The Super Bowl has only two contenders; the Kentucky Derby, usually around 15. The Oscars have just a handful of nominees for each category. The Westminster Kennel Club? This year (its 138th) there are 2,845 contenders. But that never stopped anyone from trying to guess the winner. At least we can try to narrow it down in each of the seven AKC groups.
Assuming the weather is good so everyone makes it to the show, the stars are aligned and all the dogs show their best, here are our picks:
Watch for Riley (GCh Whistlestop’s Riley on Fire). This Irish Water Spaniel is on fire, breaking the record as the winningest dog of her breed in AKC history, and still going strong.
But hot on her heels is another rare breed, a Clumber Spaniel named Seymour (GCh Clussexx Collaboration With Traddles). If the German Wirehaired Pointer, Oakley (GCh Mt. View’s Ripsnorter Silver Charm) makes an appearance, look for the possibility of a repeat for this former No. 1 dog of all breeds (2012) and Westminster group winner.
Rounding out the field of top contenders is the Field Spaniel GCh Promenade Pay it Forward, the English Setter GCh Stargaz’R ‘N Wingfield Time Will Tell, and the Pointer GCh Chesterhope State of T’ Art. But we’ll be surprised if it’s not Riley, or perhaps Seymour.
Last year’s top hound, Jewel (GCh Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box), won’t be at Westminster this year, as motherhood duties take precedence. This leaves the door open for some hot competition from Chet the Harrier (GCh Downhome HiTech Innovator), Kiss the Bloodhound (GCH Quiet Creek’s Kiss and Tell), DUI the Otterhound (GCh Aberdeen’s Under the Influence) and Matrix the Afghan Hound (GCh Tells Matrix Reloaded).
Matrix will have his paws full winning amongst a stellar group of Afghan Hounds at the breed level, any one of which will be a dog to be reckoned with at the group level — but right now Matrix is the hot hound.
Whippets are another hotly contested breed, with whichever one is victorious always a group force. The newcomer Brazen (GCh Sporting Field’s Shameless) may be the dark horse (er, dog) in the field. It’s a close field, but Matrix is our choice as frontrunner.
Matisse (GCh Claircreek Impression de Matisse) the Portuguese Water Dog is the paws-down favorite. He was the strongest dog at the end of the 2013 show season, and even though couldn’t quite overtake the No. 1 dog, still finished No. 2 of all breeds, topping his year off with Best in Show at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship show.
That doesn’t mean he won’t have tough competition, especially from the Giant Schnauzer Dora (GCh Kenro’s Witching Hour), the Standard Schnauzer Finn (GCh Blackhawk Finnegan’s Wake), or the record-setting Great Dane Scout (GCh Longo Miller N Lore’s Diamond Lil) — if she comes out of retirement.
Boxers are one of the toughest Working breeds at the breed level, but whichever one emerges Best of Breed will be a contender at group level. Look also for the Akita and Doberman to challenge. Our money is on Matisse for First, but there are three more very prestigious placements up for grabs.
Last year’s No. 1 dog of all breeds, the Wire Fox Terrier Sky (GCh Afterall Painting the Sky), is the obvious dog to beat. Trying to do just that will be the record-setting Russell Terrier, Bosse (GCh Goldsand’s Columbus), the Welsh Terrier Jennie (GCh Shaireab’s Bayleigh Maid of Honor), and the Miniature Schnauzer GCh Allaruth Just Kidding V Sole Baye.
Here’s a video of Sky in action:
We think this may be a tough call between the Wire Fox and the Russell, but we think Sky will emerge the victor.
In the Toy Group, last year’s No. 3 dog of all breeds, the Miniature Pinscher Classie (GCh Marlex Classic Red Glare), is our favorite. The Energizer Bunny of the Toy group, Classie has broken all records for her breed and is still going strong.
Unlike other top dogs, Classie is shown by her owner, not a professional handler, and a nicer team you’ll never meet. We hope she goes all the way! Here’s a video of Classie:
But she’ll have to get past tough competition in the Pug, Rufus (GCh Caper’s Sirius Endeavor), and the Pekingese, Roger (GCh Yakee Easily Persuaded). Pekes have historically done well at Westminster, and Roger’s co-owner and handler piloted another Peke to Best in Show there just a few years ago. Roger won the Toy group at the recent AKC National Championship show against a tough group that included Classie.
Our money is on Classie for the blue, though! This is a tough group to call; despite Classie’s record, the Peke’s Westminster luck may win out and score an upset, with Roger sweeping up the blue.
Poodles tend to rule, and this year is no exception. Look for a Standard Poodle at the front of the line. But which one? Will it be Ally (GCh Brighton Lakeridge Encore), last year’s No. 1 Non-Sporting dog? Or will it be London (GCh Jaset’s Satisfaction), Best in Show winner of the 2011 AKC National Championship show? Whichever one wins the breed will be looking for blue in the group ring — and will likely get it!
The Poodle will be contested by a far less flashy dog, Tenzin the Tibetan Spaniel (GCh Kan Sing’s Tenzin). Watch also for the Chinese Shar-Pei, whether it’s GCh Shine’s Deck the Halls or GCh Jade East Do You Know the Way to San Jose.
And finally, the Bichon Frise, GCh Saks Winning Card, may try to make it two years in a row for Bichons (last year’s group was won by a Bichon named Honor). The easy money is on whichever Standard Poodle wins the breed (we’re thinking London), with Tenzin the Tibby the outside choice.
The frontrunner is Swagger the Old English Sheepdog (GCh Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect).
Swagger gained national attention last year when he won Reserve Best in Show at Westminster “from the classes” — which means he was not yet a Champion when he won Best of Breed over the Champions in his breed, then won the Herding group, and onto second choice for Best in Show. Since then he became a Champion, Grand Champion (GCh), multiple Best in Show winner, No. 1 Herding dog for 2013, and has started 2014 way out in front. He’s shown by his co-owner and breeder.
But he won’t win without challenges from the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, GCh Aubrey’s Tails of Mystery; the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, GCh Coventry Allure at Wyndstar; the German Shepherd, GCh Wolf Creek Galaxy of Merivern; the Puli GCh Cordmaker Topsey Turvey; and the Bouvier des Flandres who has started 2014 with a bang, GCh Take Aims Playing For Gryffindor. With Swagger’s momentum, we suspect the others will be vying for red, yellow and white ribbons, though.
If the judge points to our predictions, that means the Irish Water Spaniel, Afghan Hound, Portuguese Water Dog, Wire Fox Terrier, Pekingese, Standard Poodle and Old English Sheepdog will be the final seven. But of course, that never happens. Ever. Just to get there the winner will have had to get the nod from two different judges — any one of which could decide he or she just liked another dog a little better on the day. Every year, at least 10 or more breed awards and two or three group awards goes to some dog who wasn’t expected to win.
So count on one or more of our picks to be stopped at breed level, and two or three at group level. We just don’t know which ones. But we do think the Old English and Porty will make it through, and we strongly hope the Min Pin as well. As for which will get the coveted purple and gold Best in Show rosette? Smart money is on the Porty for top honors and Reserve to the Old English.
We believe the Min Pin would look awfully classy in those colors, however.
Watch the show next week and let us know how we did.
The show is February 10 and 11, Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s telecast of the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups will be on CNBC. Tuesday’s telecast of the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups, plus Best in Show, will be on USA Network.
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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.