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Thursday, 06 March 2014 11:13

SKY ‘in the purple’ at Westminster

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The climax of the 138th Westminster Dog Show saw seven superb dogs enter the arena in Madison Square Garden to be judged by Ms Betty Regina Leininger, supremely elegant in an emperor purple evening gown, before an extremely animated audience.

They consisted of an Irish Water Spaniel, Portuguese Water Dog, Bloodhound, Standard Poodle, Wire Fox Terrier, Cardigan Welsh Corgi & Miniature Pinscher. As is now customary Reserve Best In Show was announced first and, to much approval from the spectators, the Standard Poodle, GCH Brighton Lakeridge Encore was called out to the Reserve BIS spot. After an almost theatrical pause during which the noise could literally have taken the roof off, the BIS judge, Betty Leininger announced her chosen Best In Show as the Wire Fox Terrier, GCH Afterall Painting The Sky, co-owned by Victor Malzoni Jr, Torie Steele, Scott & Mary Olund and Diane Ryan, handled as always by Gabriel Rangel.

Cindy and I were looking forward to escaping the rain and wind that seems to have plagued us for the past few months and were actually looking forward to cold and dry, albeit snowy, weather that was forecast in New York. Upon arrival at the Virgin Atlantic departure gate we were greeted by Ann & Frank Harrison of the Anfranjo Beardies & Standard Poodles who were making their first trip to Westminster. After a brief chat during which we provided a few tips to help them enjoy the show we boarded the aircraft and found to our surprise  that they were actually seated next to us. Even more bizarrely we discovered during the flight that we had reservations for the same Broadway show the night after our arrival in the Big Apple!


Hectic weekend


After a hectic weekend of attending breed speciality shows, a new exhibition at the William Secord Gallery, a Broadway show, shopping and a late night supper at what must be THE most outrageous and fun restaurant in Manhattan Ellen’s Diner, where all the staff sing during the entire evening in between serving table, we made our way to Piers 92 & 94 on the West Side on Manhattan which is now where the daytime judging of Westminster takes place. On our way to the Press Room we were warmly greeted by ‘Mr Westminster’ David Frei, Director of Communications and front man par excellence. It was good to meet up with old friends from various parts of the world who were covering the show. Members of the domestic and international press are made welcome by Ranny Green, who cannot do enough to make their task less demanding, and who was aided this year by Nicole Duane, daughter of Linda Duane. She was a familiar face who was missing for most of the show as she has been promoted and now organises the logistics of such a large event from a remote area but we still managed to seek her out for a quick catch-up.   

In a very short time we had chatted to Mike Gadsby, Bert Easdon, Adele Summers, Kerry Rushby, Peter Young, Lee Cox, Tom Isherwood and Will Croxford, who were all visiting from the UK, in addition to Lisa Croft-Elliott and Carrie Russell-Smith who were taking things at a more leisurely pace than usual this year but still managed to pop up all over the place. It was also good to meet up with American luminaries such as Peter Green, Beth Sweigart, Tina Truesdale, Terry Stacy and handlers such as Ernesto Lara, Gabriel Rangel, Erin Roberts and Kim Calvacca.

Having returned to our hotel to change prior to meeting up with old American friends for dinner we made our way to Madison Square Garden for the first day’s Group judging. The Garden has now been totally refurbished and is now a classy venue. The atmosphere was electric from the moment we took our seats in the Press Box adjacent to the Main Ring. There was speculation as to who would sing the American National Anthem and the crowd were truly delighted when the main cast of the hit musical, the Jersey Boys, were introduced. Traditionally Broadway theatres are ‘dark’ on a Monday and this allowed them to give an acapella rendition. All judging takes place live on the national network USA Network, a division of NBC. David Frei provides live commentary usually with Mary Carillo but she was not to be seen as she was co-presenting the Winter Olympics live from Sochi for NBC. As soon as each Group Winner exits the Main Ring they are interviewed by Karolynne McAteer before they can literally catch their breath.


Group judging begins


Four Groups were judged on the first night and Douglas A. Johnson was introduced as the Hound Group judge. He is a well-respected judge, in addition to being recognised from the internationally renowned Clussexx Kennels who bred the 1996 BIS Clumber Spaniel & the 2009 BIS Sussex Spaniel at Westminster. He reduced the initial 31 BOBs to a shortlist consisting of: the Basset Hound, Beagle (Over 13 inch), Bloodhound, Dachshund (Wirehaired), Greyhound, Irish Wolfhound & Whippet. After a final assessment during which each dog was gaited around the huge ring, he pointed to the Bloodhound, GCh Flessner’s International S’Cess as his Hound Group winner. ‘Nathan’ is co-owned by Shirley VanCamp, Heather Buehner & Zack Helmer and, has won 5 BIS so far during 2014 in addition to being No 2 Bloodhound last year, has numerous titles to his credit a Man Training title and is the only BIS-winning Bloodhound to have achieved this title. He was handled by his co-owner and co-breeder, Heather Buehner & was No 10 Top Hound in 2013 with 3 BIS and 18 Group wins. Group 2 was the Whippet, GCh Sporting Fields Bahama Sands, Group 3 the Basset Hound, GCh Topsfield-Sanchu Eenie Meenie Miney Moe and Group 4 the Irish Wolfhound, Ch Kuriann of First Avenue.

