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[Transcript] Episode 215: The 2019 AKC Agility Premier Cup Presented by EEM

This is a transcript of Podcast 215: The 2019 AKC Agility Premier Cup Presented by EEM. There may be some errors in transcription.
[Sarah]
Today, we’re very excited to be joined by the Director of AKC Agility Carrie DeYoung and she has joined us today to talk about the newly announced 2019 AKC agility Premier Cup presented by EEM. Welcome to the podcast Carrie.

[Carrie]
Thanks!

[Sarah]
So this is an event that was announced with very little warning. It seemed to take all of the agility people by surprise. Nobody had ever heard of it. It was a brand new event in conjunction with a horse show. So Carrie, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how this came about?

[Carrie]
Well, first of all, we obviously did a very good job keeping it quiet.

[Sarah]
[laughing] Yes, you did.

[Carrie]
Well, I got a call last fall from someone inside the AKC that said they had been approached by someone involved with the Longines Masters horse show being held in New York in April and they wanted to know if we might be interested in doing something with agility with them. Well, you never turn down a question like that. So we started talking about it and realized that what they really wanted was an event that could tie to their top level Horse Show. They were looking for a way to show the connection between dogs and horses. We know they’re very similar audiences and they thought it would be a fun add to their event.

In looking back historically, some of the stuff I gave them went back, as we all know, to the beginning of agility, but a very similar event is done in England, which is the Olympia horse show that has agility as part of that horse show and that’s an annual event and a very, very popular one in England for the agility competitors. So we started talking with EEM, which is the company that produces the horse show, to see if we could come to an agreement for this event. Now, typical corporations on both sides. We started this discussion early fall and the contracts and everything were finally ready to go just a little bit before the announcement went out. Certainly, we would like to have had this out sooner for everybody. But with any first-time event, there’s always a lot of back and forth behind the scenes to get it up and ready to go. So that’s what’s going on with this. We’re really hopeful this will be very successful and we’ll do this again next year in which case we’ll have a lot more time to pull it together and a lot more notice for everybody.

[Sarah]
And so one thing that was interesting about this event is that it’s by Invitation Only and I think that’s one of the reasons that so many people were surprised by the announcement. They started looking at the calendar and saying Invitation Only–who’s invited?? Nobody’s talking. Nobody’s on Facebook saying they’ve been invited, you know, what’s going on here? So what can you tell us about the process for determining who gets an invitation to this event?

[Carrie]
Well, in looking at the horse show itself and in talking with EEM about the type of show they wanted to promote; they were looking for a tie-in in the agility world where we had top-level competitors coming in that matches the type of horse/rider teams that you will see at the horse event. In looking through the various things that we do during the year in the AKC and considering who are our top competitors, it was decided that for this first year, we would invite people who were finalists at the 2018 National Agility Championship, the Preferred National Agility Championship and the 2018 Agility Invitational along with the Westminster finalists. And then we looked at our 2018 World team, European Open team and European Open Junior team for the invitations. We, in doing this, found that obviously we have a lot of wonderful top-quality competitors, great teams out there. We only have a very short window of time. We have about five hours to do this event. So we had to figure out the maximum number of dogs we could bring in to come up with our format. It came to 12 Dogs per height and in doing that we then had to come up with a formula to make sure that we fill 12 spots. Well, it’s because of the timeline being so compressed we had to invite more people than we have spaces for. I will tell you we did not do a huge “over-invite”. We’re just hopeful that when we do the draw that there aren’t too many people left out at that point. But again, we’ve got to fill the 12 spaces–that’s what makes the program work. So we had to invite more than the twelve spaces.

[Esteban]
So do you feel pretty confident that you are going to get at least 12 entries per height?

[Carrie]
We do. The fancy has been wonderful already. Those that got invitations that knew for sure that they could not come have already contacted us. And we have a list going, that we can go down, to send out the next invitation, the next invitation, the next invitation. And so again, we’re confident that we’re gonna be able to fill those 12 spots.

[Esteban]
Ah okay, so that’s already been going on. Not like the AKC Invitational where you send out the initial wave, a second wave and so on.

[Carrie]
Right! That’s correct. We don’t have the time with this event.

[Esteban]
Gotcha, gotcha, okay, I think that makes a lot of sense. So I’m very interested in hearing about the actual structure of the event because when you say 5 hours, right? That puts certain images in my head because you’ve got to have the course done. You got to get your walkthroughs in. You have to break down the course and if you’re doing three rounds…have we talked about the structure of the show yet?

[Sarah]
We have not, nope!

[Esteban]
So let’s go ahead and start there. What is the exact structure of the show going to be?

[Carrie]
Well, we’re going to be running three rounds. The first two rounds will be a jumpers class, a standard class and then a final round. So all dogs will run jumpers and standard and then the top 6 dogs in each height will move on to the final round. Judged Dan Wolfson has already done a great job starting to work on his courses. So we’ve got some nesting going on which will help us with our course builds. But again, Dan’s a great course designer so I can assure you these courses will not be over-nested. They will certainly be fun to run.

[Esteban]
And is there going to be just the one judge?

[Carrie]
There will be just the one judge.

[Esteban]
Are you going to have a spotter for contact equipment, most notably the dog walk?

[Carrie]
I expect we will.

[Esteban]
Gotcha, and at this point I want to go ahead and bring Jennifer in here because it turns out Jennifer has actually gotten an invitation to compete at this inaugural event. And so Jennifer, as a competitor, what kind of questions do you have when you’re hearing Carrie talk about, you know, 6 dogs in each height making the finals. What are your questions for her?

[Jennifer]
So I know for me I was super excited to hear about the event but then I think that long-awaited process–“Okay. Are we going to get invited?” So it was very cool to receive that invitation. And the great thing for me is Thursday, it’s on a Thursday, which is a weekday, which I think could be hard for a lot of people. Thursday’s actually my day off.

So I definitely plan to enter and keep my fingers crossed for the draw. But I think the biggest question that I had which we just discussed was kind of the structure of the event. So how they were going to do it. Having been recently at Westminster, it sounds like it will sort of be similar in that it’s a standard and a jumpers and then a finals where only half of the people make the cut. So will the scoring “clear off” for finals or will the finals round be combined with rounds one and two?

[Carrie]
Oh no, it’ll clear off for finals. You’ll be starting fresh in the finals round.

[Jennifer]
Awesome. And then is the format of the classes…I know it’s called the Premier Cup…but is that the name or will we actually be seeing Premier-type courses?

[Carrie]
You’ll be seeing premier-type courses. We actually played with a variety of names back and forth trying to come up with a name that sounded like it matched the horse event, that sounded sporty, that sounded “all that” and I finally said, “Well the courses we plan on using are THIS” and finally everyone heard me about the fourth time and went, “Oh, that’s a really good name.”

[laughter]

[Jennifer]
Yeah, I think the name is great. I think that was one of the questions I had, you know, we saw going around on Facebook before a lot of information was out…okay, it’s CALLED the Premier Cup, but is it actually going to be Premier level courses, so that’s quite exciting. So it’ll be definitely a fun event to check out it cause I know first year probably maybe a few Kinks to work out as we go but I’m very much looking forward to attending if I get selected through the draw.

[Carrie]
Well, I’ll tell you that EEM is very excited about this event and they’re really looking to make this a very, very exciting positive event for the exhibitors and their dogs. We’ll have a VIP area that you’ll get access to during the event. You’ll have your own separate crating. We’re working on, you know, a reasonable exercise area. Of course, we are indoors at the Nassau Arena and it is being set up for the horse event. The surface will be fabulous. We’re excited about that because of course it is the special mix that they’ve brought in for the horse event. They will be reworking it before we start so we can get it settled back down a little bit more for the dogs. So it’s not fluffed the way it would be for the horses. But I really feel that this surface is going to run extremely well. It’s the horse surface that has the felt pieces in it. So we’re looking forward to working with that. We’ve got a large Arena. Dan’s able to put out some nice-sized courses for everybody and I think once you get there and you see all the dressing and everything else going on with this event, it’s really going to feel exciting and special.

[Jennifer]
Now, will there be any horse events actually going on the day of the agility? Because I kind of took a sneak peak at the course schedule and it looks like that’s a day off for the horses. So will it just be the dogs coming in that day or is it like horses during the day and the dogs don’t start till the evening around 5 o’clock?

[Carrie]
Our understanding right now is in the Morning and afternoon there are some warm up classes that the horses will be doing. I don’t have the final schedule on that but they are scheduled to be finished with the horses at approximately 4:17 p.m. or something like that. At this point, they’ve got it down to the minute and then the dirt will be reworked for us. So there will be horses competing that day in warm up classes.

[Jennifer]
So this is definitely an evening event, like Thursday evening. We’re not started talking, you know, an 8:00 a.m. start like a normal show.

[Carrie]
No…

[Jennifer]
Alright, cool!

[Carrie]
Right now what we’re saying is 4 p.m. and I think that’s on the premium 4 p.m. We expect to be done about 9:45. So it’s definitely an evening event and is being staged as an evening event. So I think that’ll make it very exciting for all of us.

[Jennifer]
Excellent!

[Sarah]
So Carrie, from watching everybody talk about this event on Facebook. There was one interesting thing that people have been talking about and that is that the invitation for the dog is for a specific height and it’s not always for the height that that dog measures into, so what determines the height that the invitation is going out for, for a specific dog?

[Carrie]
The heights were determined based on the category that the dog came out of. Let me use an example for you: Kai Macauley who was one of our European Open Junior team members and his dog Stitch were gold medalists at the European Open Junior competition. They qualified then to jump at 24 inches. That’s what they would be jumping at for this event.

[Sarah]
So not all the dogs are going to be jumping at their measured height. It’s going to be a mix of measured height plus I guess, almost exceptions, based on competing internationally because I believe that all of the other events outside of the International Teams require dogs to jump at their measured height. So you’re not going to get that difference from Westminster, Nationals, or the Invitational. You would only get that difference from dogs that were invited based on World team, EO or Junior EO, is that correct?

[Carrie]
That’s correct.

[Sarah]
All right!

[Esteban]
Now I want to jump in here with a question. So how is this scoring going to be done in the first two rounds? How do we know who finished…or are the two runs going to be combined? Are you taking the top several from each one or how’s that working? How do you get into the finals?

[Carrie]
The preliminary rounds will be scored with all of our typical faults: refusals, run-outs, wrong course, missed contacts, dropped bars, resulting in a 5 point Deduction. If someone doesn’t finish an obstacle, they’re going to get a zero. You’re going to want to finish this course because you need a score. The dogs with the highest score, then fastest times, will be the ones that will move into the final round. Once we get to the final round those scores will be cleared and everyone’s going to start fresh again in head-to-head competition for the finals round.

[Esteban]
Okay, awesome. And I had one more question about the finals themselves. Actually, this applies to the preliminary rounds as well. That 5 hour block, I assume that they’re going to be spectators. I assume that this is a big part of the events. Would you anticipate that there are people there? Have you seen pictures of the facility? Like what kind of crowds are we looking at?

[Carrie]
Well, this is the first time and as Jennifer noted, it is on a Thursday night. EEM will be working to publicize this as much as possible to get crowds in. The nice thing is the agility ring will be on the arena floor and the crowd will be up in the stands. So while there hopefully will be a good amount of public to see us and cheer for our dogs, it won’t be like it is at some of the other events around the country where you kind of have to fight your way into the ring or anything like that. The dogs will have their own space which will make it, you know, a little bit easier for us and our dogs. But at the same time it’ll be very exciting for the people up in the stands.

[Sarah]
I think one of the first things that everybody did when this announcement came out…by the way, it happened while Carrie was on vacation, so she couldn’t answer any questions. I think that timing is a little too convenient there [laughing] because everybody was so excited about the event but everybody went and read everything they could get their hands on, on this event, on the horse side, looked at the website, watched the horse promos. And one thing that I noticed right away was the list of sponsors. This thing is VERY FANCY.

It has sponsors, like super high-end like Rolex and Gucci. Gucci and Audi, so very high end. So let’s say I was going to attend this event as an agility enthusiast, just as a spectator. What kind of shopping do I need to do before I show up, Carrie? What kind of shoes and and spaghetti-strap dress do I need to be able to show up at this event?

[Carrie]
I think if you’re a spectator you can just come and be comfortable. Bring your checkbook though, a really large checkbook.

