Saturday, July 15, 2006

Grand Prix Finals Course Analysis

This was a fun but technical course with plenty of off course opportunities and many different ways to handle the tricky spots. For me, the hairiest part was jumps #10-13 then to the #14 tunnel. I opted to send Lola over 10 and 11 while I stayed on the landing side of 12, calling her to me then flipping her to 13. Some handlers pulled off a front cross on the take off side of 12 but I was worried about the off courses at 20 and 2 as well as the A-frame. When I tried this with Cody at practice I did indeed get off courses at 2 and 20. It's a good little exercise for practicing front crosses.

Here's a cool video showing the first and second place dogs Jaxon and Juice in the 26" height class running simultaneously (click on the link in the middle of the page):

The interesting thing to note is that both handlers chose different handling strategies and nearly every challenge on the course yet both have beautiful runs. Jaxon wins by .63 second even though Juice has much tighter turns in several places, esp. from the weaves to jump #16. Jaxon's a bigger dog and it seems his speed won out over Juice's tight turns. I think Juice normally runs in the 22" class but they've either got a spot or they're gunning for a spot on the World Team which means he needs to jump 26".

At the tricky spot at #10-#14, Jaxon's handler does a front cross on the landing side of #12, something an instructor had told me specifically NOT to do just a few days before the trial. I've had another instructor teach me how to do this cross so I do it on occasion but lately I've been having trouble with it and didn't want to risk it myself on this course. But it just goes to show that there are no absolutes in agility. Juice's handler does something similar to what I did. In general, handlers did all sorts of things at that location and lots of things worked (or didn't), it just depended on the team. The front cross on the takeoff side of 12 looked nicest if you could pull it off and keep the dog off the A-frame.

In the opening I stayed on the left of the obstacles the whole way to the chute, Jaxon's handler stays on the right the whole way and Juice's handler switches sides. I'll hopefully get my own video in a few days to see what it looked like but I think I lost a bit of time flipping her from 3 to 4 but I was more worried about off courses and staying on the right would have opened up the A-frame which is a big lure for Lola. Plus you've got 2 pushes from 2 to 3 then from 4 to 5 and you have to back cross the chute risking the dog coming out to the right on the wrong lead.

The #8 jump to the teeter was a place where some of the faster teams had problems. Some of those who stayed on the left calling the dog to the teeter had an off course to the A-frame since that's the dog's natural path. I had the same problem at an almost identical situation on another Grand Prix course so I opted for a front cross at #8 and a push to the teeter like Jaxon's handler. I'm not sure why you'd stay on the other side, maybe some thought it would make a tighter turn or maybe it had to do with how they were handling #10-13 but some top handlers fell victim at that location (Juice's handler pulls it off beautifully in the video).

Only a few dogs fell for the trap at the #14 tunnel to the weaves. There was plenty of time and space before the weaves to get in place to turn into them and call them off that jump.

Overall a pretty fun course. When I get the video of my run I'll try to post it.

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