Sky Westminster Best in Show

Sky, a 5-year-old Wire Fox Terrier, leapt up onto her hind legs as she was crowned Best in Show at the 138th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York on Tuesday night.

The Terrier Group has won more often than any other Group in Westminster history — 46 times — and took the top prize as recently as 2010. This is the fourteenth time a Wire Fox Terrier has earned the honor.

“Oh, it’s overwhelming,” says Sky’s handler, Gabriel Rangel, who was in New York from Mexico to show her. “I’m so proud of her…. There’s no words to describe this.” Rangel also showed the Best in Show–winning Terrier in 2010.

Sky has won 128 Best in Show titles during her career in the ring, including the National Dog Show in 2012 — where she beat Affenpinscher Banana Joe, who won Westminster in 2013. Sky is from California and is owned by Victor Malzoni Jr. and Torie Steele. She already had her own Facebook and Twitter accounts, which are sure to gain many more followers now.

Rangel scooped the little dog up in his arms when she was selected by Best in Show Judge Betty Regina Leininger of Frisco, Texas.

GCH Afterall Painting the Sky beat out several top dogs to take the honor. Ally, a Standard Poodle from New York who's also won more than 100 Best in Shows, was given the Reserve Best in Show title, which is akin to being the runner-up. Ally plans to retire. Another finalist, an affectionate Bloodhound named Nathan, was the clear crowd favorite.

Sky was selected from among 190 breeds and 2,845 dogs. She succeeds Banana Joe, who retired from the show world after his win last year. He now lives in Holland, but is visiting New York for the show this week.

The Best in Show judge does not get to see any of the seven Group finalists before entering the ring with them.

The crowd at Madison Square Garden fell in love with Nathan the Bloodhound, one of seven Best in Show finalists.

"I am highly and deeply honored to have such an outstanding lineup," says Leininger, a breeder, owner and handler who has managed the show careers of many top-winning dogs. "Thank you for presenting me with seven outstanding dogs."

Veteran commentator David Frei agreed. "You cannot go wrong here," he says, as Leininger was weighing her decision. "They’re all beautiful, they're all deserving."

The contestants in “America’s Dog Show” are not judged against each other, but rather against breed standards.

There was tough competition and a long list of crowd favorites at the famous show, which was celebrating Frei's twenty-fifth year as a commentator. With it showing opposite the Sochi Games, many were referring to Westminster as the Olympics of the dog world.

The Best in Show winner first competed against members of her own breed to take the Best of Breed title at Piers 92/94 along the Hudson River. She then went on to compete against representatives of the breeds that made up her Group at the Garden. Each of those seven winners wound up in the Best in Show ring.

2014 Group Winners

Best of Hound Group: There was lots of love from the stands for this group, especially for Biff, a Wirehaired Dachshund who cohost Erica Hill says was “hamming it up for the crowd.” A Portuguese Podengo Pequeno named Tango was one of three new breeds to compete at Westminster. Shouts of "Bassett!" and "Beagle!" could be heard, but the winner was well-loved too. Nathan, a 135-pound Bloodhound gave his handler, Heather Helmer, sloppy kisses after taking the Group prize. “He’s a kissing hound,” she says of 3-year-old GCH Flessner’s International Success. “We’re both very, very, very excited for this win… he loves the clapping, he loves the crowds.”

Best of Toy Group: In what seemed like a little déjà vu, 2013 top dog Banana Joe’s handler, Ernesto Lara, was the first to enter the ring with an Affenpinscher named Ben, who’s Banana Joe’s son. And he wasn’t the only royalty in the group. There were two other handlers who’d worked with dogs to claim the coveted title, including the handler of a Pekingese related to 2012 winner Malachy. Also competing were crowd favorites Rufus, a Pug, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. But in the end, the heavily favored Min Pin (short for Miniature Pinscher) Classie won the Group. GCH Marlex Classic Red Glare, a 4-year-old female who’s just 7 pounds, was smaller than her blue ribbon, and is the top-winning Min Pin in history. Classie’s handler, Armando Angelbello, described the pooch as "a toddler that never grows up.”

