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Sunday, 16 February 2020

144th Westminster Show 2020

Featured Written by AKC
The 144th Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show 2020 was awarded to Siba the Standard Poodle! "GCHP CH Stone Run Afternoon Tea".  The 144th Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show 2020 was awarded to Siba the Standard Poodle! "GCHP CH Stone Run Afternoon Tea".  John Ashbey

The Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show 2020 was awarded to Siba the Standard Poodle! "GCHP CH Stone Run Afternoon Tea". 

The Westminster Kennel Club show committee was faced with a major challenge last year when Pier 92 of the traditional venue of Piers 92/94 in New York City was damaged by a cruise ship and deemed structurally unsound.  

They were forced to either find a new venue or make do with only half the floor space as Pier 94 was still available. They opted to continue with the 175,000 square foot Pier 94, half of the traditional floor space.

The main change to accommodate this dilemma was to spread the breed judging over three days instead of two. All Hound breeds including Sighthounds, Scent hounds and Dachshunds and all Herding (Pastoral) breeds were judged on Sunday.

On Monday all Terrier breeds, Toy Breeds (Companion) and North America’s Non Sporting (Utility) Group were judged. The remainder of the AKC seven group structure of Sporting dogs (Gundogs) and Working dogs were judged on Tuesday.

The traditional evening televised group judging was maintained and on Monday evening the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding group winners were determined. On Tuesday the Junior Handling finals were followed by the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups and then Best in Show. 


In my opinion this forced change resulted in the best ever staging of this 144 year old dog show acknowledged as ‘America’s Dog Show’.  The scaled down number of six green carpeted rings adjacent to each other were much larger than previous years much to the joy of dogs and handlers who had ample room to strut around.

This also afforded the judges ideal conditions to assess the merits and short comings of each dog to determine the winners. Having everything in one place and not having to move from Pier to Pier meant exhibitors could easily get to the rings and spectators could watch more breed judging by easily moving from ring to ring. The atmosphere was electric with the capacity crowd clapping and cheering for their favourites.

Because of possible overcrowding and fire marshal concerns the only downside was the necessity to limit general public ticket sales which resulted in a sold-out box office. Additional tickets were made available as the crowding proved not to be as problematic as anticipated and the well-organized layout of additional seats and risers afforded everyone a great viewing of the judging albeit ten to twenty deep at most rings.

There was ample room for a spacious benching area to accommodate all the dogs which were required to remain on the bench when not being judged from 11:00 am till 2:30 pm. The vendor area, popular at all dog shows were strategically placed to service their patrons. One casualty of the reduced floor space was the absence of the excellent and appreciated hospitality area provided to exhibitors by the shows major sponsor Purina Pro Plan.

The mission statement for the Westminster Kennel Club dog shows is to celebrate the companionship of dogs while promoting responsible dog ownership, health, and breed preservation. This year’s event definitely met that vision on so many levels. The Westminster Kennel Club, America’s longest continuously held dog show, welcomed 204 breeds and varieties among 2,630 entries at Pier 94 in New York City for the daily breed judging and the famed Madison Square Gardens for the evening Group finals and Best in Show.

Competing for the ribbons were dogs from 49 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico with the most dogs from California (238), followed by New York (208), Pennsylvania (175), New Jersey (156), Florida (153), Texas (124), and Massachusetts (114). They include Junior Showmanship qualifiers (108) and 101 entries from 19 other countries, topped by Canada (63), Japan (11), and South Korea (5). The farthest entries are from Australia (2) and Thailand (2). Joining the Westminster roster of breeds for the first time was the Azawakh with 6 entries. This slender sighthound and ancient companion of desert-roaming nomads debuted on Sunday during the Hound breeds judging. 

Westminster Week kicked off with the Masters Agility Championship on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020 with 330 entries followed by the iconic, all-breed, benched dog show Sunday to

Tuesday, Feb. 9-11 including the Junior Showmanship competition with 108 entries. The overall Junior Handler winner was Johnathan Wehry from Tennessee. Johnathan also won the AKC National show in Orlando in December and the right to represent the USA at the famed Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham. England in March 2020. The Masters Obedience Championship with 22 entries will be held on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020.


The honour of being crowned the 2020 Westminster Best In Show Winner was the stunning and exquisite Standard Poodle ‘SIBA’ GCHP CH Stone Run Afternoon Tea bred by Connie S Unger of Stone Run Poodles and co-owned with William Lee of Madan fame.

Handlers Canadian Chrystal Murray Clas and her husband Paul Clas were ‘overwhelmed and speechless’ and went on to say ‘They were humbled to be included in such a great lineup of Group winners and thanked judge Robert Slay and their amazing support group of family and friends’.

Reserve Best in Show was the magnificent and dazzling Whippet ‘Bourbon’ GCHG CH Pinnacle Kentucky Bourbon bred by Justin Smithey and Yvonne Sovereign and owned by Justin Smithey, Dr. Ken Latimer, Judy Desculne, Nancy Shaw and Cheslie Pickett Smithey who was also her handler.

Judge Mr. Robert H Slay from North Carolina, USA honoured with a short speech before Best in Show the dogs, their handlers and most importantly the breeders for carrying on the sport and the preservation of our beloved purebred breeds.

The reaction from all attendees I spoke with felt the new format, spacious rings and prestige of the event exceeded expectations. Congratulations to the Westminster Kennel Club for a job well done in spite of all the challenges.

Mark your calendars for next year’s event scheduled for February 14, 15 & 16, 2021.

Photos by John Ashbey

BIS winners in the ring

Read 2315 times Last modified on Thursday, 27 February 2020

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