The next Group to be judged was the Toy Group and Keke Kahn took centre stage. Although she first became involved in dogs through obedience with an American Cocker Spaniel & a German Shepherd Dog she is perhaps better known for her Potala Lhasa Apsos which she has bred since 1960. From the 23 BOB which came into the ring she kept back for further consideration: the Affenpinscher (son of last year’s BIS winner Joey and handled by Ernesto Lara), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, English Toy Spaniel (King Charles & Ruby) (following in his famous UK sire Theo’s footsteps), Miniature Pinscher (who had won Group 2 in 2013), Pekingese (Roger who was last year’s Group 3 bred by Bert Easdon), Pomeranian, Pug & Shih Tzu. After moving them all once more she had no hesitation in awarding the Toy Group to the Miniature Pinscher, GCh Marlex Classic Red Glare. ‘Classy’ is co-owned by Leah Monte & Armando Angelbello. She is handled by Armando and is the Top Winning Min Pin in history, having won 121 BIS in addition to being No 1 Toy breed in 2013 in addition to being No 3 Top Dog All Breeds with 64 BIS and 122 Group Wins. Group 2 was the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, GCh Grantilley Galaxy moon, Group 3 the Pomeranian, GCh CR Chase What Matters & Group 4 the Pekingese GCh Yakee Easily Persuaded.

The original Non-Sporting Group Judge, Miss Virginia L. Lyne, had to withdraw due to a back injury, and a substitute judge had been appointed and this was Jacqueline Stacey. Jackie is known for her Tamarin Affenpinschers in addition to having bred over 50 Pomeranian Champions. This is quite a small group and there were 19 BOBs of which Mrs Stacy kept back; the Bichon Frise, Chinese Shar Pei, the Dalmatian, French Bulldog, Miniature Poodle, Standard Poodle, Shiba Inu & Tibetan Terrier. All the dogs were moved once more before the Non-Sporting Group Winner was declared... the Standard Poodle, GCh Brighton Lakeridge Encore. ‘Encore’ is co-owned by Toni & Martin Sosnoff and was Top Non-Sporting and No 11 Top Dog All Breeds with 25 BIS & 62 Group Wins. Group 2 was the Tibetan Spaniel, GCh Kan Sings Tenzin, Group 3 the Miniature Poodle, GCh Bellefleet’s Living In The Fast Lane & Group 4 the Dalmatian, GCH Spotted Bliss Oreo Delight.

The last Group of the night was the Herding Group & the judge was Mr Walter J. Sommerfelt who judges the Sporting, Working & Herding Groups and has bred many winning Vizslas along with his wife under the Loracs affix. 25 BOBs were initially assessed and the following were asked to stay behind: the Border Collie, Bouviers Des Flandres (Top Bouvier and also from Canada), Canaan Dog, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, German Shepherd Dog, Old English Sheepdog (who won the Group in 2013), Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Puli and Pyrenean Shepherd. The Herding Group Winner was the Cardigan Corgi, GCh Riverside Telltail Coco Posh. ‘Coco’ is co-owned by Dina Planche, Deb Shindle and Julie & Bill Divens. She was handled as always by Lois DeMers  and was 2nd Top Cardigan last year with 3 BIS and 18 Group Wins. One of her co-owners, Dina Planche was undergoing back surgery earlier in the day and she is on record as saying that she wanted to see her dog on television upon waking up! Group 2 was the Puli, GCh Cordmaker Topsy Turvey (Top Puli 2013), Group 3 the German Shepherd Dog, GCh Wolf Creek Galaxy of Merivern.  

Upon leaving The Garden all eyes were focussed on the Empire State Building which was lit up in purple & gold, the colours of Westminster on a cloud-free and bitterly cold night.


Bright and early


Next day it was back to The Piers bright and early for another day of competition. The traffic on the West Side was much slower than the previous day and it took almost 45 minutes to get from the shuttle bus collection point to the venue. It sounds a long time but it must be borne in mind that this is New York traffic on a busy weekday.

After another dinner with American friends we were ready for the 2nd day’s Group Judging which saw Sporting, Working & Terriers being judged. This time the National Anthem was sung by a very talented group of young singers who form the Harlem Choir. They gave an innovative acapella version.

