Miniature poodle wins best-in-show

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Almost everyone at Madison Square Garden acted surprised except for Surrey Spice Girl.

In an upset, the miniature poodle pranced off as America's top dog Tuesday night after winning best-in-show at Westminster.

While her handler and the crowd of 10,000 were caught off guard by the victory, the 3-year-old called Spice took it in stride.

She looked like she expected to win all along. Even when she put her paws inside the silver bowl she'd just captured, the black package of pompoms coolly posed as if to say, ''I'm ready for my closeup.''

She was not at all like last year's winner at Westminster. When that popular bichon frise called J.R. won, he sprung up and beat his feet as if he was pounding a piano.

''I think she was very steady, very easy,'' Spice handler Kaz Hosaka said.

The perfectly manicured Spice became the first miniature poodle to win America's most prestigious dog show since 1959.

''She oozes breed type,'' praised judge W. Everett Dean Jr. ''Every step was right. She was smooth, gorgeous.''

The victory completed a kind of Triple Crown for breeder Anne Clarke. She previously won best-in-show as a handler at Westminster and also judged the award.

This was Spice's 39th best-in-show victory, and her last one.

Owners Ron and Barbara Scott of Mechanicsburg, Pa., plan to retire her to breed. Spice can also look forward to a life of her favorite things -- playing outside, frolicking with toys and listening to the sound of ringing cell phones.

A Kerry blue terrier named Torum's Scarf Michael was the early pick among dog fanciers and the crowd of 10,000. He was bidding to become only the second dog ever to win Westminster and Crufts, England's banner show.

But instead of becoming a world beater, the 5 1/2-year-old terrier called Mick appeared a bit distracted and left room for the composed Spice.

There were more than 2,500 entries at the show, representing 159 breeds and varieties.

The two-day event attracted celebrities such as Candice Bergen and Glenn Close. It also drew an Irish setter co-owned by New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina -- fittingly, a Pembroke Welsh corgi called Sammy Sosa wound up winning a best-of-group award.

Group winners earlier Tuesday evening were a Brittany called Jester (sporting), a Rhodesian ridgeback named Wetu of Kalahari (hound) and the corgi called Sammy Sosa (herding).

A standard schnauzer named Charisma Jailhouse Rock won the working group, and an affenpinscher called Cosmo won the toy group Monday night.

Spice came from the non-sporting group and Mick won among terriers.

Hosaka expertly led Spice around the center ring, prompting her with bits of chicken as ''bait,'' and could hardly talk after the victory.

''I was very surprised,'' he said. ''I came to this country 23 years ago hoping to win this show.''

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