Westminster's Night One Dazzles
The opening night of America's favorite dog show impresses and surprises spectators.
Andrew DePrisco and Allan Reznik |
Posted: February 16, 2010, 2 a.m. EST
Hound Group winner,
Whippet Ch. Starline’s Chanel
Photographs by Mary Bloom
Glitz, glamour and purple neon announced to the sold-out opening night crowd at Madison Square Garden Monday night that the 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, America's most prestigious dog show, is in full swing.
Monday evening’s proceedings began with judge W. Everett Dean, Jr., of Richmond, Va., presiding over a beautiful Hound Group. From Afghan Hound to Whippet, this is the most varied of all the groups with elegant sighthounds and “talkative” foxhounds.
During a commercial break, the Greyhound “Era”, Ch. Grandcru Clos Erasmus, next dog on deck, entertained a delighted audience with her handler’s tricks, leaping for liver treats, barking on command, and instantly became an audience favorite.
Among the line-up were many great dogs with interesting story lines. Harrier Ch. Downhome Family Tradition, the No. 1 dog of his breed of all time, handled by Kim Pastella-Calvacca, came out of retirement for the weekend, perhaps hoping to ignite some of the excitement that launched then-10-year-old Sussex Spaniel “Stump” to his Best in Show win last year.
Dean pulled a short list of contenders, consisting of the Basset, 15-inch Beagle, Wirehaired Dachshund, Greyhound, PBGV, Ridgeback, Deerhound and Whippet.
Going around the ring in the finals, the Wirehaired Dachshund ignited the Garden audience to the loudest crescendo of cheering since the Knicks were playing well here. And that’s been a while. Nonetheless, Dean was unimpressed, and the Whippet Ch. Starline’s Chanel sailed to the head of the line, followed by the Greyhound, Scottish Deerhound bitch Ch. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, and the seven-year-old Australian-imported PBGV dog Ch. Rokeena Carte Blanche.
Judging the Toy Group was Shirley D. Limoges, from Ottawa, Canada, breeder of champion Pugs and Cairn Terriers for many decades.
Toy Group winner, Toy Poodle
Ch. Smash JP Moon Walk
Twenty-three breeds or varieties compete for the Toy Group victory. Unlike the Hound Group, there’s no confusion as to how this colorful line-up of miniature overachievers have been labeled “Toy.”
The No. 1 Non-Sporting Dog of 2009, Ch. Smash JP Moon Walk, appeared in the Toy Group ring with another Westminster regular, Kaz Hosaka, surely one of the world’s most celebrated Toy Poodle handlers. Kaz worked as an apprentice under the famed Poodle breeder and all-breed judge Anne Rogers Clark, the breeder of Ch. Surrey Spice Girl, the Westminster 2002 Best in Show winner.
But brace yourselves: The Pomeranian, Pug and Papillon breed winners, all judged by high-profile Andrew Brace of Wales, were surprises to seasoned dog-show exhibitors, as the No. 1 dogs in each of those breeds were defeated at the breed level. Westminster always has its fair share of upsets and on Monday night the majority of these occurred in the Toy Group.
Limoges pulled the following finalists: the Brussels Griffon, Chinese Crested, Italian Greyhound, Maltese, Papillon, Pekingese, Toy Poodle, and Shih Tzu.
No surprises here: the Toy Poodle triumphed, handled by the great Poodle handler Kaz, followed by David Fitzpatrick’s Pekingese, Shih Tzu Ch. Hallmark Jolei Austin Powers and Papillon Ch. Forevr Errol Flynn, handled by Jane Alston-Myers.
Shimmering in lovely Westminster purple, Dorothy Dalton, from Stuart, Fla., moved gracefully into the center ring on towering taupe heels. There’s no doubt that this classy lady is a Poodle breeder! Dalton had the honor of judging a splendid Non-Sporting Group. This fascinating fraternity of canines appears to have virtually nothing in common other than their collective desire to win Group One. A closer look reveals that this Group is united by personality, audience appeal, and no small degree of showmanship. Furthermore, 75 percent of the dogs possess high-maintenance coats. From ringside, we counted 13 grooming brushes out of 18 dogs!
Non-Sporting Group winner, French Bulldog Ch. Robobull Fabelhaft Im On Fire
Certainly one of the rotunda’s faves was the Bulldog, not coincidentally 2009’s top Non-Sporting Dog, owned by three resident New Yorkers! The other Bulldog, the Frenchie, also captured the audience’s heart, by poking out his tongue for his closeup on the big screen over the center ring.
Dalton pulled audience favorite Bulldog, the Shar-Pei, Dalmatian, Frenchie, Lhasa, both Poodles and the Schipperke. Unexpectedly, this Poodle lady left the Poodles mainly in the dust. Dalton’s Group One was none other than the dark brindle French Bulldog Ch. Robobull Fabelhaft Im On Fire as Group One, followed by Chinese Shar-Pei Ch. Chaoyang Chick Magnet At Asia, Bulldog Ch. Kepley’s Showbiz Razzle Dazzle and black Miniature Poodle Ch. Splash Di Caprio.
In 134 years, the Frenchie has placed in the Group at Westminster 21 times but this is the first time the breed has won it. C’est magnifique!
The final Group of the night, the Herding Group, was judged by Linda More, long-time Shetland Sheepdog breeder from Cary, N.C.
Two new breeds entered the Herding Group this year, the Pyrenean Shepherd and the Norwegian Buhund, and both winners made history by virtue of being the first Best of Breed winners at Westminster. From the 17 Pyrenean Shepherds entered, breed judge Lynette Saltzman chose Ch. Burgerhaus Grand Prix RN, and from four Norwegian Buhunds, she chose Ch. Norskwynd D’Lola Of Trollheimen.
Herding Group winner, Puli
Ch. Cordmaker Field of Dreams
Ch. Cordmaker Field of Dreams, last year’s Group One winner, returned to this year’s Group, handled by Linda Pitts. This black Puli was also the top Herding Dog of 2009, breaking the record of his father, Ch. Cordmaker Mississippi Mud, as the top-winning Puli in breed history.
Making Judge More’s cut were the Bearded Collie, Belgian Sheepdog, Bouvier, Rough Collie, Shepherd, Old English, Puli, and Sheltie.
Repeating his Group First win from 2009, the Puli pulled to the front of the pack, followed by Belgian Sheepdog Ch. Uri De Beauvoir, Bearded Collie Ch. Tolkien Raintree Mister Baggins, and the German Shepherd.
We look forward to Tuesday night’s judging of the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, and to seeing how the Whippet, Toy Poodle, French Bulldog and Puli go head to head with three more great contenders.
Andrew DePrisco is the Editorial Director and Vice President of Kennel Club Books. Allan Reznik is the Editor-at-Large for Dog World and Dog Fancy magazines, and Editor-in-Chief for Dogs in Review magazine.
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