When you go to the horse track, the “favorites” in each race are indicated on racing form. Even though the Westminster Kennel Club doesn’t publish that kind of information, that does not mean that there aren’t “favorites” at dog shows. All 2,689 dogs entered in this huge all-breed dog show have track records, and some are indeed favored to win.
Many of the dogs competing at Westminster are multiple Group and Best in Show winners that travel around the country weekend after weekend, some with professional handlers and staff, some with publicist and print and Internet ad campaigns. A lot of hard work and winning makes a show dog a “favorite” at a prestigious show like Westminster Kennel Club.
Although the crowds at Madison Square Garden typically cheer loudest for the most popular breeds in the country (Labs, Beagles, German Shepherds), popularity has nothing to do with winning a dog show. The “favorite” for the Hound Group, the first Group to be judged tonight, is CH Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box, an American Foxhound who has won more Bests in Show than any other Hound in the Group. Few breeds in the country register fewer dogs each year than American Foxhounds, except maybe Harriers, the second “fave” in the Group: GCH Downhome Hitech Innovator won 106 Group 1’s last year, more Groups than other Hound in the country.
There are “favorites” in two other Groups tonight too. In the Toy Group, there’s our little “Joe”: GCH Banana Joe v Tani Tazari, representing another rare breed, the Affenpinscher. Last year Joe bested all other Toys 128 times! The Non-Sporting Group “favorite”—never a surprise—is the Standard Poodle, and GCH Brighton Lakeridge Encore is the consummate showdog with over 90 Bests in Show. It’s awfully hard to beat a Poodle in the Non-Sporting Group! Just ask the Schipperke: the breed’s been competing at Westminster since 1891 and has not been able to win the Group (six other breeds in this Group have the same record but haven’t been around for more than a few decades.)
The Hound Group judge tonight is a familiar face to Westminster, Luc Boileau, a Canadian by birth who emigrated to the U.S. to work for a very famous dog man named Edward B. Jenner, for whom Mr. Bolieau brought home a WKC Best in Show in 1990 with a Pekingese CH. Wendessa Crown Prince. Mr. Bolieau now lives in Burlington, Wis., and has been judging since he retired from handling in 1990.
Narrowing down the pack of Hounds on the green carpet, Mr. Bolieau pulled the Afghan Hound, American Foxhound, Basset Hound, Bluetick Coonhound, Harrier, Otterhound and Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The crowd’s clear favorites were the tousled and wiry cuteness of the Otterhound and PBGV, and while Mr. Bolieau clearly heard the cheering, he was in a smooth-haired kind of mood. He awarded American Foxhound (the “favorite” in this outstanding field) Group 1, the Basset Hound 2, PBGV 3 and Otterhound 4. The American Foxhound, officially Ch Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box, whose call name appropriately is “Jewel,” is only the second American Foxhound to win the Group at the Garden, the first, Newbold Ely’s Gloria having won nearly six decades ago in 1944. Jewel is owned by Ellen M. Charles and Lisa Miller and was bred by Harry and Lisa Miller, the handler. The Basset Hound is GCH Topsfield-Sanchu Eenie Meenie Miney Mo, bred and owned by Claudia Orlandi and Claire Steidel. The PBGV is GCH Soletrader Maggie May, bred by G. Robertson and P. Sparks and owned by Donna K. Moore. The Otterhound is GCH Aberdeens Under the Influence, bred and owned by Jack and Andy and Jason McIlwaine.
Standing tall over tonight’s miniatures in the Toy Group is judge Dennis McCoy of Apex, N.C., himself one of the giants of the sport. Mr. McCoy’s professional handling career includes Best in Show at WKC with Standard Poodle “Peter” (officially Ch. Whisperwind’s On a Carousel) in 1991, one of this dog’s over 100 BIS wins, and the top-winning Poodle in history (Peter’s grandson), Ch. Lake Cove’s That’s My Boy, with 169 BIS wins to his credit. Mr. McCoy also handled the top-winning Dalmatian, the liver-spotted Ch. Spotlight’s Spectacular, who won the Group at WKC in 1995 and 1996. In collaboration with his partner Randy Garren, Mr. McCoy won the Group at WKC a total of seven times, and their Randenn kennel bred over 1,000 AKC champions. A judge since 2000, Mr. McCoy has judged at WKC twice before tonight.
In making his selections, Mr. McCoy pulled the Affenpinscher, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Maltese, Miniature Pinscher, Papillon, Pekingese and Pug from the lineup of 23 picture-perfect Toy breeds. And the “favorite” was indeed the Real McCoy for Mr. McCoy: GCH Banana Joe v Tani Tazari owned by Dr. and Mrs. William Truesdale. Like the American Foxhound in the Hound Group, this rare breed is also the second of his breed ever to win the Group at Westminster, the first being Ch. Yarrow’s Super Nova in 2002, also owned by the Truesdales. Joe was bred by co-owner Mieke Coomans. Group 2 went to Miniature Pinscher GCH Marlex Classic Red Glare, bred by Carole A. Mohr-Rio and owned by Leah Monte and Armando Angelbello; Group 3 to the Pekingese, Ch Yakee Easily Persuaded, owned by Sandra Middlebrook and handler David Fitzpatrick (the same gentleman who steered last year’s Peke GCH Palacegarden Malachy to Best in Show) and bred by Albert Easdon; and Group 4 to the Pug GCH Hill Country’s Tag I’m It (what a great name!), bred by Kevin and Kristy Ratliff and owned by Carolyn Koch.
