This event is fast gaining a reputation as the first three winners of this competition have gone onto become Champions, with last year’s winner already achieving reserve challenge certificates. Now in its fifth year and once again held at the Drovers Court, Montgomery Pavilion, on the Royal Welsh Showground’s on Saturday February 25th 2012, under the auspices of Cardiff Canine Society.

As a beautiful morning dawned with lots of sunshine, it did prove to be quite chilly out of the sun, this year the event was making history by hosting the first ever Welsh Junior Handler of The Year 2012 competitions being organised by Dr Phillippa Pearson.

Drovers court on the RWAS site is a super building, and this year it was once again laid out with thought, white rose tall topiary trees draped all corners of the white railed picket fenced ring and the welsh flags were prominently displayed on the Judging table and commentators tables alike.

There was the usual and most warming welcome of free hot beverages with welsh cakes and jam served by Martins wife, Carol Sanders and her sister. Everyone received a warm introduction by Richard Morris in both Welsh and English, before the competitions got underway, there are a maximum of 64 dogs taken from yearly applications to compete for this title, being eligible after winning a junior class in their breed throughout the qualifying period with an exhibit or an exhibitor resident in Wales.

The first competition of the day was the Junior Handler of The Year 2012, which kicked off with 6 to 11 years, they were judged by Sue Whitehead on this occasion with Ffion Thomas taking the top spot and Teigan Harp youngest in the competitions runner up. Followed by the 12 – 16 years final which was won by the eldest competitor Catrin Roberts with Libby Jones as runner up. These two competed against each other with Catrin winning the title overall and Ffion runner up, a full report on this competition will appear in paws.

The event of Welsh Junior of the Year is well organised by Martin Sanders and his hardworking team along with the generous help of sponsor’s Royal Canin, Patsi Ann Standard Image, Dorwest Herbs, Celebration rosettes, and well known Welsh faces of Clive & Barbara Davies of Sundeala Gundogs,  Richard Morris of Glascoed Gundogs & Les Portlock.

Each contestant received a coaster of welsh slate, a certificate of attendance, £5 of Dorwest vouchers, a complimentary rosette & a 4kg bag of food suitable to the dog breed or size from Royal Canin who had sent along Julie Williams (Trebettyn Golden Retrievers) to make the presentations to the qualifiers.

Judges are kept close to Martins chest and are only announced on the morning of the event, this year saw Bill Browne-Cole Jnr of Travella Wire Fox Terriers being invited, Bill was born into a show dog family and is approved to judge 32 breeds, which include terriers, hounds and toys along with Crufts Group Commentator Graham Hill mainly known for his Dimland Borzois, Graham is currently joint secretary of the Welsh Kennel Club with his wife Ann, and is passed to judge 24 hound breeds and 4 pastoral breeds as well as the hound group at championship show level.

Bill drew group A so was up for judging the morning group the winners of each of the Junior Handling categories pulled out of a bag, ping pong balls with numbers on them to correspond with the numbers of the dogs, in group A, and repeated the procedure for group B and Graham. The competition is run in a two dog knockout round, with the winner going onto the next round and so on until just one dog is left in both groups, who then compete for overall winner and runner up.

There was a parade of the group A dogs before Bill got his hands on, and he finished up with Ray Parry’s 20 month old Japanese Chin male Ch. Sleepyhollow Caruso With Gwynsias JW who had just challenged Rhian Williams’s miniature smooth haired dachshund bitch, Cwmdarhian Cara-Mia to win group A.

After lunch and with the bar now open it was Grahams turn on the red carpet as Group B strutted their stuff in their lap of honour and collected their gifts given out by Julie Williams, that had kindly been given to each contestant.

Grahams finalists included Rhian Williams’s miniature smooth haired dachshund male this time Cwmdarhian Can’t Touch This, challenging the Australian terrier belonging to Ruth Jones from Builth Wells, Wyeafon Illusion In Red, it was Rhian and her dachshund that went on to challenge the Japanese chin.

The two group winners were brought back to be co-judged between Bill & Graham, it wasn’t long before a decision was reached between them and the winner announced, with a silent room and anticipation filling the air it was with a great deal of applause that  the Japanese Chin was announced as Welsh Junior of the Year 2012, and the miniature smooth male as reserve, many congratulations followed with a photo session, the judges were also presented with the usual Patsi Ann plaques commemorating the event which were matching the ones won earlier by their respective group winners.

Report: Zara Boyle.