THE Scottish nursery champion from 2016 stepped up again to take the honours in the equivalent trial in 2019 – Ian Fergie won a second title last Saturday, at Walkerburn, near Peebles, with Craig, who ran steadily and consistently around the course.

Ian, a regular in the nursery final and who has often been placed in the top 10, was third with Craig last year. He said: “I thought I had had a fair run, but I had seen bits and pieces of some other runs that looked to be doing well as I was getting ready to go on, so I couldn’t judge.”

The day got off to a promising start with sun shining on an event where rain and cold winds are usual. The Mule hoggs were lively on a flat course, but more manageable for young dogs than many Blackface hoggs have been in previous years. Despite that, the trial challenged dogs and handlers to the extent that they had every opportunity to show their strengths and weaknesses.

The hoggs generally behaved well on the drive, but were loathed to go through the cross drive gate, possibly because of a high mesh fence surrounding a small filtration plant, a short distance ahead.

Due to the layout, the judge, Ricky Hutchinson, asked that the dogs shed before they penned. The hoggs penned readily, but Ricky’s call for the last two of four sheep, put pressure on competitors.

The demanding judge deducted points from the run as it started, penalising Ian for setting Craig off before the pair reached the starting post. The rest of the outrun went untouched – Craig (M McTeir’s Bob, A Sim’s Flo) reached his sheep, lifted cleanly, and had one of the best fetches of the day.

He kept good lines on the drive and although he had to work hard to put the sheep through the first drive gate, managed the cross drive gate better than many. He made a good return to the shedding ring and shed well there, although not quite as sharply as the judge’s ideal, before a grand pen completed the winning run on 84pts.

Running in the captain’s round, Ian had, indeed, caught sight of some good work as he settled Craig and himself before his run.

First of the round, Lanark, Lothian and Peebles-shire’s Sion Morgan’s Middery Kim (M Magnusson’s Kilcreen Seal, L Magnussons’s Mol) ran out very straight, and pushed the sheep off line, but lifted them and made a good fetch. Sion and Kim worked very well together on the drive.

He then stopped her before the cross drive gate to keep her off the sheep and they went through – it detracted a little from the smooth running, but Kim achieved the best drive of the day. One hogg wanted to break from the packet in the shedding ring, so it took time to settle them, but when that was done, Kim made a great shed and finished her run with a clean pen on 82pts, for eventual second and the trophy for the best drive of the day.

North Ayrshire’s captain, Chloe Cropper and Derwen Gus, had another good run prior to Ian’s, so good indeed, that they won the trophy for the best outbye work.

Derwen Gus (DK Evans’ Jim, G Jones’ Derwen Blue) ran out and lifted her sheep flawlessly, but they took off and a bit of flanking was needed to keep them on the line of the fetch, but he did that, although they drifted a little as they turned round Chloe. The hoggs fought on the drive, but the pair worked very well to control a difficult packet, fighting, even to keep them moving across.

At the cross drive gate, Gus was below them as they went through and by the time he was in position to turn them, they were well through, so the turn was wide. Two hoggs stepped out of the shedding ring before the job was done, but Gus retrieved them quickly to make his shed. He would have taken the first pair, but Chloe refocused him on to the target and he took the required pair. A quick, clean pen completed the run in third place on 81pts.

In the ‘middle round’ of dogs ranked third in the teams of five, two dogs distinguished themselves with runs which were eventually placed fourth and fifth overall.

Running for Wigtown – his home of only six months duration – Jordan McGowan and Tony proved an asset to their adopted area, earning fifth place, equally pointed with fourth.

Tony (JP McGee’s Glencregg Silver, D McAllister Jody) ran out and lifted well, worked hard to keep the sheep on line on the fetch and made a neat turn round Jordan’s feet. At the drive away gate, Tony was below the gate, to prevent the hoggs breaking in that direction, but when they headed to the top side, he was quick to get round and stop them there.

They went safely through and the cross drive was grand, but Jordan let them go fully through, fearing he might misjudge the gate and cause Tony to turn them away. He kept Tony off the sheep on the return to the shedding ring to settle them and that worked well, because although Jordan was a little premature in attempting a shed, he realised his mistake, let the hoggs close up and made a great shed. A clean pen completed the run and set a new standard on 80pts, six ahead of the previous leaders.

Three dogs later, George Simpson’s Kim (J Hey’s Don, SM Hey’s Tess) ran out well, but stopped just a little short, lifted her sheep and had a good fetch, with minor wavers. The drive started well, although at the cross drive gate, the hoggs were determined to avoid the obstacle and darted from side to side, but Kim eventually put them through.

She made her shed, and came on the last pair, but as she did so, the two hoggs tried to draw apart, so she had to hold them together and it made the job look untidy. A clean pen completed the run in fourth place, on 80 pts, ahead of Tony’s on outbye work.

LEADING awards:

Scottish inter district nursery final 2019

Caberston, Walkerburn (Judge: RJ Hutchinson, Littledale). Nine teams of five dogs ran: 1, I Fergie’s Craig, Straiton, 84/100; 2, S Morgan’s Mid Derry Kim, Heriot, 82; 3, C Cropper’s Derwen Gus, Drimsynie, 81; 4, G Simpson’s Kim, Forgue, 80 outbye; 5, J McGowan’s Tony, Portpatrick, 80; 6, I McMillan’s Straid Zac, Newton Stewart, 79; 7, K Howlett’s Spot, Comrie, 77; 8, JR Welsh’s Sonny, Dalrymple, 76; 9, CM Magnusson’s Wheatwood Bee, Mid Derry, 75 outbye; 10, IM Brownlie’s Templehall Oz, Deuchrie, 75.

Teams – 1, North Ayrshire, 367; 2, Lanark, Lothian and Peebles, 333; 3, Central, 331.

Main prizes – John Ferguson Cup (champion) – I Fergie’s Craig, Straiton, South Ayr.

RSABI quaich (runner-up) – S Morgan’s Mid Derry Kim, Heriot, LL and P

Inter-district trophy (breeder of champion) – A Sim’s Flo, Powmill.

Lyn Lewis trophy (competitor never previously competed in National trial) – J McGowan’s Tony, Portpatrick, Wigtown.

J McNeil memorial trophy (best outbye) – C Cropper’s Derwen Gus, Drimsynie, North Ayr

J Paterson memorial trophy (best drive) – S Morgan’s Mid Derry Kim, Heriot, LL and P.

Bill Fleming trophy (youngest competitor) – C Derwent’s Dot, Dumfries House.

Robert Wallace Shield – North Ayrshire team.