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Out of more than 2,500 competitors, a new top dog has been crowned champion of the 148th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. “Sage” (GCHG CH Surrey Sage), a 3-year-old Miniature Poodle from Houston, Texas, was awarded Best in Show after winning first place in the Non-Sporting Group on Monday, May 13. Her achievement marks the fourth time that a Miniature Poodle has won the honor in the history of the Westminster Dog Show, with previous Best in Show at Westminster wins for the breed in 1943, 1959, and 2002.

Narrowing Down the Competition for Best in Show

An anticipatory silence hung in the air as Judge Rosalind Kramer of High Point, North Carolina, considered the seven dogs who had earned their way to Best in Show judging. The Working Group’s representative was Giant Schnauzer “Monty” (GCHS CH Hearthmore’s Wintergreen Mountain RI CGC TKN FITB), who won the group the second consecutive year. “Comet” (GCHP CH Hallmark Jolei Out Of This World) the Shih-Tzu, who took home Best in Show at the 2023 AKC National Championship, won the Toy Group at Westminster.

Afghan Hound “Louis” (GCHP Sunlit’s King of Queens) won the Hound Group, German Shepherd Dog “Mercedes” (GCHG CH Kaleef’s Mercedes) won the Herding Group, Black Cocker Spaniel “Micha” (GCHG CH Rejoices To The Point) won the Sporting Group, Colored Bull Terrier, “Frankie” (GCHB CH Grabo Frankie Goes To Magor) from the Terrier Group, and, of course, Sage from the Non-Sporting Group.

Courtesy of Getty Images for The Westminster Kennel Club

Sage was backed by an experienced team, including her handler, Kaz Hosaka. Hosaka previously led another Miniature Poodle, “Spice,” to Best in Show at the Westminster in 2002. At Tuesday’s event, he bid farewell to a 45-year-long career of dog showmanship, retiring to much fanfare as Sage was named Best in Show.

Sage’s win warranted thunderous applause from the audience. She also earned glowing remarks from Hosaka. “No words,” he said in the ring. “So happy, so exciting.”

Residing in Texas with her owner, Cathy Gauche, Sage joins the legendary alumni of the few dogs who can boast Best in Show. Sage is preceded by “Buddy Holly,” a 6-year-old Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen who secured the title last year.

A Familiar Westminster Dog Show Breed

The Westminster Kennel Club is America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of dog-showing. It has hosted the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show since 1877, second only to the Kentucky Derby as the longest, continuously held sporting event in the country.

The Miniature Poodle has certainly made its mark on Westminster over its history. Not only has the breed won Best in Show four times, but it has also secured the top spot in the Non-Sporting Group 20 times, including Sage’s group win. The Miniature Poodle won Reserve Group Winner in the Non-Sporting Group eight times, and won third place in the same category 13 times, with the most recent placement being in 2014.

Courtesy of Getty Images for The Westminster Kennel Club

Miniature Poodles aren’t a distinct breed from Poodles. Although adopted as France’s national dog, Poodles hail from Germany. They come in three variations: Standard Poodle, Miniature Poodle, and Toy Poodle.

Of the over 200 breeds that compete at the Westminster, Poodles across variations have secured 11 Best in Show wins, only rivaled by the Wire Fox Terrier, which has 15.

Westminster Reserve Best in Show Winner

Before Sage took her place in the spotlight, another dog was awarded Reserve Best in Show. Mercedes, who had been named best in the Herding Group on Monday, won Reserve Best in Show. She was handled by Kent Boyles, who had led another German Shepherd, “Rumor,” to the Best in Show win at Westminster in 2017. Mercedes also won Reserve Best in Show at the 2023 American Kennel Club National Championship in December.

Courtesy of Getty Images for The Westminster Kennel Club

“It’s an awesome feeling, it really is,” Boyles said following Mercedes’ group win. “She’s just got a super temperament, [and is] a really good representative of German Shepherds.”

From the Herding Group, German Shepherd Dogs boast the most Best in Show wins, leading the pack with five at Westminster. They also have the most group placements (54) and 19 group wins, with Mercedes’ most recent achievement included.