Photo by Gay Glazbrook
Fri, 05/19/2023 - 10:58pm

Armchair Reflections on Westminster

Andrew Brace shares the view from across the pond

This year again my Westminster experience was confined to the laptop (with adjacent iPad and iPhone) and the realization that I was in for two very late nights — or, to be more accurate, early mornings, as by the time I had screen-grabbed and posted up-to-date results on Facebook it was 5 a.m. before I managed to get to bed.

I had hoped to be able to watch breed judging live, but that didn’t happen. Despite getting all manner of advice from well-meaning and more tech-savvy friends, I had to be content with catching up with the individual breed judging once the completed packages appeared on YouTube, but that was no great inconvenience. More importantly, watching the judging of groups and Best live was completely trouble-free.

The venue looked amazing, and when it came to the evening everything looked just like the Garden. I shudder to think what creating the venue must have cost Westminster Kennel Club.

I was keen to watch Ann Ingram and Mark Cocozza judging their breeds. Both are knowledgeable and highly watchable, and I thought proved great ambassadors for this side of the Atlantic. Obviously I was also interested to see what my good friend Frank Kane did with his Sporting Group, as Frank is a conventional and dyed-in-the-wool Gundog man, and I wondered if some of the dogs that came through to him may have been a little “flashy” for his tastes. Having spoken to him at length since, he was obviously delighted with the quality and had no problem finding his winners.

The Hound Group I felt was strong and Eddie Dziuk’s final quartet most impressive. From a British perspective it was exciting to watch the U.K.-bred PBGV showing his heart out and put on a determined performance. Having been titled in the U.K., where he was a Crufts BOB winner, shown to number one all breeds in Ireland in that year and then sent to Australia for a successful two-year campaign, he certainly was a crowd-pleaser at Westminster. It came as no surprise to read on Facebook that his clever breeder Gavin Robertson had bought a last-minute ticket so he could fly over and watch Buddy Holly compete in Best in Show. Mark Cocozza must have been thrilled to watch three of his BOB winners standing at the top of the line.

On to Toys, and what would a Westminster Toy Group be without David Fitzpatrick and a Pekingese? Yet again David circuited the huge ring sedately and so befitting the breed to maximum effect, winning what seemed to be a very even group under Cindy Vogels, who always looks so striking. Again there was U.K. interest, as David’s group winner has a sire that was exported from Bert Easdon and Philip Martin’s legendary Yakee kennel in Scotland.

Non-Sporting under George Milutinovich was exciting, and all British eyes were on the Standard Poodle, so brilliantly handled by our very welcome American import Jason Lynn, who finished up standing between the extrovert Frenchie and the Bulldog, which meant that Ann Ingram had emulated Mark Cocozza’s group result, having judged the first three breeds.

Herding with Thomas Coen in charge seemed to be a very even group, but there was no denying the Australian Shepherd, who moved so determinedly from the off.

Frank Kane, judging the Sporting Group, was as methodical as ever despite the time restraints of the Westminster big ring … someone had apparently remarked to him afterward “it must be like judging in a pressure cooker”! His selection was easy to follow, and I am sure that the winning English Setter would satisfy even the most anti-American British specialist. A noteworthy achievement under such an expert will have been the Brittany’s Group 4th, as we don’t have any of the breed that look like that in the U.K.

Paula Nykiel has always impressed me for her quiet efficiency and natural elegance, so I knew I would enjoy watching her sort out the Working Group, where I had goosebumps when the Giant Schnauzer made his entrance. He had impressed me when I’d watched the video of Ann judging the breed, but in the big ring he moved up a gear and looked magnificent. Coincidentally I was having a message-conversation with Pam Bruce in Canada for most of the big-ring judging, so was interested to hear that Pam had recently awarded the Giant a BIS and she clearly shared my enthusiasm. With Ann having also judged Rottweilers, Paula’s placings gave her another first and third, so she was really on a roll.

I didn’t feel the Terrier Group was as strong as some I’ve seen at Westminster, but there were plenty to work with, and clearly many ringsiders shared Connie Clark’s enthusiasm for the powerful winning Amstaff.

Overall I felt the BIS line-up was very competitive and of the highest quality. All eyes were on Beth Sweigart as she took center stage looking splendid and clearly in control. Her speech was perfectly worded. You all know the final outcome, and certainly the combination of Buddy Holly and Janice Hayes seemed to meet with more approval from the general public than any other Westminster BIS winner. All too often social media is flooded with ridicule from the great unwashed, but this year it would appear that the Best in Show winner was everyone’s buddy!



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