Best in Non-Sporting Group: This group may have taken the prize for the best names of the night, including Dalmatian Spotted Oreo Delight and Keeshond KJ’s Hot Date. The audience shouted out their favorites as the judge scanned the group before choosing finalists. In the end, she chose a well-coiffed 5-year-old Standard Poodle named Ally, who already planned to retire after this year. When asked about New York Poodle's (formally named CH Brighton Lakeridge Encore) couture looks, handler Timothy Brazier says, “I don’t think it hurts to look your best” in the ring. "She's endearing and there's not a mean bone in her body. But when you first meet her, she's a typical poodle. Quite snooty."

Best in Herding Group: This group was marked by a big upset, when crowd favorite Swagger, a 2-year-old Old English Sheepdog who won Reserve Best in Show last year, lost out to Coco Posh, a 5-year-old Cardigan Welsh Corgi. “The Cardigan owned the group when she walked in the door,” commented Frei. One of Coco Posh’s owners was watching from a Louisiana hospital, where she’d had back surgery Monday morning. “We did her proud,” says handler Louis Demers. “I have to take her back and let her play with her Flippy — her favorite thing to do in the world is play with her Frisbee.” GCH Riverside Telltail Coco Posh’s Group win was a first for her breed at Westminster.

Best in Sporting Group: Packed with some of the most popular breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, the audience was thrilled to watch the Sporting Group take the stage on Tuesday night. The Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever — neither of which have ever won Best in Show at Westminster — smiled affably as they trotted to loud cheers. The Golden, Will, was a finalist, but the top prize for the Group went to Riley, an Irish Water Spaniel from Washington who Frei said was, “on paper, the dog to watch.” The 4-year-old female, GCH Whistlestop’s Riley on Fire, bounced around the ring happily. “This is the most prestigious show in the world, that’s all you can really say…. She’s an awesome dog, she just loves to do this,” says handler Rick Krieger, who lives across the country from Riley’s owners, in Massachusetts. Doing well in the ring is “just a balance between the handler and the dog and having a good time and enjoying yourself,” he says.

Best in Working Group: A 4-year-old male named CH Lakeside Run’s Little Bear was the first Chinook to be shown in Westminster’s Working Group. He hails from New Hampshire, which features the breed as its state dog. Fan favorites included the Great Dane, who drew cheers before the announcer could finish the breed description, a Neapolitan Mastiff who showed off his distinguishing wrinkles with a shake (much to the delight of the crowd), and a sprightly, fluffy Tibetan Mastiff. No one was surprised when the judge chose Matisse, a Portuguese Water Dog who’s number one in the country when it comes to Best in Show wins. At just 21/2 years old, this is the second year in a row that Matisse has won the Working Group. Shown by Michael Scott, CH Claircreek Impression de Matisse is the same breed as the Obamas’ two dogs, Bo and Sunny. “You can have a great dog, but if you have a great dog and a great performance, you get great results,” Scott said of Matisse after the Group win.

Best in Terrier Group: Miniature Bull Terrier Simon, age 6, gave the audience and the hosts a good laugh when he was distracted by some treats that had been dropped in the ring. Once he’d collected them, he was ready to pay attention. The hosts shared the uplifting story of Boomer, a Norwich Terrier who almost didn’t make it to Westminster after there was a fire in his breeder-owner-handler’s home. And a Rat Terrier, the third new breed at the competition this year, bested 20 other entries in Best of Breed to reach the Group level. The Group winner was Sky the Wire Fox Terrier, who went on to win Best in Show.

Sky's had a busy week, and it's far from over. On Wednesday, Frei says she'll follow in the footsteps of previous winners, hitting the morning talk show circuit and eating off of a silver platter at Sardi's. And, she's likely to retire, like her predecessors.

As Frei points out, "The reality is, whoever wins retires because there’s nothing left to win" after taking the coveted prize as Westminster's top dog.

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