NEW YORK — Leading contenders from seven categories of dogs, all immaculately groomed and on their best behavior, will go muzzle to muzzle on Tuesday as the Westminster Kennel Club’s 142nd annual “Best-in-Show” contest enters its final round.
They may be of the highest pedigree and superlative conformation, but to their owners even the finalists for the top prize of “Best in Show” are still just cuddly, playful pets.
“Biggie is a goof,” said Esteban Farias, handler of a pug named Biggie, who won the toy-dog group contest on Monday and will be vying for the ultimate prize. “He’s funny. … When my kids are playing, he grabs the toys and runs all over the house.”
This year’s Best-in-Show victor, picked from a pack of nearly 3,000 competitors, will win a trophy, a media tour and bragging rights that are sure to boost breeding fees — all rewards for the dog’s patience while enduring seemingly endless blow dryer blasts and tugs of combs and brushes.
Dogs compete in seven groups — hound, toy, nonsporting, herding, working, sporting and terrier — with the winners from each category, judged by characteristics specific to their respective breeds, going on to compete for Best in Show.
The competition, held each year at Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, is billed as the second-longest continuously running sporting event in the United States after the Kentucky Derby horse race.
The four finalists chosen on Monday, in addition to Biggie, were a borzoi named Lucy from the hound group, a bichon frise named Flynn from the nonsporting group and a border collie named Slick from the herding group. The remaining three challengers will be from the working, sporting and terrier groups, whose winners were set to be picked on Tuesday.
More than 200 dog breeds and varieties were represented in the two-day event, joining the contest from all 50 U.S. states and 16 other countries, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Russia, Australia and China, the Westminster Kennel Club said in a statement.
Rumor, a female German shepherd, was named Best in Show at last year’s competition.