dogs are used to encourage literacy in children

But there was much more to see – various breed rescues were featured each day, both here and on the Eukanuba stand, the Bark and Read Foundation where dogs are used to encourage literacy in children, charity stands, the Assured Breeder Scheme and much much more.

Behind it is Discover Dogs, now much more spaciously laid out than it used to be but still frequently packed full with visitors. It would be fascinating to know how many of them go on to use what that have seen and learnt when finally making their choice of breed. As ever, hats off to the hundreds of loyal volunteers and dogs, as well as to those who man the breed club stands dotted around the rings.

Last year’s innovation in hall 5, the Kennel Club Accredited Instructors’ Career Zone, proved an enormous hit and was even more popular this time. Many of the lectures were sold out well in advance, and the experts on various fields were kept busy all day. Clearly there is an enormous appetite for knowledge and information, both among people thinking of taking up or moving to a canine career, and for extra qualifications among those already involved. Full marks all round.

Canine Health Awards Recipients (onEdition)

Crufts has done its best to foster links with the veterinary profession, and nowadays the International Canine Health Awards, underwritten by Vernon and Shirley Hill of Metrobank, are presented at the show, this time to Professor Robert Franklin for his work on healing and repair of the central nervous system, and to Professor Peter Bedford for his lifetime’s work with ocular disease. Many breeders and dogs have cause to be grateful to both men, and Peter’s decades of work with breed clubs is known and appreciated throughout the dog world.

The catalogue bookmark proved to be a flyer for a KC/Dogs Trust puppy socialisation plan, aimed at breeders. Reactions last time something similar was pushed at Crufts were mixed, so one hopes this version is not over-burdened with detail.

Incidents seemed mercifully few; in such a crowded atmosphere there is inevitably the odd occasion when dogs act out of character and we heard of a case of where an owner was bitten, resulting in a hospital visit, and of a fracas among flyball dogs. Let’s hope no lasting damage was done.

The big ring was as impressive as ever with the now familiar star spangled backdrop. While watching the groups I’m always grateful for the screen above the ring which can sometimes give a clearer view, especially of movement. However I do hate the slow-motion footage which was also used for each best of breed. Even the best mover looks horrendous when filmed at that speed. Let’s stick to real time, please!

And so to the results. The Obedience Championships are the senior working discipline by far. Winning dog was Philomena Barnes’ Working Sheepdog Ob Ch Forever Magic Its A Gift and the bitch title went to Linda Rutherford’s Lupitoonz Limelite whose dam won three years earlier. This is Linda’s third Championship victory.

Obedience Championships (onEdition)

South East and East Anglia won the Inter-Regional competition, with a new class format, while Wales topped the World Cup.

The new bit was the Obreedience competition for breeds not so often seen at the highest level of competition. The winner was the Pembroke Corgi team led by Maria Carter whose dogs have been seen on TV and in films such as The Queen. I’m sure this will catch on.

Obreedience Competition.The winner was the Pembroke Corgi team led by Maria Carter (onEdition)

In agility, Bernadette Bay’s Sheltie Ag Ch Obay Its Got Pizazz won the Small title for the third year, Natasha Wise’s Ag Ch Raeannes Flipping Heck won the Medium for the second time while Greg Derrett’s Ag Ch Nedlo Detox Sproglett topped the Large Championship. The Marnicks won a nail-biting and of course noisy flyball final.

Dog World’s own correspondent Richard Curtis had a marvellous time winning both the national and international freestyle titles with ‘Whizzy’. This was Richard’s fourth freestyle win with three different dogs, and his second international victory. The heelwork to music competition was won by Heather Smith and ‘Maddie’ for the third time.

Dog World’s own correspondent Richard Curtis had a marvellous time winning both the national and international freestyle titles with ‘Whizzy’ (onEdition)

As ever there was a whole host of competitions and presentations for Young Kennel Club members with the handling trophy going to Kyle Adams. Adam Wildman with Ag Ch Zar Zar Zoom won the Agility Dog of the Year. I must mention the outstanding achievement award for Ryan Ross who is thought to be the youngest person to make up a champion.

With a record 45 competitors, the International handling final goes from strength to strength, Canada winning for the Second time with Colton O’Shea. Great to see Liz Cartledge, the inspiration behind this event for so many years, double honoured at the Pawscars both as a judge and for her encouragement to countless young enthusiasts down the decades.

Colton O’Shea winner of Junior handling competion (onEdition)

Any misgivings about holding Scruffts’ final at Crufts have long evaporated and the story behind the winner, Wylie, was a real tearjerker – rescue by British soldiers from a dog-fighting ring in Afghanistan.

