Photos by Christina Freitag

The fun has begun at the 2012 Kentuckiana Cluster in Louisville. It commenced on Wednesday, March 14, with six big specialty shows, and the four all-breed shows begin today with the Mid-Kentucky Kennel Club. Every year Louisville, Ky., in March is such an exciting place to be, because not only do most of the country’s top dogs converge in this central location to vie for Group and Best in Show awards, but with dozens of supported entries and specialty shows in addition to the big all-breeds, depth of quality is found in dozens of breeds.

Michele Billings, BIS judge in 2010, again graces the Louisville panel in 2012.

The list of judges who’ll pass on the entries at the Kentucky Expo Center this week is, as always, an impressive blend of breed specialist judges and our most experienced multiple Group judges and all ‘rounders. This year in addition to a panel chock full of the best American judges, Canadians Jim Reynolds, Ginny Lyne and Jack Ireland are found on the panels, as is Mrs. Sylviane Tompousky of France. Judging the four finals this year will be Clint Harris, Beverly Capstick, Carolyn Taylor and Carol Spritzer – and there’s no doubt that their tasks will be a challenge and a delight.

Junior Showmanship is popular on the Louisville cluster.

Thanks to its popularity with exhibitors and handlers, the Kentuckiana Cluster offers countless opportunities for current and aspiring judges, as well as veteran and rookie fanciers, to see big entries in breeds where one can sometimes only do so at National Specialties. A look at the judging program for the five-day cluster reveals surprising numbers in many breeds.

The Thursday all-breed show opens with a respectable 2,679-dog entry. Among the higher entry breeds, the aforementioned Jim Reynolds will judge 61 Bedlington Terriers (and the entry gets into the high 70s later on the weekend), while Stephanie Hedgepath has 26 Icelandic Sheepdogs on her schedule. Terry Stacy has 43 Am Staffs to select from, including 14 specials and one veteran dog. The Miscellaneous breeds represented on this circuit are plentiful, and today Houston Clark will judge Peruvian Inca Orchids, Dogo Argentine, Wirehaired Vizslas, Portuguese Podengos, Pumis, and Rat and Russell Terriers.

Another popular 2012 judge is Houston Clark, who judged BIS at the cluster in 2010.

On Friday for Louisville Kennel Club’s first show, the entry takes a big jump up to 3,316. Kent Delaney will judge 77 Brussels Griffons, including a veteran dog and 21 specials. Carol Corbin has an amazing 29 puppy sweepstakes and nine veteran sweepstakes entries in Belgian Tervuren, followed by 59 regular class entries for Linda Friedow. Bill Shelton must be thrilled that he will first judge a big entry of 92 Boxers, followed by an equally nice entry of 32 Scottish Deerhounds.

Edd Bivin was one of the Kentuckiana Cluster’s judges in 2011.

Both Weimaraners and Westies have concurrent specialties on Friday, so in addition to two sweepstakes competitions in both breeds, entries of 32 and 33 Weims will be shown to Robert Dunsmuir and Michele Billings, respectively, and both Lyne and Taylor drew entries of 35 Westies. Exhibitors in both breeds have double the opportunity on Friday to win big majors!

At Evansville KC on Saturday, the overall entry again increases, this time by 240-plus dogs to 3,565. To note just a few of the sizable entries, Charlotte Patterson will judge 52 Papillons; Marcia Tucker, 79 Dogues de Bordeaux; Jim Reynolds, 22 Cane Corsos; and Terry Stacy, 44 Deerhounds. Today’s concurrent entries will offer Dachshunds, Pugs and Shelties the chance to win double the prizes. Sunday’s Louisville KC show drew 3,429 entries and further opportunities for major wins in lots of breeds.

Exhibitors, spectators, judges, handlers – and dogs! – enjoy everything the Louisville shows have to offer.

The Eukanuba Breeders Stakes will be judged on Friday and Saturday, and the Group judging each afternoon of the cluster will no doubt feature top dogs from all over the country vying for dogs-defeated points that will help elevate them in the rankings. It is sure to be an exciting few days in the Bluegrass State.

Best In Show Daily is looking forward to bringing you full coverage of the Louisville shows, with commentary from the ever-popular Billy Wheeler, photo coverage from Krista Droop and near instant results on Facebook and our Twitter feed. Don’t miss a moment of it!