Westminster dog show 2024: Sage, a Miniature poodle, wins top prize

NEW YORK (AP) — For one last hurray, it was Sage’s decision.

A miniature poodle named Sage won first prize Tuesday night at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, in what veteran handler Kaz Hosaka said would be his final appearance at America’s most prestigious canine event. After 45 years of competition and two top show dogs, he plans to retire.

Sage notched the 11th triumph for poodles of different sizes at Westminster; only wire fox terriers gained more. The last miniature poodle to win the trophy was Spice, along with Hosaka, in 2002.

“No words,” he said in the ring to describe his reaction to Sage’s victory before providing a few: “So happy – exciting.”

Advancing briskly and proudly around the ring, the ink-black poodle “gave me a great performance,” Hosaka added.

Sage beat six other finalists to win best of show. Second place went to Mercedes, a German Shepherd whose handler, Kent Boyles, also ran a Best in Show winner previously.

Others in the final round included Comet, a shih tzu who won the American Kennel Club Grand National Championship last year; Monty, a giant schnauzer who arrived at Westminster as the highest-ranking dog in the country and a finalist at Westminster last year; Louis, an Afghan dog; Micah, a black cocker spaniel; and Frankie, a colorful bull terrier.

As Sage circled the ring, a protester carrying a sign calling for a “breeder boycott” attempted to board and was quickly intercepted by security forces. Police and animal rights group PETA said three protesters were arrested. Charges have not yet been decided.

In an event where all competitors are champions of the dog show points system, victory may depend on subtleties and a remarkable turn at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the USTA Tennis Tournament. US Open.

The final composition was “excellent, glorious,” said the show’s top judge, Rosalind Kramer.

For Monty’s manager and co-owner Katie Bernardin, “just being in the ring with everyone is an honor.”

“We all love our dogs. We’re doing our best,” she said in the ring after Monty’s semi-final victory. A “stud” of a dog, he is strong, powerful and “very feisty,” said Bernardin of Chaplin, Connecticut.

So spirited that while Bernardin was pregnant, she did obedience and other dog sports with Monty because he needed stimulation.

Dogs first compete with other dogs of their breed. Then, the winner of each race faces the other members of their “group”. The seven group winners meet in the final round.

The best in show winner receives a trophy and a place in dog world history, but no cash prize.

Besides the winners, other dogs were appreciated by the crowd. A lagotto Romagnolo named Harry made the stadium audience laugh by sitting down and begging for a treat from his handler, and a vizsla named Fletcher charmed spectators by jumping on his handler after completing a lap around the ring.

There was also big applause for a playful Great Pyrenees called Sebastian and a Doberman pinscher named Emilio.

Other dogs who battled unsuccessfully for a place in the final included Stache, a Sealyham terrier. He won the national dog show that was televised on Thanksgiving and took first prize at a big terrier show in Pennsylvania last fall.

Stache features a rare breed considered vulnerable to extinction, even in its native Britain.

“He’s a little-known treasure,” said Stache co-owner, co-breeder and handler Margery Good, of Cochranville, Pa., who has been breeding “Sealys” for half a century. Originally developed in Wales to hunt badgers and other burrowing game, terriers with a “fall out” of hair over their eyes are brave but comical – Good calls them “silly hams”.

Westminster can seem like a study in canine contrasts. Walking around, a visitor could see a chihuahua peering out of a carrier bag at a stocky Neapolitan Mastiff, a ring full of honey-colored golden retrievers next to a line of pitch-black giant schnauzers, and dog handlers with dogs much bigger than them.

Shane Jichetti was one of them. Ralphie, the 175-pound (34-kg) Great Dane she co-owns, towers over her. It takes considerable experience to show such a large animal, but “if you have a bond with your dog and you follow him, it works,” she said.

Plus, Ralphie, despite his size, is “so cool,” Jichetti said. A player at home on New York’s Staten Island, he’s perfect – as is his harlequin-patterned coat – when it’s time to step into the ring.

“He’s just an honest dog,” Jichetti said.

The Westminster Show, which dates from 1877, centers on the traditional judging of purebreds which leads to the Best in Show award. But over the past decade, the club has added agility and obedience events open to mixed-breed dogs.

And this year, the agility competition counted its first non-purebred winnera border collie-papillon mix named Nimble.

And Kramer, the top show judge, wanted to thank “every dog, whether it’s a house dog or a show dog.”

“Because you make our lives whole.”


Associated Press photographer Julia Nikhinson contributed.

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