Jane Wilton-Clark’s Whippet Ch Shalfleet Sugar Frosting topped the Junior Warrant final under Carla Molinari and there was more excitement to come for her owner.

Nearly 150 dogs packed the Arena for the breeders competition final where Margaret Anderson, who won BIS two years ago, proved she has plenty more of the same when her team of four Zentarr Lhasas of exactly similar type and balance was Paolo Dondina’s choice.

For the second year, several of the groups saw an imported register representative do a lap of hour, while for the Catalan and the Eurasier it was a step up with their own breed classes, topped by Alex Little’s German import Adios de Selva Molino at Bobbington and Morag Webster’s Louiston Logie Bare.

Group judging began on Thursday with Frank Kane’s third year running as a big ring judge, this time doing the working group. It was a first group win for Robert and Donna Taylor’s Rottweiler Ch Minaelea’s Black Mambo, who had won through the breed under Joanne Johnson and Marie Ward. He’s just one of several dogs over the four days whose profile movement really inspired the ringside.

Ch Minaelea’s Black Mambo (Karl Donvil)

Following on were three visitors, the American-bred Portuguese Water Dog Int/Am/Sw/Norw/Dan/Sw Ch Robel Alexander The Great Aquatass, living in Norway where he had had some manjor successes, while Norway bred the third, the Danish-owned Malamute Dan Ch Inupiat’s Quuniqsuq Jason, and fourth was a Newfoundland from Slovenia, bred in Slovakia, Slo Ch King Of Helluland Just In Time. Frank had given another Newfoundland from this breeder RBIS two years ago.

Valerie Foss, another previous BIS judge, chose the pastoral winner who was Sue Smith and Val Freer’s Samoyed Ch Nikara Diamond Dancer, the City and LKA BIS winner last year. On a previous big ring appearance here he had won the junior warrant final in which his son was second this time. Breed judge was Geoff Corish.

On a previous big ring appearance here he had won the junior warrant final in which his son was second this time. Breed judge was Geoff Corish.

Sue Smith and Val Freer’s Samoyed Ch Nikara Diamond Dancer (Karl Donvil)

Runner-up was the recently crowned Bearded Collie Ch Nellbrook Imagination, third the perennial favourite German Shepherd, the imported Ch Elmo vom Hühnegrab, now a veteran and with a group win and three times G3 from his four Crufts BOB wins. Fourth went to another kennel no stranger to Crufts big ring success, to the Puli Ch Hollibell Ordug.

Gerrard Morris was in charge of the terriers on Friday and went for the Wire Fox Ch Kingarthur van Foliny Home, from the Belgian kennel of Rony and Dieny de Munter-Uiterwijk who also bred last year’s G2 Lakeland. He has been shown in the UK by Warren Bradley and was BIS at the WFT Association centenary show. He had won the breed under Alan Davies, beating into RCC the number two all-breeds from last year.

Wire Fox Ch Kingarthur van Foliny Home, from the Belgian kennel of Rony and Dieny de Munter-Uiterwijk (Karl Donvil)

An Anglo-American second place for the US-bred, Transatlantic-owned Sealyham Ch/Am Ch Blomendal’s Born In The USA at Thunder Rd, a son of Crufts BIS ‘Charmin’ and like him handled by Margery Good. Third went to Dublin and the Stafford Ch/Ir Ch Zakstaff Whats The Story and fourth to the Windsor BIS, the American-bred Irish Ch/Am Ch Kells Touch Of Fleet St, this time going ahead of his equally well known Airedale kennelmate.

The other half of the Belgian double was the Irish Wolfhound Ger/Bel/Dutch/Lux Ch Justintime of First Avenue, the first time well known exhibitor Gary Janssens had shown at Crufts. He was the choice of Michael Quinney, though some thought he had been pointing to the Ridgeback when in fact he was asking the handler to stand up. Jean McDonald-Ulliott was the Wolfhound judge.

Runner-up was the previous group winning Longhaired Dachshund Ch Bronia Lotario and third really was the Ridgeback, another consistent winner in Dutch-bred Ch Jockular Lord Leonti at Tsjakka. Fourth was yet another hound well known to group spectators, top hound’13, the Whippet Ch Shalfleet Simply A Lord, sire of the JW final winner and himself G2 behind Jilly last year.

On Saturday it was Ken Sinclair, yet another to have been involved with a previous Crufts BIS winner, who sent through Ricky, who had won the breed under Albert Wight.