The Sporting Group was the first group to be judged and Mr Sam Houston McDonald was introduced to the audience. He is known for the Eagle Farm Irish Wolfhounds which he co-bred with his late partner Sam Ewing. There were 29 BOBs in the first instance and this was reduced to: the Brittany, Golden Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Clumber Spaniel (a Clussexx), (American) Cocker Black, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel & Irish Water Spaniel. After another opportunity to gait the Sporting Group Winner was the Irish Water Spaniel, GCh Whistlestop’s Riley On Fire. ‘Riley’ is co-owned by Tom & Bethany Urban and Gregory N. Siner and was No 1 Sporting Dog in 2013 in addition to being No 5 Top Dog All breeds with 26 BIS & 81 Group Wins. In her litter there have been three BIS siblings! Her litter bother is the top-winning Sh Ch Am Ch Whistlestop’s Elements Of Magic here in the UK. Group 2 was the (American) Cocker Spaniel (Black) Ch Casablanca’s Thrilling Seduction, Group 3 the Golden Retriever, GCh Kalm Sea’s To Have And To Hold & Group 4 the English Springer Spaniel, Ch Telltale American Ride.

The Working Group Judge was Mr Clay Coady, a highly successful professional handler before he began an equally successful judging career. He was clearly very popular with the audience as they gave him a rousing welcome. Another large Group with 29 BOBs. This was whittled down to 8: the Akita (whose handler, Heather Sue Bremmer was the subject of a book on handling and showing), Boxer (a stunning bitch co-owned by the Truesdales and handled by Kim Calvacca), Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Mastiff, Portuguese Water Dog (last year’s Group Winner and ultimately BIS), Samoyed (Andrew Green handling his wife Amy’s home-bred dog), Standard Schnauzer & Tibetan Mastiff. After careful consideration he pulled out as his Group Winner the Portuguese Water Dog, GCh Claircreek Impression De Matisse, co-owned by Milan Lint, Peggy Helming & Dona Gottdenker. ‘Matisse’ was a crowd favourite and his handler, Michael Scott, was clearly delighted on this 2nd consecutive Group Win at The Garden. The Top Working Dog and 2nd Top Dog All Breeds for 2013 won a total of 94 BIS with an impressive 136 Group Wins. It is reputed that the Obama’s 2 PWDs Bo & Sunny were watching judging taking place! Group 2 was the Mastiff, GCh Willow Ridges Risky Business, Group 3 the Akita, GCh CR-Wicca’s Trade Secret & Group 4 the Boxer, GCh Brisbane ‘N’ Blue Monday’s Diamonds Are Decadent. 

Mr Bruce R. Schwartz was the Terrier Group Judge. He wore a rather fetching cummerbund which featured a Welsh Terrier, his breed. 31 BOBs came into the ring and he reduced this to: the Border Terrier (newly returned to the ring after maternal duties), Bull Terrier (Colored), Cairn Terrier, Fox Terrier (Smooth) a son of last year’s Group Winner, Fox Terrier (Wire) (Top Dog All Breeds 2014 by a mile), Norfolk Terrier (another from Beth Sweigart’s breeding), Russell Terrier (a top winning Swedish import) and Skye Terrier (another stunning Skye bred by good friends of Our Dogs, Eugene Zaphiris & Matt Stander). The Group Winner was the Fox Terrier (Wire) GCh Afterall Painting The Sky, co-owned by Victor Malzoni Jr, Torie Steele, Scott & Mary Olund and Diane Ryan. ‘Sky’ was No 1 Terrier & Top Dog All Breeds in 2013 with 85 BIS and 149 Group Wins and was handled superbly by Gabriel Rangel. Group 2 was the Skye Terrier, GCh Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie, Group 3 the Border Terrier, GCh Meadowlake Simply Sinful & Group 4 the Russell Terrier, GCh Goldsands Columbus.


Highlight of the show


After a brief pause it was time for the highlight of the show as all 7 Group Winners came into the ring to tumultuous applause and cheering from the crowded arena. The Irish Water Spaniel, Portuguese Water Dog, Bloodhound, Standard Poodle, Wire Fox Terrier, Cardigan Welsh Corgi and Miniature Pinscher all seemed impervious to the noise as the elegant judge, Betty Regina Leininger, who reminded me so much of our impeccably dressed Pamela Cross Stern with her attention to detail whatever she wore, examined each dog.

‘Sky’ has a truly impressive show record. She won the Terrier Group at the World Show in 2011, took BIS at the AKC/Eukanuba National in 2012 and was BIS at the prestigious Montgomery Show in 2013. When I spoke exclusively to her co-owners, Victor Malzoni Jr & Torie Steele, shortly after her victory Torie described it as “Truly iconic” and Victor as “ A most emotional win for me, having won Groups in Europe and also at Crufts and winning at Montgomery”. BIS judge Betty Leininger told me that she had had some “exceptional dogs to examine and had been truly impressed with her winner”.

As is traditional we had dinner at the Affinia to discuss the results and were pleased to have as our dining companions, Lisa Croft-Elliott, Carrie Russell-Smith, Kerry Rushby, Lee Cox, Tom Isherwood & Sarah Montague from a local NY radio station, Ernesto Lara. Various American dog folk including Jacquie Beaudoin, co-owner of the Group 2 Puli, the Truesdales and Kim Calvacca were at an adjacent table. Good food, fine wine, lovely people... a fitting end to Westminster 2014.

Read 2368 times Last modified on Monday, 12 September 2016 10:34

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