This year’s Belle Meade Performance Trials in Thomson, Georgia, on January 17-18, were as exciting as ever.
The highest-scoring hound on day one was Tennessee Valley's Thornton Hill Fort Valley Belmont, a crossbred dog hound with a huge, booming voice thanks to his Penn-Marydel lineage.
But Shawnee Hounds took top pack honors for the day, with three in the top ten—Jamie, Dart, and C-Rally. Dart and C-Rally are PMDs and Jamie, like Belmont, is a crossbred with some PMD lineage. Hillsboro Hounds took second place with its English hounds Gigelo and Sapphire in the top five. Tennessee Valley's pack took third place.
The outstanding sport on day two made for excellent scoring again—including marking scores—and all 24 hounds received scores. It's not uncommon for wild shifts in the standings after the second day of a hound performance trial, but seven of the top ten hounds from day one were in the top ten again on day two. Hounds that moved into the top ten were Tennessee Valley's Hudson, a PMD, Belle Meade's Bullet, and Belle Meade's Pilgrim, both crossbreds. Interestingly, the top three spots belonged to the same three hunts: Hillsboro, Shawnee, and Tennessee Valley. Belmont dropped to fifth, Gigelo and Jamie moved up to the first and second spots, and Hudson placed third for the day. The top-scoring hunts for day 2 were Belle Meade, Hillsboro, and Shawnee.
The consistent performance of Shawnee's pack earned them Champion Pack for the two-day event. Reserve Champion honors went to Hillsboro Hounds, and Tennessee Valley Hunt won third. Champion Hound was Hillsboro Gigelo, Reserve Champion was Shawnee Jamie, and Tennessee Valley's Thornton Hill Fort Valley Belmont won third place overall.
Guest Huntsman Chad Wilkes (of Aiken Hounds) selected Midland Shiloh to receive the coveted Huntsman's Choice award. Chad explained his decision by reflecting back on the moment on the first day when there was some uncertainty whether hounds were running heel on a viewed coyote. Chad observed Shiloh, alone, trailing feverishly on one line while all of the other hounds hunted in fits and spurts in multiple other directions. Then Shiloh found and opened with such confidence that all of the others harked to her immediately and the pack screamed away in full cry! Chad recognized Midland and Shiloh in a surprising and very touching manner. He asked Midland's Robert Miller to bring Shiloh into the Belle Meade clubhouse and there, among the crowd of nearly 100, Chad hoisted Shiloh into his arms for all to see! Afterward, Shiloh worked the room briefly, receiving pats from her new adoring fans.