Timothy A. Clary, AFP / Getty Images
Hickory is lapping up the limelight after winning Best in Show at the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show tonight in New York City.
The 5-year-old female Scottish deerhound — full name Gch. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind — has been the number one Scottish deerhound for the last three years. But this was her first Best in Show appearance at Westminster.
After entering the ring at Madison Square Garden under a spotlight to rapturous applause, handler Angela Lloyd – a junior handler winner at Westminster in 1998 – led her to a swift and popular victory.
Judge Paolo Dondina, who paid tribute to all the seven finalists as “the best he could remember,” did not take long to select Hickory as his choice for Best in Show. He watched their initial entrance lap and took a closer look at each dog before quickly deciding on Hickory.
“I think she was beautiful,” he told reporters after the award. “This one feels perfect – very well balanced and beautiful. She did a marvelous job.”
The victorious dog and handler drew the adulation of a large crowd as she basked in the victory. Some attendees paid as much as $155 to attend Best in Show, which was also broadcast live on the USA Network.
Lloyd, who has been living with Hickory at her home in Virginia, heaped praise on the deerhound. “She went in there tonight and showed like she’s never shown before,” said the 31-year-old handler. “She was solid and steady despite all the flashbulbs and cameras. She came right through it.”
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is considered the most prestigious in the nation, with more than 2,500 dogs each year vying for the top title of Best in Show. It is the second-oldest continuous sporting event in the country, trailing the Kentucky Derby by a year.
Tuesday night’s seven finalists had all emerged victorious from several tough rounds, which began Monday at 8 a.m. ET. They had each advanced from their Best of Breed heats and then each went on to win their respective group categories — Terrier, Herding, Sporting, Non-sporting, Toy, Hound and Working.
The contest was a little tougher this year because Westminster introduced six new breeds that had been officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. In total, 2,597 dogs representing 179 breeds from 49 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada competed in this year’s show.
Frank Franklin II, AP
The Big Win
Best in Show judge Paolo Dondina, of Monterchi, Italy — the first Italian ever and the first person from outside North America to preside over Westminster’s Best in Show since 1930 — admitted he is a “hound person.”.
“So this is my dream,” he added. “Like Walter Scott said, this dog should be in heaven with him, and I feel the same.”
In 2010 the hot favorite, Sadie, a Scottish terrier whose full name is Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot, walked away with the prized crown. Sadie was a Best of Breed winner in 2009 at Crufts in England — the largest dog show in the world. She is now pregnant and expecting four puppies, according to the Scottish terrier website.
A terrier has won Best in Show at Westminster 45 times — more than any other group. Ahead of this year’s competition pundits were expecting more of the same. Bookmaker Johnny Avello — who has correctly picked the winning breed for the past five years — predicted a smooth fox terrier would take the top title, according to NBC Sports.
But the night belonged to Hickory. Lloyd said the champion will now retire and return to the 50-acre farm in Virginia she grew up on.
“She’s a wonderful dog to live with – I’ll miss those nose-nudges in the middle of the night,” added Lloyd.
Mary Altaffer, AP
Earlier in the evening the three remaining groups were decided. Black cocker spaniel Beckham, age 2, claimed the Sporting ribbon. Ladybug, a Portuguese water dog — the breed owned by the Obama family — won the Working group. Terrier Best of Group went to Adam, a smooth fox terrier. Monday night four groups were judged, with Pekingese Malachy winning the Toy group, Chinese shar-pei Jayne taking the Non-sporting group, and the bearded collie Mr. Baggins winning the Herding group title. Hickory, the Scottish deerhound won the Hound group, the final step leading to her big win tonight.
The Best in Show competition drew its usual mix of seasoned dog show watchers and those attending for the first time. Lauren Clark, 27, of Brooklyn, N.Y., bought dog-loving boyfriend Tim Cooper, 26, the Best in Show tickets as a Valentine’s Day present.
“I loved it,” he said. “The best part of it is you can actually go down and meet the stars of the show. At what other sporting event can you do that?”