The derby is about 4 series of quality marks that test the field to produce a winner, Judgement of how the dogs retrieve is based on opinions and how one feels about their ideal retrieve.
Cheating around the water is about training, and a dog that flagrantly cheats in avoidance of water demonstrates a lack of courage to challenge an obstacle and a lack of training. Marking being of primary importance means that as a judge you measure how well the dog marked the retrieve and factor in the fact that they are young dogs without alot of training to have awesome entry points into water. Its about not judging lines and measureing the total quality of the retrieve. Pins on birds are great but so are tight hunts and should not be measured any differently.
Charles is right, judges in the derby should look to set up a simpler water test with challenging bird placement that favors a dog with Natural abilities. This favors the well trained dog also though and you will see that it is usually a dog with alot of Natural ability and excellent training the pushes the judges to select a test to determine a winner among tightly spaced dogs. The natural dog with moderate training just simply is overmatched by the judges desire to seperate the field.
Ga Woodrow The "True Marking Test" comes from the propensity of judges to throw simpler tests without retired guns or triples. While they can do this it usually does not occur and that favors a dog without tremendous schooling to handle indented triples, inline marks or short retireed guns or other concepts that can "trick" a novice dog. The truth is that most derby dogs are well schooled in these concepts when they are nearing 2 years old and are almost ready for the Qual.
I respectfully disagree with Pete Marcellus about avoiding water, if we (hypothetically) set up a test where we had dogs that could run around the water and complete the retrieve without failing the test I would scrap the series and look to select a new set of water marks where the dogs would have to take water to complete the retrieve, this can be done by moving the line right infront of the water if needed (i.e. small piece of water). Dogs should be equally tested on land and water, that means that most judges will look for 2 land and 2 water series, and on most grounds the derby is screwed out of good grounds, having the Open judges run the derby means that they have in effect the best of the grounds to use for the derby and their next (or previous) stake has the upmost priority in grounds selection. I understand Pete is looking to illustrate a scenerio that protrays his opinions I just dont feel that it is fair to the dog who does the retrieve and demonstrates higher natural abilities like courage.
For the most part the dogs I have judged in the Derby have been well trained but their have been a handful that I judged that I felt were good dogs and being pushed to fast to compete, I think that this is the kiss of death for them becasue their handlers dont have a high enough standard for the dog, Case in point Diana (last name witheld to protect her identity) was in great shape in the 4th series of a derby I judged and could have placed with the excellent set of marks her dog had completed but on the last retrieve of a water double her dog cootered (non technicial term) out of a big swim and broke for the bank, she picked the dog up rather than let her breakdown, I asked her why and she said that making a FC was her goal and not a derby placement. I have seen alot of handlers make huge mistakes of letting these youngsters creep and break and having a degradation of obedience that I know will haunt them for a long time if not the rest of their career by pushing the dog too fast. A better question is if the novice handler wins a derby by letting his dog avoid water time and time again he is in fact pre-determining the dog for the minor stakes. If they consider that the derby can be a great time to evaluate your training and dogs ability to structure a good training plan to correct the deficiencies of the dogs performance you will have a better dog that can play for a long time in any game.
Please take my comments in stride as none of them were meant to be personal.