Runner-up was the Akita Ch Redwitch Will I Am who has packed an amazing amount into his 18 months including several group wins. Third and fourth went to two more leading British kennels, with the Keeshond Ch Neradmik Miss Holly Berry and the Bulldog Ch Kingrock Captain Cook.

Int/Pol/Hung Ch Unbeaten Premiera, owned by Bozena Brobowska-Grochala (Karl Donvil)

Amazingly, no woman from overseas had judged a Crufts group until Sweden’s Renée Sporre-Willes stepped into the ring to judge the toys. She fell for the charms of the aptly named Polish Pomeranian who decided he owned the ring, Int/Pol/Hung Ch Unbeaten Premiera, owned by Bozena Brobowska-Grochala, sent in by Lynn Lythgoe.

Second was our top toy ’12 and joint top ’13, the BIS-winning Pekingese Ch Yakee Ooh Aah Cantona, a grandson of Crufts winner ‘Danny’. Third was a Bichon taking his first CC, Hylacer Just One Look at Alareen, and fourth last year’s G3, the Japanese owned and bred, Spanish resident Yorkshire Tertrier, multi-titled Ch/Int Ch Royal Precious JP’s F4 Juliana, the UK Toy BIS.

Gundogs were the only group on the last day and as always the gamekeepers classes were a prominent feature of the day. In the big ring their trophy went to Fiona and David Johnson’s German Wirehaired Pointer Trudvang Gyldenborste at Gyldearn.

the gamekeepers classes were a prominent feature of the day. In the big ring their trophy went to Fiona and David Johnson’s German Wirehaired Pointer Trudvang Gyldenborste at Gyldearn.

A pity that last year’s early (8pm) finish to the show couldn’t have been repeated – it was a great boon to those of us with long journeys and work the next day! I guess there are the TV requirements to consider, and with some very numerous breeds this day one wouldn’t want to risk them not being completed by group time.

Yet another of the group judges to have ‘been there done that’ is Penny Williams, who won RBIS at Crufts with an English Setter. Her choice was the second Afterglow group winner, Pearl, top gundog ’13 with two BIS wins, owned by Susan Crummey with Jason Lynn. Dale Vincent judged the breed.

It was a second CC for the G2, the Golden Retriever Dan/Ir/Int Sh Ch Abinvale Traguardo, bred in Northern Ireland, Danish-owned and currently back with his breeders. Third and fourth were two consistent winners in the Flatcoat Sh Ch Feldkirk Fashion and the Irish Setter Sh Ch Meadway Morrisey.

So that left just two of last year’s group leaders, the Afterglow pair, in the final seven. The top hound was G4, top terrier RCC, top working can’t compete as he’s docked, top pastoral won her class, one joint top toy was G2 and the other third in open, while the top rare breed took BOB.

A quick break – with fascinating footage of military dogs from the first world war appearing on the screens – and we were back for the traditional heelwork to music spot. Something rather different this year from Mary Ray and Richard Curtis and the wonderful Levi – Scottish Highland dancing with Levi mirroring every single move of Mary and Richard. How does he do it? Especially as earlier in the day he had been competing in the Obedeince World Cup where he was top scoting individual. The crowd clapped along and it was all quite brilliant!

Mary Ray and Richard Curtis and the wonderful Levi (onEdition)

A change of mood for Friends For Life and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wishing that they didn’t have to declare a winner, this year in particular. All are life-affirming, literally. Molly the Cocker who has given owner Lucy Watts confidence in the face of a life-limiting condition is a wonderful example of what dogs can give – just as were the other five.

Clare Balding’s interviewing technique as ever managed to be both professional and totally natural, and singer and former Crufts BIS winner Chris Amoo was a great choice to present the prizes. Talking of which, in some other cases it would have been good to know a bit more about the trophy presenter and why they were chosen.

Back to the show dogs and last year’s innovation of having the group judges parade with their selections was repeated.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Jack Bispham on the woolsack so it was great to see him look in such good form when he was escorted into the ring by Steve Dean. The line-up was surely one of the best and none let their handler down.

The Final 7 lined up for Best In Show (onEdition)

Ricky added a bit of extra charm to his performance by indulging in a little stretch before moving out. Seldom in this country have I seen a dog demand a win so dramatically and rewarded he duly was, with the equally magnificent moving Sammy making up a memorable duo.

Having completed a unique triple – Top Dog, BIS Crufts, Eukanuba World Challenge – Ricky at just two and a half now retires from UK competition. What next for him? Can his win leave such a lasting legacy as did last year’s? Time will tell.

Another wonderful Crufts and I for one enjoyed every second.