Miniature poodle Sage fetches top prize at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

By Eduardo Munoz

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A sprightly miniature poodle named Sage was crowned "Best in Show" on Tuesday at the 148th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, winning the grand prize in the most prestigious competition among pure-bred canines in the United States.

Sage, the finalist representing 21 breeds classified as non-sporting dogs, triumphed over more than 2,500 top-ranked dogs competing in the two-day contest, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Queens borough of New York City.

Sage, a 4-year-old black-colored female groomed in the fine, fluffy topiary style traditional for poodles, competed head to head against the winners in six other groups - terriers, hounds, herding dogs, working dogs, sporting dogs and toy dogs.

She was the first female to win the top prize at Westminster since 2020, according to commentators on the Fox Sports channel, which broadcast the event live.

And she became the fourth miniature poodle to claim the top prize in the 148-year history of the contest, with the trophy previously going to her breed in 1943, 1959 and 2002, according to kennel club records.

The larger "standard" poodle breed has been declared Best in Show five times, most recently in 2020, and the smaller "toy" poodle breed has won twice.

The poodle originated as a hunting dog in Germany and is now recognized as the national dog of France.

Sage's handler, Kaz Hosaka, cried tears of joy and carried his prized poodle in his arms around floor of the auditorium to cheers of the crowd as he celebrated what he said was his 45th year participating at the Westminster dog show and the last of his career.

The Westminster dog show bills itself as the second-oldest U.S. sporting event, behind only the Kentucky Derby thoroughbred horse race. This year's competition drew a field of contenders representing 200 breeds from all 50 U.S. states and 12 other countries.

Mercedes, a female 4-year-old German shepherd, was named runner-up for the overall contest, after first winning the top prize in the herding dog group.

Along with Sage and Mercedes, the two other finalists chosen on Monday were Comet the Shih Tzu, representing the toy group, and Louis, the Afghan hound leading the hound group.

Rounding out the finalists were three group winners chosen on Tuesday - Micah the black cocker spaniel, representing sporting dogs; Monty, the giant schnauzer, leading the working dogs; and Frankie, a colored bull terrier from the terrier group.

(Reporting by Eduardo Munoz in New York; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Kim Coghill)