The first night of judging at the 136th Westminster Kennel Club dog show on Monday, February 13, 2012, included the finals of the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups. Viewers of the television broadcast were no doubt delighted when the USA Network’s broadcast opened with a visit with ‘Hickory,’ last year’s Best in Show winner, including a brief video of the puppies the beautiful Scottish Deerhound bitch whelped during the past year.
Arguably one of the major upsets for Monday was when the 2011 Number 2 Hound, Pharaoh GCh. Northgate’s As You Like It, was defeated in the breed. Judge Dr. Donald Sturz, an acknowledged Hound authority, awarded the Finnish-bred 2009 World Show and two-time Crufts Group First winner an Award of Merit, and sent GCh. DC Hallam’s Ethan Ramel MC LCX to the Group, handled by Stacy Work for owners Stephen Sipperly and Dominic Carota. Quite the compliment for the Best of Breed winner.
Back on the Garden floor for the Hound Group, Ms. Lauran’s cut included the Whippet, the PBGV and the Longhaired Dachshund, as well as 13-inch Beagle GCh. Lomapoint Huckleberry, handled by Jenny Wornall for owner Connie Long; Wire Dachshund GCh. Raydachs Playing With Fire V Gleishorba, handled by Cheri Koppenhaver for owners Shirley Ray, and Maria and James Sakoda; Norwegian Elkhound GCh. Vin-Melca’s The Norseman, breeder/owner-handled by Pat Trotter, co-owned by Jennifer Reed; and Rhodesian Ridgeback GCh. Oakhurst Fruit of the Vine, owned by Karen and David Morgan and Barbara Rupert, and handled by Valerie Atkinson. Ms. Laurans placed the Wirehaired Dachshund first, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen second, the Whippet third and the Norwegian Elkhound Fourth.
The last Wirehaired Dachshund to win the Group at Westminster was Isabel Robson’s Ch. Starbarrack Malachite SW in 1997, handled by Bobby Fowler. Only one other Wire Dachshund has ever won the Group at the Garden, Ch. Thomarel’s Lola in 1952. No Wire Dachshund has ever been BIS at the Garden.
Other 2011 Top Toys in the Group ring on Monday evening were Number 3 Toy, Min Pin GCh. Marlex Classic Red Glare; and Number 10 Toy, Smooth Coat Chihuahua GCh. Ayrwen Star Kissed Delight.
Mr. Catterson pulled out nine Toys for his cut: the Peke, the Affen and the Min Pin, along with Brussels Griffon GCh. Cashnross’ First Griff Tina Fey, bred and owned by Felicia Cashin, co-owned by Carole Ross, handled by Jenny Wornall; Maltese Ch. Scylla’s Small Kraft Re-Lit, breeder/owner-handled by Tara Rowell and also owned by Ron Scott and Debbie Burke; Silky Terrier GCh. Wind Dancer Jenstar Backstage Pass, owner-handled by Teresa Gallegos, co-owned by Linda Hurt; English Toy Spaniel (Blenheim and Prince Charles) GCh. Royalist Ready To Reign, shown by Scott Sommer for owners Doug Johnson, Jeane Haverick, Jamie and Wayne Hubbard, and Jackqui Rifenberg; and Toy Manchester Terrier GCh. Cottage Lake’s Bela Horizonte, handled by Marcelo Chagas, who owns her with Dr. Roger Travis.
First went to the Pekingese, second to the Affenpinscher, third to the Min Pin and fourth to the Silky.
Pekingese have won many Groups at Westminster – 24 to be to be exact, and David Fitzpatrick was the handler on five of those occasions, including Malachy’s Group First last year. Pekingese have been Best in Show at the Garden on three occasions: Clara Alford handled Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Venable’s Ch. Chik T’sun of Caversham to BIS in 1960; Bill Trainor handled Anne Snelling’s Ch. St. Aubrey Dragonora of Elsdon to BIS in 1982; and Luc Boileau handled Ed Jenner’s Ch. Wendessa Crown Prince to BIS in 1990. Fitzpatrick has yet to win a Best in Show at Westminster. Will the sixth time be the charm for him?
