TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Genes matter. Quite a bit. Such was the inescapable conclusion at the 145th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Sunday night, when Wasabi, a 13 ½-pound Pekingese with a flowing lion’s mane of a coat and serious family history, boldly rose above six worthy competitors, even though he’s not even nine inches tall. Wasabi is a three-year-old from East Berlin, PA. He took home the most coveted prize in Dogdom, capturing Best in Show at the 145th edition of the nation’s most famous dog show – and one that was unlike any of its 144 predecessors.
Since 1877, Westminster – the second oldest continuously running Kentucky Derby is the first) – has been held in Madison Square Garden. To avoid possible pandemic protocol problems, show executives opted to push it back from February until June, get out of midtown Manhattan, and go 25 miles up the Hudson River to the idyllic grounds of Lyndhurst, a 19th-century Gothic mansion. The Gould family once owned Lyndhurst. The Goulds were dog lovers and fancied the Pekingese.in the U.S. (the
The pandemic has wrought stress, complication, and tragedy in every aspect of life; of course, the dog shows the world is not exempt. In March 2020, Iris Love, one of the owners of Wasabi, died from COVID-19. Another handler, David Fitzpatrick, thought fondly of her on the big night as he stood inside a sprawling white tent adorned with purple and gold panels and lights and bouquets to match. It wasn’t the Garden, but Westminster-on-Hudson had come off beautifully. “It’s a miracle they even had this show,” Fitzpatrick said. “Originally, I just thought it wouldn’t be good not having it in Madison Square Garden. (But) What can you say? It was an exquisite event.”
Toy group wins Best in Show for the first time since 2013
Fitzpatrick also took Best in Show at the 2012 Westminster, with a Pekingese named Malachi. Malachi was Wasabi’s grandfather. Wasabi’s father, Pickwick, won best in Toy Group in 2017. Do you detect a pattern?, Wasabi – whose mother was Sushi – was ranked the No. 1 show dog in the country. “I just don’t always think lightning is going to , but it’s wonderful that it happened,” Fitzpatrick said.
The Best In Show winner is selected from seven competitors – each of whom first had to be Best in Breed and the best in one of the seven groups that purebred dogs are divided into: Hound, Toy, Non-sporting, Sporting, Herding, Working, and Ter, river. By the time the two-day marathon was complete, Wasabi, named for the Japanese plant with a thick green root that tastes like horseradish on steroids, had outlasted some 2,500 rivals.
“What’s not to like about (this dog)?” said Patricia Trotter, an 85-year-old Westminster icon who was the sole judge for Best in Show. “He thinks he’s 10 feet tall. He stood there like a lion – that’s part of the breed standard. “People think a dog show is a beauty contest, and to some extent, it is,” Trotter said. “But truly, when judging purebred dogs, you are judging not just their athletic ability and beauty, but how close they come to the breed standard.”
Although the show was closed to the ticket-buying public, several hundred spectators – family and friends of owners and handlers – made for a boisterous atmosphere, the excitement reaching its zenith a few minutes before 11 p.m. ET when Wasabi Dog, the runner-up honor – Reserve Best in Show in Westminster parlance – going to Bourbon, a five-year-old whippet. Talking to reporters with Wasabi at his feet and Wasabi’s hair brush in his coat pocket, Fitzpatrick said that the winner was “pretty nonchalant about the whole thing” but still had plans for a major celebration. He figured Wasabi might have filet mignon, and he would go for champagne.