TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — The Westminster Kennel Club dog show
's flavor of the year is wasabi.
Wasabi, a Pekingese
, won best in show for the fifth time, while Bourbon, a whippet, finished second.
Wasabi won the American Kennel Club National Championship in 2019 by waddling through a small-but-mighty turn in the ring.
Wasabi’s handler and breeder, David Fitzpatrick, who guided the Peke’s grandfather Malachy to the Westminster title in 2012, said, “He has showmanship. He fits the breed standard. He has that little extra something, that sparkle, that sets a dog apart.”
Wasabi is planning a party.
“He can have a filet mignon, and I'll have Champagne,” said Fitzpatrick, of East Berlin, Pennsylvania
Wasabi triumphed over a group of finalists that included Mathew the French bulldog, Connor the old English sheepdog, Jade the German shorthaired pointer, Striker the Samoyed, and Boy, a West Highland white terrier.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic
, the show was moved outside of New York City
for the first time since its inception in 1877, to an estate in suburban Tarrytown, about 25 miles north of where the top ribbon is usually presented at Madison Square Garden
, and it took place in June rather than February.
In a nod to the pandemic era, some handlers wore masks
, though vaccinated people
were permitted to go without, and the show was closed to the public.
Striker entered the show as the top-ranked dog in the United States
, with over 40 best in show wins since January 2020, and Bourbon had also won the AKC National Championship.
Valerie Nunes-Atkinson, Jade's handler and co-owner, said the show was bittersweet because she guided Jade's father, CJ, to a Westminster best in show win in 2016 — and then lost him to a fungal infection last September.
“The good news
is: He’s left an incredible legacy,” said Nunes-Atkinson, of Temecula, California
, adding that Jade “had my heart” since birth.
Boy had traveled a long distance to Westminster, all the way from Thailand
, where one of his owners, according to handler Rebecca Cross, was watching from Bangkok.
“He always makes us laugh,” said Gettysburg, Pennsylvania resident Cross.
's all-time home run
leader, Barry Bonds, who was cheering on a miniature schnauzer he owns with sister Cheryl Dugan, admits that just getting to Westminster is a thrill for many dog owners.
Rocky, the dog, did not win his breed, but the slugger said he was proud of Rocky just for making it to the champions-only show.
“We won because we got here,” Bonds told Fox Sports
. “I’ve been to a lot of playoffs and World Series, and I’ve never won, but I kept trying for 22 years.”
Bonds, 56, holds baseball's career home run record with 762, though his achievement has been tainted by allegations of steroid use, which he denies.
While the semifinal and final rounds were held in a climate-controlled tent, the competition began on the grass
at Lyndhurst Estate.
Douglas Tighe, who took second place in the sporting group with a Brittany named Pennie, says he just goes with it if his dogs
get distracted by birds and other outdoor attractions.
“Let them have fun,” said Tighe, of Hope, New Jersey
, “because that is what it is all about.”
That's what it's all about for Kole Brown, who showed a bull terrier named Riley alongside his parents, Kurtis Brown and U.S. Air Force
Capt. Samantha Brown, and some of the family's other bull terriers on Sunday at the age of nine.
“I have a lot of fun with this sport,” said Kole, of San Antonio, Texas
, “and I have a smile on my face every time I go into the ring.”
Ben Walker of the Associated Press
contributed reporting from New York for this article.