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Best of Toy Group: In what seemed like a little déjà vu, 2013 top dog Banana Joe’s handler, Ernesto Lara, was the first to enter the ring with an Affenpinscher named Ben, who’s Banana Joe’s son. And he wasn’t the only royalty in the group. There were two other handlers who’d worked with dogs to claim the coveted title, including the handler of a Pekingese related to 2012 winner Malachy. Also competing were crowd favorites Rufus, a Pug, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. But in the end, the heavily favored Min Pin (short for Miniature Pinscher) Classie won the Group. GCH Marlex Classic Red Glare, a 4-year-old female who’s just 7 pounds, was smaller than her blue ribbon, and is the top-winning Min Pin in history. Classie’s handler, Armando Angelbello, described the pooch as "a toddler that never grows up.”
Best in Non-Sporting Group: This group may have taken the prize for the best names of the night, including Dalmatian Spotted Oreo Delight and Keeshond KJ’s Hot Date. The audience shouted out their favorites as the judge scanned the group before choosing finalists. In the end, she chose a well-coiffed 5-year-old Standard Poodle named Ally, who already planned to retire after this year. When asked about New York Poodle's (formally named CH Brighton Lakeridge Encore) couture looks, handler Timothy Brazier says, “I don’t think it hurts to look your best” in the ring. "She's endearing and there's not a mean bone in her body. But when you first meet her, she's a typical poodle. Quite snooty."
Best in Herding Group: This group was marked by a big upset, when crowd favorite Swagger, a 2-year-old Old English Sheepdog who won Reserve Best in Show last year, lost out to Coco Posh, a 5-year-old Cardigan Welsh Corgi. “The Cardigan owned the group when she walked in the door,” commented Frei. One of Coco Posh’s owners was watching from a Louisiana hospital, where she’d had back surgery Monday morning. “We did her proud,” says handler Louis Demers. “I have to take her back and let her play with her Flippy — her favorite thing to do in the world is play with her Frisbee.” GCH Riverside Telltail Coco Posh’s Group win was a first for her breed at Westminster.
Best in Sporting Group: Packed with some of the most popular breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, the audience was thrilled to watch the Sporting Group take the stage on Tuesday night. The Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever — neither of which have ever won Best in Show at Westminster — smiled affably as they trotted to loud cheers. The Golden, Will, was a finalist, but the top prize for the Group went to Riley, an Irish Water Spaniel from Washington who Frei said was, “on paper, the dog to watch.” The 4-year-old female, GCH Whistlestop’s Riley on Fire, bounced around the ring happily. “This is the most prestigious show in the world, that’s all you can really say…. She’s an awesome dog, she just loves to do this,” says handler Rick Krieger, who lives across the country from Riley’s owners, in Massachusetts. Doing well in the ring is “just a balance between the handler and the dog and having a good time and enjoying yourself,” he says.
Best in Working Group: A 4-year-old male named CH Lakeside Run’s Little Bear was the first Chinook to be shown in Westminster’s Working Group. He hails from New Hampshire, which features the breed as its state dog. Fan favorites included the Great Dane, who drew cheers before the announcer could finish the breed description, a Neapolitan Mastiff who showed off his distinguishing wrinkles with a shake (much to the delight of the crowd), and a sprightly, fluffy Tibetan Mastiff. No one was surprised when the judge chose Matisse, a Portuguese Water Dog who’s number one in the country when it comes to Best in Show wins. At just 21/2 years old, this is the second year in a row that Matisse has won the Working Group. Shown by Michael Scott, CH Claircreek Impression de Matisse is the same breed as the Obamas’ two dogs, Bo and Sunny. “You can have a great dog, but if you have a great dog and a great performance, you get great results,” Scott said of Matisse after the Group win.
Best in Terrier Group: Miniature Bull Terrier Simon, age 6, gave the audience and the hosts a good laugh when he was distracted by some treats that had been dropped in the ring. Once he’d collected them, he was ready to pay attention. The hosts shared the uplifting story of Boomer, a Norwich Terrier who almost didn’t make it to Westminster after there was a fire in his breeder-owner-handler’s home. And a Rat Terrier, the third new breed at the competition this year, bested 20 other entries in Best of Breed to reach the Group level. The Group winner was Sky the Wire Fox Terrier, who went on to win Best in Show.
Sky's had a busy week, and it's far from over. On Wednesday, Frei says she'll follow in the footsteps of previous winners, hitting the morning talk show circuit and eating off of a silver platter at Sardi's. And, she's likely to retire, like her predecessors.
As Frei points out, "The reality is, whoever wins retires because there’s nothing left to win" after taking the coveted prize as Westminster's top dog.
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