Spectators at the Westminster Dog Show were caught off guard at the upset win of the miniature poodle Surrey Spice Girl, who snatched the Best in Show title from the jaws of Mick, the heavily favored Kerry blue terrier.
Everyone was surprised except the 3-year-old ornately groomed poodle. Spice Girl, of the Non-sporting group, was calm and self-assured at her amazing win, the first for a miniature poodle since 1959. Spice has won Best in Show 39 times at other competitions. Winning the Westminster is the crowning achievement of her career. The poodle is retiring to breed and to live the life befitting a Westminster winner.
The win means that Torum's Scarf Michael, the famous Kerry blue, will have to wait another year for a shot at history. The dog would have been only the second dog in history to win both Westminster and the Crufts Dog Show (England's most prestigious dog show, which he won in 2000).
Dogs from the Terrier group have won at Westminster more than any other, but a Kerry blue has never won before. Mick was a little distracted Tuesday night, which his handler had said happens occasionally.
Spice Girl's demeanor was perfect throughout, her coat exquisitely manicured and every step right on the mark, noted the judge, W. Everett Dean Jr. This is the tenth time a member of the Non-sporting group has won, and the third time overall for a miniature poodle.
The Westminster Dog Show, in its 126th season in 2002, is the second-longest continuously running sporting event in the United States (the Kentucky Derby is older by just two years). This year, more than 2,500 dogs from 159 breeds competed to win Best in Breed, and then Best in Show.
The show broke with tradition this year to honor the dogs and the handlers of Sept. 11 on both nights (Monday and Tuesday) of the competition. USA Network, which televised the show, along with Westminster Kennel Club and the Pedigree Company, is contributing $275,000 to the National Association for Search and Rescue.
All the dogs competing were winners just for making it to the show, called the "Super Bowl of dog shows." Furthermore, winning Best in Breed is a huge honor in itself. In effect, the dogs competing made it passed the "playoffs" to main event. The winners of Best in Breed are: