Mike Moody and Spot continued the purple patch of form they have been enjoying since the start of the local sheep dog trial season by winning the short head and yard event at the Rodney leg of the Northland circuit on Saturday.
The pair added to that by placing fourth in the long head event.
With Rodney representing the midway point of this year's series, the two latest top five placings add to an impressive CV the pair have built up ahead of the national championships which are being held on home turf in May.
Spot took out the Northland title in the long head at Omamari last month by locking in a 98 point run (backing up the 97.5 point run which won the domestic short head and yard event at Omamari the previous day) to earn an automatic berth to the nationals.
Ironically, Spot's latest results at Rodney alone means he has now actually qualified 'twice' for the nationals.
Moody and Spot also finished second in the Northland short head and yard runoff at Omamari, forced to settle for the runners-up spot by the formidable pairing of Murray Child and Dice, former national champs and favourites to claim the two provincial heading titles up for grabs.
Moody had plenty of praise for 5-year-old Spot: "He is a very good dog, I've always liked him. Murray Child's Dice is such a magic dog, just a bit of a buzz to be up there with her."
Looking forward to representing Northland, the Far North district and the Bay of Islands SDTC at the nationals, Moody also hopes to qualify some of his other dogs for the event, including huntaway Penny who only needs three more points to make the final cut.
However, he was cagey about whether having the nationals on home ground (the venue at Te Ahu Ahu belongs to the family of partner Nan McKenzie) would play into the hands of the local qualifiers.
"You sort of know the hill but it's on the day, how you control your dog, how you control your nerves, [and] whether you get three sheep that are going to play ball ... "
A qualified judge, Moody said he liked judging as much as, if not more than, running his own dogs in competition.
"You are always learning something [from judging]. Helps you improve with the running of your own dog because you are watching so many good-quality dogs. My advice to anyone new at this game — get in and judge as much as you can, because you learn a lot faster than you will by just asking questions."
Having judged the hunts section at the 2008 New Zealand and South Island championships in Blenheim, Moody said he won't be involved in that capacity this time round.
■ Round 7/12 of the Northland Sheep Dog Trial circuit will be held at Mt Manaia tomorrow and Saturday, March 15-16.
Dogs can earn enough points from this or any of the 12 legs comprising the provincial series to qualify for the 2019 New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial National Championships which are being held in the Mid North from May 16-20.
Note, the Northland championships were held in conjunction with the Omamari leg of the Northland circuit from February 22-24 where the top five from the domestic club trial on Friday and Saturday ran off for the various provincial titles on the Sunday.
The other three Northland champions for 2019 are, Murray Child and Dice (short head and yard), Murray Child and Frank (straight hunt) and Grant West and Swagger (zig zag hunt); thus all have qualified for the nationals.