‘It’s always exciting’: top dogs vie for Westminster title
Wasabi could be the flavor of the year at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Or he could have a taste for Bourbon.
Heavyweights Dogdom Bourbon the Whippet and Wasabi the Pekingese are among the finalists for Sunday’s Best Show title, and they have a lot of competition: a French Bulldog named Mathew, an old English Sheepdog named Connor and three other finalists. not yet chosen.
Wasabi and Bourbon both won another big show, the American Kennel Club National Championship, and Bourbon was a Westminster finalist last year. Meanwhile, Bourbon jockeys for daily bragging with Mathew – the two dogs live together, since their owners are married. Wasabi is a grandson of a Westminster winner, Connor the son of a finalist.
They will face off against the best working dog (a group with large and often protective breeds), a sport dog (like retrievers and spaniels) and a terrier (the brave group with more Westminster victories than any other). The winners of these three groups are chosen on Sunday night, then the seven finalists return to the ring to fight for the best of the show.
“It’s always exciting every time, and you’re always hopeful,” said Wasabi manager and breeder David Fitzpatrick, who guided Peke Malachy’s grandfather to the Westminster title in 2012. “It is an honor to be in Westminster.”
That’s true even for all-time baseball leader Barry Bonds, who was cheering on a miniature schnauzer he owns with his sister Cheryl Dugan. The dog, Rocky, did not win his breed, but the slugger said he was proud of Rocky simply for qualifying for the Champions Only Show.
“We won because we got here. That’s all that matters, ”Bonds told Fox Sports. “I’ve been in a lot of playoffs, I’ve been in the World Series and I’ve never won. But for 22 years, I kept trying.
Bonds, 56, holds baseball’s career home run record at 762, though his feat was clouded by allegations of steroid use – he denied knowingly knowing them.
Bonds was the latest in a line of baseball luminaries to register dogs at Westminster, including Lou Gehrig, with a German Shepherd, and Mike Mussina, with an Irish Setter.
Olga Contant leapt into the air on Sunday afternoon as a judge picked Hugo – a bullmastiff she has raised, owned and handled – as the best of her breed, giving her a chance to win the title of the working group.
“It’s a flagship show for everyone,” and even more so for the relatively few owners who show their own dogs instead of having them in professional dog handlers, said Contant, of Los Gatos, Calif. .
The 149-pound Hugo may seem imposing, but he’s “the sweetest dog in the world … He captures the hearts of everyone who comes,” she said. “He is the best presentation of the breed, where you can keep him as a pet, but also he will protect you.”
For Douglas Tighe, his turn in the ring of the sports group with a Brittany named Pennie will pay tribute to a family tradition. Her parents started raising Brittanys 55 years ago.
Pennie shone in the breed competition in an unusual setting for Westminster – on the outside. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show was moved from Manhattan for the first time in over 140 years so that it could be held outside the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York. A sign of the days of the pandemic, some handlers wore masks – although those vaccinated were allowed to do without them – and the show was closed to the public.
Pennie remained focused, but Tighe says he goes with it if her dogs are distracted by the birds they were bred to hunt for.
“Let them have fun,” said Tighe, of Hope, New Jersey. “That’s the whole story.”
This is also what it is for Kole Brown. At age 9, he showed off a bull terrier named Riley on Sunday alongside his parents, Kurtis Brown and U.S. Air Force Captain Samantha Brown, and other family bull terriers.
The entertaining breed is strong and known to be stubborn, and the larger ones don’t weigh much less than Kole himself. But he didn’t want it any other way: “I was born into this race, and I stay in this race,” he says.
“I have a lot of fun with this sport,” said Kole, of San Antonio, Texas. “Every time I step in the ring I have a smile on my face.”