Fri, 04/07/2023 - 9:26pm

Girl Power

Two foreign-bred bitches topped the list of group winners and placers from Crufts 2023


Story and photos by Yossi Guy


This year’s Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show at Crufts went to two foreign exhibitors with females— a Lagotto Romagnolo and an Old English Sheepdog. Quite a unique lineup.

I have been attending the Crufts show in England for the past 20 years. It is an experience that may be compared only to Westminster in its importance and prestige. The organization is excellent, and all dogs remain benched throughout the show, making it easier to locate any dog, owner and breeder you may be interested in. Even though it used to be a completely British show, Crufts has become more international since the borders were opened to foreign dogs, and the organizers invite judges from other countries, too.

This year, the Kennel Club celebrated its 150th anniversary as one of the world’s oldest canine organizations. The Kennel Club was founded on April 4, 1873

As usual, the four-day event was not just about showing dogs for conformation, but included every possible type of dog activity – flyball, agility, heelwork to music, hunting and obedience. The main ring showcased the winners of all the various competitions, as well as a competition for mixed breeds, called Scruffts, and awards for police and service dogs.



The number of dogs that took part in the show was around 24,000; however, multiple entries were included in this total number. The actual entry was approximately 18,000 — still very respectable. There were 15,569 dogs from the U.K. and 3,457 dogs from 41 other countries. The largest foreign entries, 300 to 400 dogs each, were from France, Italy, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands. There were also three dogs from the United Arab Emirates; two each from Peru and Brazil, and one each from Georgia, Kazakhstan and Argentina.

The 10 breeds with the highest entries were the Labrador and Golden Retriever, Flat-Coated Retriever, Whippet, Cocker Spaniel, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Border Collie, Irish Setter, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Rhodesian Ridgeback.

One of the most interesting competitions was for the Vulnerable Breeds — those that have the lowest number of puppies registered in the studbook. Libby, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi owned by Tracy Irving from Bolton, Lancashire, won the grand final of The Kennel Club Vulnerable British and Irish Breeds competition on Friday, March 10.



But with all due respect, the “real” competition was in the group and Best in Show rings. The Kennel Club has seven groups. The Gundog group, with the overall largest entries, is judged on one day, while the other six groups are judged two at a time on the other three days. One of the nice things about the groups is that they are rotated, which means that a group judged on Thursday in one year will be judged on Friday the following year, and so on.

The Terrier Group was won by a Wire Fox Terrier, Ch. Blanca vd Schoenen Bergen, bred by Mr. F.W. Shoneberg and handled by Juraj Sokolic from Croatia, who told Dog News

This year’s 150th anniversary Crufts was exceptional as usual. I wasn’t expecting anything less than excellent — the rings, the staff, the organization. I am always happy and thrilled to see so many familiar faces, friends old and new, from all over the world, and to see the extraordinary quality of the dogs presented at the event. For me, Crufts has always been a show with great sportsmanship, and I have always enjoyed getting in the ring with well-known handlers and their top dogs. Massive thank you to all the people who worked together to put up such an amazing show!”

British judge Stuart Mallard judged Best in Show. Mallard is an accomplished artist whose paintings of dogs are greatly esteemed. He used to breed Old English Sheepdogs and has judged the breed on many occasions

As his Best in Show, Mallard chose the Lagotto Romagnolo bitch “Orca,” and his Reserve Best in Show was “Blondie,” an Old English Sheepdog. The audience was extremely happy with these choices. Orca kept running around the ring and standing perfectly beside her handler, Javier Gonzales Mendicote, who couldn’t stop kissing her. For her part, Blondie is a definite eye catcher with her perfect coat and strong gait.



Sabina Zdunic Sinkovic, breeder of the BIS bitch, was naturally extremely proud: “It was a long 24 hours, lots of emotions going on, lots of thoughts and memories passing through my head. Words can hardly describe this moment ... 

I would like to thank my family for support they give me and sacrifices they made for our dogs. I would also like to thank from the bottom of my heart all my show team of amazing people who worked hard with Orca, and in particular Ante Lucin and Javier. Thank you to all the people for beautiful words of support and sincere happiness for the result that this little happy girl has achieved.”

Nikolas Kanales from Greece is the proud breeder of Greek Ch. AirZeppeline Delia, aka Blondie, who lives on the Athenian Riviera by the sea with his friends Luisa and Dimitris, who also have two other Old English Sheepdogs and a Basset hound.

Louisa describes her as the perfect dog, and Dimitris is convinced that she is the definition of perfection and aesthetic harmony, which for him is as important as it was for the ancient Greeks in the Classical period,” he says. “More than anything, Blondie loves good food, good living, all people, gossip and holidays on the Cycladic Islands, where she visits the local bars with her mum and dad, usually until early hours of the night. She also loves to swim in the sea.”

