Tarrytown, NY – Taste of the Year at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: Wasabi.
A Pekingese named Wasabi won Best in Show Sunday night, marking the fifth win for the surefire toy breed. A Whippet named Bourbon repeated as runner-up.
Going through a small but powerful turn in the ring, Wasabi achieved the most coveted award of US dogdom after winning the major American Kennel Club National Championship in 2019.
“He has pretentiousness. He fits the breed standard. “He has that little extra bit, that sparkle, that sets the dog apart,” said Wasabi’s handler and breeder David Fitzpatrick, who guided Peke’s grandfather Malachi to the Westminster title in 2012.
How will Wasabi celebrate?
“He can have a filet mignon. And I’ll have Champagne,” laughs Fitzpatrick of East Berlin, Pennsylvania.
Wasabi came out at the top of the pack with one finalist, which included Matthew the French Bulldog, Connor the Old English Sheepdog, Jade the German Shorthaired Pointer, Stryker the Samoyed and a West Highland White Terrier named Boy. In all, 2,500 champion dogs entered the show.
In a sign of the times of the pandemic, some operators wore masks – although vaccinated people were allowed to go without – and the show was closed to the public.
Stryker went on to show as the top-ranked American dog in the show since January 2020 with more than 40 Best of Show wins. And Bourbon also won the AKC National Championship.
The show was bittersweet for Jade’s handler and co-owner, Valerie Nunes-Atkinson. She directed Jade’s father, CJ, to 2016’s Best Performance at Westminster — and lost her last September, when the 7-year-old unexpectedly died of a fungal infection.
“The cool thing about it is this: They’ve left an incredible legacy,” said Nunes-Atkinson of Temecula, Calif. She said that Jade “was my heart” from birth.
According to handler Rebecca Cross, the boy had come a long way from Thailand to Westminster, where one of his owners was watching from Bangkok.
“He always makes us laugh,” said Krauss of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
For many dog owners, just making it to Westminster is a thrill—even for baseball’s all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds, who was cheering on a Miniature Schnauzer, sister Cheryl With Dugan.
The dog, Rocky, didn’t win his breed, but Slugger said he’s proud to have Rocky qualify for the champion-only show.
“We won because we got here. That’s all that matters,” Bonds told Fox Sports. “I’ve been in a lot of playoffs, and I’ve been in the World Series, and I never won. But for 22 years I kept trying.”
Bonds, 56, holds baseball’s career home run record with 762, although his achievement was clouded by allegations of steroid use – he intentionally denied taking them.
While the semi-final and final rounds were held in a climate-controlled tent, the earlier parts of the competition took place on grass at an estate called Lyndhurst.
Douglas Tighe, second in the sports group to Brittany named Penny, says he goes along with it if his dogs are distracted by birds and other attractions in the great outdoors.
“Let them have fun,” said Tighe of Hope, New Jersey. “thats what its all about.”
The same is true of Kole Brown. At the age of 9, he showed a bull terrier named Riley on Sunday with his parents, Kurtis Brown, and U.S. Air Force Captain Samantha Brown, and a few other bull terriers in the family.
“I really enjoy the sport,” said Cole, of San Antonio, Texas. “Every time I go to the ring, I have a smile on my face.”
Associated Press writer Ben Walker contributed to this report from New York.