Photo courtesy Westminster Kennel Club.
Fri, 06/02/2023 - 12:40pm

Master Stroke

Westminster holds successful show at USTA Billie Jean King tennis stadium

Words can never capture the magical feelings of Westminster, which again was so true this year. It was so exciting to be able to bring back all the social aspects missing in the last couple of years due to Covid.

Thursday evening the AKC Museum of the Dog hosted a lovely dinner to honor Ellen Charles and David Merriam. David and Ellen have been legends in the sport for decades. It is always so nice to start with cocktails surrounded by the great treasures of the museum. It was so interesting to see the collar collection on display. The food was first class for a catered event. There were many, many sponsors for the grand event, and the auction was very successful, raising a great deal of money for the museum.

On Saturday Patricia Shaw, Missy Galloway and Karen LeFrak hosted a magnificent cocktail party at the Doubles, a famous club in the Sherry Netherland hotel. Earlier in the afternoon Doug Johnson and Jamie Hubbard invited some friends to their beautiful apartment in the city. So nice that Doug and Jamie can spend a fair amount of time in the magical city of New York.

It was great that Purina® Pro Plan® and Dog News were able to host the glorious awards dinner at Gotham Hall again. This certainly is the highlight of any social event in the sport. It was so emotional to see so many legends being honored for their great contributions to the sport.

I did not go over to the venue over the weekend, but many did to see what it was like. Everyone was surprised to find that it was much more beautiful than anticipated. There were quite a few nice hotels very close to the show, and many, many buses shuttling people and dogs from the hotels to the venue. There was some fear the parking might be difficult, but it was quite easy for everyone, since many took buses.

I have never missed a Garden since 1958, and this year I was as excited as ever. We have to thank all the exhibitors and handlers who brought all the great dogs from all over to see so many greats competing together. Each year it gets harder and harder to fly with dogs. Many did have problems coming and going home.

The outdoor rings under the beautiful tents gave the feeling of a wonderful garden party. The weather was perfect, which led to being so comfortable outside. The weekend before, there was terrible flooding in the area. Between the two years at Lyndhurst and this year, we were so very, very lucky with the weather. The committee is looking high and low to get an indoor location for the show. Any outdoor facility could be a total disaster in the case of extreme flooding or storms. On two occasions the Tuxedo Park Kennel Club at Lyndhurst had to be cancelled the evening before the show. Even with terrible blizzards the Garden never had to be cancelled.

Both evenings there were very few spectators in the arena. This was probably because it was rather difficult to purchase tickets through Ticketmaster. Even many of the exhibitors had great difficulty, and some gave up. I am sure it will be resolved by next year.

There were six rings outdoors, and three rings indoors each day. The rings were large enough even for the large breeds. There was plenty of seating where we could all sit and watch. It was a venue we all enjoyed. Also the two grooming tents were very spacious and not far from any of the rings. Ex-pens were right outside the grooming tents and grass areas were also available.

As always, the groups were strong, and it was good to see some very top dogs starting their campaigns. The English Setter has just started hers. Her kennelmate the Giant Schnauzer won the breed last year and stayed home to mature. He went to a show a couple of weeks ago for practice before Westminster. His practice show resulted in a Best in Show. Both the English Setter and the Giant are owned by Sandra Nordstrom, who also owns the English Foxhound that placed in an extremely strong Hound Group.

The PBGV has already had a great career, and when he went Best in Show he was retired. It was so great that breeder Gavin Robertson was able to get a last-minute flight from England to watch Best. Now Gavin and his wife Sara have been BIS at both Crufts and Westminster. Their Soletrader PBGVs have been world famous for many years.

“Trouble” the Am Staff was already a huge winner, but winning the Terrier Group made him the first Am Staff to win the group at Westminster.

Cindy Vogels had a super-strong Toy Group. David Fitzpatrick became the winner with “Rum Dum.” David has alternated showing “Rum Dum” with his litter brother “Fortune Cookie.” This was the ninth time David has won the group at Westminster. In 2012 and 2021 David also went Best in Show.

The Non-Sporting Group had many top-winning dogs present. “Winston” the Frenchie, who was Reserve BIS and number-one dog last year, captured the group again this year. Only three Frenchies have ever won the group at the Garden, but this was three years in row that the group went to a Frenchie. This was the final show for the campaign of “Winston.”

The Herding Group went to the beautiful Australian Shepherd; she is GChG. Northbay Xsell That’s a Wrap.

The final could have been argued many different ways. Reserve Best went to the Peke and BIS to the PBGV, who as I said was retired with this super win. Everyone was so happy for all the winners competing.

In order to enter Westminster, a dog must be an American champion. This means very few dogs living in foreign lands, other than Canada or Mexico, are ever shown at Westminster. Offhand I only know that competing this year was a Pom from Korea and an Afghan Hound from Sweden. The Pembroke “Newman” went BOS; he has been to the States quite a few times and was Best in Show at the World Show in Shanghai in 2019.

The Standard Poodle “Boomer,” who is co-owned by owners in England and the U.S., went second in the group. He came to visit a couple of weeks ago to show at Poodle Club of America, where he was Select Dog. I imagine they will now start to campaign him more heavily in England.

The entire Westminster committee deserves tremendous credit for making this great show extra special in a new venue. It is never easy using a site for the first time. Hopefully next year they will find a completely indoor venue. If not, weather permitting, this venue will be great again.



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