Blondie was born in the Mediterranean area of Calabria, in the very south of Italy, under the well-known Old English Affix of AirZeppeline, bred by Matteo Autolitano and Nikolas Kanales. Her mother is Greek champion Aryakas Fotini, who was also the dam of another Crufts Pastoral Group winner in 2018, Aryakas Pegasos. Blondie’s sire is U.S.-born multi-Ch. Shaggybarks American Lover of Aryakas, who had a successful career in Italy and then moved to New Zealand and continued his winning ways there.

Blondie loves people and also enjoys treats,” Kanales says. “Blondie is an Italian, but prefers Greece. She enjoys the festivities and parties, and actually finds fireworks very amusing and runs out to the garden to watch them explode.”




Best In Show



Lagotto Romagnolo, Am. Gch. Kan Trace Very Cheeky Chic, breeders Zdunic Sinkovic, co-owner Ante Lucin, Croatia


Reserve Best in Show



Old English Sheepdog, Grk Ch. Airzeppeline Delia, N. Kanales


Gundog Group

Judge: Mr. Gordon Haran



1. Lagotto Romagnolo, Am. Gch. Kan Trace Very Cheeky Chic, breeders Zdunic Sinkovic, co-owner Ante Lucin, Croatia

2. Labrador Retriever, Sh. Ch. Lapena Masquerade at Sandylands, E. Casey and Jayes

3. Gordon Setter, Ch. Int. Ger. Ch. Amscot Love is in the Air, JWW18, Collins Pitman

4. Irish Water Spaniel, Sh Ch Curlyco My Hot Rockstar, Mr. J. Hackett


Hound Group

Judge: Mr. Mike Caple



1. Irish Wolfhound, Ch. Sade Paris, C. & J. Amoo

2. Grand Basset Griffon Vendeern, Ch. Forget Me Not v TumTum’s Vriendjes, A.N. Huikeshoven

3. Pharaoh Hound, Multi-Ch. Vskurs Moni Maker Qiwidotter, T. & S. Torres

4. Beagle, Ch. Annavah Princess Tiana, L.A. & P.J. Havard


Pastoral Group

Judge: Mrs. Renee Sporre-Willes (Sweden)



1. Old English Sheepdog, Grk Ch. Airzeppeline Delia, N. Kanales 

2. Border Collie, Etched in Sand by The Lake, JWW, Miss Solyom

3. Belgian Shepherd Greonendael, Ch. Hawksflight Pure Envy with Dmoburg, L. & S. Lester & Smith

4. Samoyed, Ch. Nikara Sweet Dreams for Kimeekasams, P.J. & B. Johnson


Terrier Group

Judge: Mr. David Guy



1. Wire Fox Terrier, Ch. Blanca vd Schoenen Bergen, Mr. F.W. Shoneberg

2. Border Terrier, Ch. Otterbobs Tolson, J.R. & H. Gilpin

3. Jack Russell Terrier, Jap. Ch. Monamour Hot Dancer at Saredon, Averis & Barker

4. Bedlington Terrier, Ch. Conekesheved Too Shy JW, J. & L. McNally


Toy Group

Judge: Dr. Annukka Paloheimo Segersven (Finland)



1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Ch. Ellemich American Express, Chapman & Ireland

2. Yorkshire Terrier, Multi-Ch. Royal Precious Jp’s F4 Conan, Mrs. Obana

3. Chihuahua Long Coat, Ch. Bramver’s Millionaire, Irene Peeker

4. Papillon, Ir. Ch. Eryanto’s the Great Guinness Denermore, Carroll & Newman


Utility Group

Judge: Mr. Mark Cocozza



1. Standard Poodle, Ch. Huffish Rewrite the Stars With Atastar, P. Langdon

2. Akita Inu, Ch. Dai Kichi Go Shun’you Kensha, S. Exposito

3. Miniature Schnauzer, Jp. Ch. Jokwer Land’s First Call, M. Uryu

4. Chow Chow, Int.Ch. Kashmir from Kwaitang, Kvetny & Lunau


Working Group

Judge: Miss E. Ann Ingram (Ireland)



1. Dobermann, Ch. Manzart Wise Guy, Everley & Hughes

2. Tibetan Mastiff, Fr.Ch. Rongshai du Domaine de Toundra, S. Haeffele

3. Russian Black Terrier, Multi-Ch. Sotsvetie Tverdynya Bogatyr Jpodch, Misse Turkeiwicz

4. Alaskan Malamute, Snowshoes Who Dares Wins, J.E. & J. Smith



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