[Sarah]
[laughing] Right? Right, and actually, speaking of money…that’s one thing we haven’t mentioned. This actually does have a prize pool. So I believe it’s a $10,000 prize pool?

[Carrie]
Correct. It’s $10,000 with $1,500 that will go to the first place winner of each jump height in finals and $500 to the second place (runner up) in each jump height.

[Sarah]
So that’s pretty exciting because there’s only 12 dogs to begin with and then 6 of them are going to make the finals. So out of that six, you know one third are going to get at least a $500 paycheck to take home from this event.

[Carrie]
Yes. It’s a lot better than your odds in Vegas most of the time.

[Sarah]
That’s right!

[Esteban]
Now who’s putting up the prize money? Is it the American Kennel Club or is it the horse organization here?

[Carrie]
It’s part of our master agreement with EEM.

[Sarah]
Will this event be televised as well? I think I saw that it was going to be on AKC.TV?

[Carrie]
Correct. Right now, my understanding is it’s going to be AKC.TV. We don’t know if they’ll be anyone else brought in but we do know AKC.TV will be there what I don’t know yet is if there will be any livestreaming of the final round. That has not been determined yet. As soon as we know, we’ll put it out there because we know a lot of people would like to be able to watch these exciting teams.

[Sarah]
And one thing that we’ll note is that the horse portion of this event historically has been on network TV.

[Esteban]
That’s on CBS.

[Sarah]
So, you know, there’s always a possibility there but we have no firm answers at this point for anything outside of AKC.TV.

[Carrie]
Correct.

[Sarah]
And I know that…I think I know the answer to this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Is there anything you can tell us about the future of this event?

[Carrie]
Well, we’re really hopeful that they will love us, love this event and it will become an annual event. So we’ll just need to wait and see but that is the goal…is this becomes an annual event…on both sides. Both parties would like that to happen. So we’re hoping to get people in on Thursday night to cheer for all of our exciting teams and they’ll want to do it going forward.

[Esteban]
Awesome! Now, I was wondering how are you thinking about this event in the larger context of Dog Agility in general and for the American Kennel Club?
Now this adds really to a list of events that you have. You have the National Agility Championship. You have the Invitational that we’ve had for many, many years now. Westminster and we just finished…what is this, the fifth or sixth year?

[Sarah]
Sixth.

[Esteban]
Right six, right. So, very successful, rapidly closing in on a decade there and now you have this new event and apparently this was a very well hidden…well kept secret because I had no idea that this was going on and then suddenly I was getting all these messages about it and I was like, look, I don’t know anything and you’ve been working on this since the fall, but what do you think this means for agility in general, in terms of its growing popularity and the AKC’s role in really facilitating this?

[Carrie]
Well, hopefully, it’s just one more way to get it out to the horse and dog loving public and the public in general. As we all know because you know, this sport is so dear to all of us, we know it’s a great sport for so many dogs and people out. It’s just another way to get our story out there. But tied to this event, I think it’s also a great way for people to recognize the sport that agility really is. We’ve certainly grown over the past 30-35 years when you look at agility as a whole and it’s good to be recognized as a sport–and a truly competitive sport. That’s what we were requested…was to bring in truly competitive teams. And that’s what we’re looking to do so that we are seen as a top level sport.

[Sarah]
Well one thing that we will make sure to do is put links to all the information about this show in the show notes for this episode and that includes a way for you to buy tickets to the event for only $25 actually for the dog agility portion of the show. So everybody who is local to that area, it would be a great way to come out support the event, really show a lot of enthusiasm so that we can get this event back next year.

[Carrie]
I think once people get there there be surprised, as you guys said you’ve looked at the website for the Masters horse event. I got a chance to walk the Coliseum building right before Westminster and discussing with them how it will be dressed out is just something we haven’t typically dealt with so it’s gonna be really exciting, I think.

[Sarah]
Excellent! Well, Carrie, thank you so much for joining us and answering all of our questions about this brand new event.

[Carrie]
Well, thanks for inviting me. We’re excited about it!

[Sarah]
That’s it for this week’s podcast. We like to thank our sponsors 1TDC.COM, HITITBOARD.COM and NTI GLOBAL. Happy training!

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