Now in her fifth decade in the dog sport, Florence Males, a famed Silky Terrier breeder, owner and handler, is judging the Non-Sporting Group tonight. Mrs. Males handled for twenty years prior to becoming an AKC field rep. Her judging career began in earnest in 2006 and she is approved to judge the Non-Sporting and Toy Groups. Mrs. Males, a Californian from birth, lives in Pleasant Hill and is Treasurer of the highly regarded Del Valle Kennel Club. This is Mrs. Males’s first assignment at Westminster, and she may likely be the first person in the club’s history to officiate as a Group judge before ever judging a breed at the Garden.
Mrs. Males began her search for tonight’s Non-Sporting Group winner by narrowing the field to the Bichon Frise, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, French Bulldog, Standard Poodle and Tibetan Spaniel. You can say that Mrs. Males made a memorable first appearance with “Honor,” going against the Standard Poodle “favorite” and selecting GCH Vogelflight’s “Honor” To Pillowtalk, the Bichon Frise. Honor is owned by Ellen Charles, Matt and Paula Abbott, Lori Kornfeld, and Mary and Kathie Vogel. The Bichon Frise has been a popular choice for Group firsts at the Garden, having accomplished the feat five times. The last Bichon to win the Group was Ch. Special Times Just Right (“J.R.”) who went on to win Best in Show in 2001. J.R. retired to become a popular therapy dog and ambassador for Angel on a Leash. Suffice it to say that it has been a good night for Mrs. Charles, whose dogs claimed two Groups this evening! The Group 2 was the Standard Poodle GCH Brighton Lakeridge Encore, owned by Martin and Toni Sosnoff and bred L’Dyne Brennan and Debra Ferguson-Jones. Group 3 was French Bulldog GCH Bandog Bayou’s The Warrier, bred by Vickie Lang and Luis and Patricia Sosa and owned by Nancy Shaw. Group 4 went to Tibetan Spaniel GCH Kan Sing’s Tenzin, bred by owner Martha Feltenstein and handler Diego Fernando Garcia.
Charles Trotter of Carmel, Calif. is judging the final Group of the evening, the Herding Group, having judged the Working Group here in 1997. Tonight’s assignment is his seventh at Westminster. Mr. Trotter’s background in purebred dogs began with Afghan Hounds and German Shepherds, and today he is one of the few all-breed AKC judges. He has judged in all 50 states and, if there were a dog show on Antarctica, Mr. Trotter could claim that he’s judged on all seven continents. With a name like “Trotter” it’s no surprise that he’s an expert in canine moment and there is some fast and fancy footwork in the Herding ring tonight. Mr. Trotter’s wife, Patricia Craige-Trotter, has won the Hound Group at Westminster ten times with her homebred Vin-Melca Norwegian Elkhounds.
Mr. Trotter faced a handsome assembly of Herding dog, and for the first time tonight there was no “favorite” or obvious front runner to beat except possibly Puli GCH Cordmaker Rumpus Bumpus, who’s won many Bests in Show in the past. You might say that each of the 26 breeds competing faced an open pasture of possibility to win Group 1. Mr. Trotter thinned out the flock of champions, selecting the Bearded Collie, Beauceron, Border Collie, Canaan Dog, German Shepherd Dog, Old English Sheepdog and Puli.
The crowd’s favorite was clearly the Old English Sheepdog, and Mr. Trotter was quick to agree. In fact, too quick, as he pointed to the OES before allowing the Puli to make his final round. The perfect gentleman, Mr. Trotter bowed to the Puli handler Jackie Beaudoin and signaled her to take her lap. A lovely gesture (and a good choice), Mr. Trotter selected the Puli GCH Cordmaker Rumpus Bumpus as Group 2, followed by Beauceron GCH Beowolf Des Monts Du Lac as Group 3 and Canaan Dog GCH Pleasant Hill Magnum of Samara as Group 4. The OES’s Group victory was the ninth time the breed has won the Group at Westminster, more than any other breed in the Group. The Group 1 was a real long shot in this race: Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect, a dog entered in the Bred-by- Exhibitor Class and not a champion (when entered a few months ago at least). He is breeder-owned by Colton and Heather Johnson. The Puli was bred by co-owner Sue Huebner along with the handler and Franco Licciardi. The Beauceron, a French herding dog related to the more well-known Briard, was bred by Eric Vavassori and owned by Paul and Joanne Prager. The Canaan Dog was bred by D. Dodson and owned by Pamela Stacey Rosman. Neither of these two rare breeds has ever placed in the Group at Westminster until tonight.
On Tuesday night, our four Group winners–the American Foxhound representing the Hound Group, the Affenpinscher for the Toys, the Bichon Frise for Non-Sporting and the OES for the Herding dogs–will face up with tomorrow night’s winners from the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups to compete for the title of Best in Show and to reign as “America’s Dog” for 2013.