The second major upset of Monday involved two of last year’s top winners, both Standard Poodles. I’m certain that in many quarters there was speculation that if the 2011 Number 1 Non-Sporting dog, the white Standard bitch GCh. Brighton Lakeridge Encore, triumphed in Ring 1 today, she could win the Group. Tim Brazier, who handled ‘Ally’ through the majority of her career, required emergency heart bypass surgery in the fall and Taffe McFadden, pinch-hitting for Tim, kept Ally at the top of the Non-Sporting Group ledger through December, having had lots of nice wins with her. I imagine the same was said about the AKC/Eukanuba Best in Show winner, the black dog GCh. Jaset’s Satisfaction, as Mr. Garren awarded him Best of Breed at Poodle Club of America in 2011. ‘London’ was the Number 2 Non-Sporting dog in 2011. But judge Doris Cozart put all that speculation to rest when she awarded London Best of Opposite Sex and Ally an Award of Merit, putting Dr. Elly Holowaychuk’s black bitch, GCh. Vetset Kate Winsit, through to the Group.
Although missing Number 1 and 2 Non-Sporting contenders from 2011, the Group included other heavy hitters. In the Group ring from the 2011 Top 10 Non-Sporting dogs: Number 3, Bichon Frise GCh. Saks Hamelot Little Drummer Boy, owned by Barbara Weidner, Laurie Darman, Kim Griffin and Ceil Ruggles, handled by Scott Sommer; Number 4, Miniature Poodle GCh. Surrey Sugar Baby, handled by Kaz Hosaka for Ron Scott and Debbie Burke; Number 5, Schipperke GCh. Dante Fire When Ready, handled by Erin Roberts for John and Amy Gossman, Michael Jameson and Sandra Middlebrooks; Number 8 and last year’s Westminster Group winner, Chinese Shar-Pei GCh. Vaje’s Miss Jayne Hathaway, owned by Jeff and Vicki Mauk and handled by Clint Livingston; and Number 9, Dalmatian GCh. Spotlights Ruffian, owned by Jim and Barbara Lyons and handled by Michael Scott.
Mr. Garren’s cut included the Bichon, the Dalmatian, the Miniature Poodle and the Shar-Pei, and also Lowchen GCh. Windsor Bihar Chasing Rainbows, owned by Margaret Cropsey, Carol Strong, Gillian Robertson and Daniel Cunningham, handled by Greg Strong; and Xoloitzcuintli GCh. Bayshore Georgio Armani, owned by Frank Bayliss, Lynda Hylton and Traci Johnson, handled by Carissa DeMilta Shimpeno.
Group First went to the Dalmatian, second to the Shar-Pei, third to the Lowchen and fourth to the Miniature Poodle.
Dalmatians have topped the Group at the Garden seven times, the last time in 2006 when Michael Scott also handled Ch. Merry Go Round Mach Ten to the win. Interestingly, Connie Wagner bred this year’s Group winner, and she also bred the two-time Westminster Group First winner, Ch. Spotlights Spectacular, the liver and white bitch that topped the Groups in 1996 and 1997 and was handled by Dennis McCoy and Randy Garren, for owner Isabel Robson.
No Dalmatian has ever taken home the Westminster Best in Show rosette.
Mr. Clark selected for his cut the German Shepherd Dog, the Puli and the Australian Cattle Dog, as well as Australian Shepherd GCh. Equinox Ad Astra, owned by Courtney Bell and handled by David Stout; Bouvier des Flandres GCh. Quiche’s Grand Finale, breeder/owner-handled by Elaine Paquette, also owned by Daniel and Julianna Garrison; Rough Collie GCh. Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication, owner-handled by Renee Beals, also owned by Laura Rizzo and Matt and Anita Stelter; Old English Sheepdog Ch. Bugaboo’s Big Shot, handled by Jennifer McClintock for Jerson Valle and Colton and Heather Johnson; and Shetland Sheepdog Ch. Mystic Ava Gardner, owned by Ni Yadong and Jiang Yaozhong and handled by Tracy Tuff.
First in the Group went to the German Shepherd, second to the Bouvier, third to the Old English and fourth to the Sheltie.
German Shepherd Dogs have won the Group at Westminster 14 times previously, six times with Jimmy Moses on the end of the lead. Jimmy is the only person to have handled a Shepherd to Best in Show at the Garden, in 1987 when Ch. Covy-Tucker Hill’s Manhattan topped the show.
Tuesday evening the remaining three Groups – Sporting, Working and Terrier – will be judged prior to the selection of the next Westminster Best in Show winner.