Top black cocker spaniel toppled at Westminster

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By BEN WALKER, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — No matter how many blue ribbons or silver bowls or shiny trophies any dog brings to the Westminster Kennel Club show, there's a saying that ultimately decides who wins the top prize.

"Dog on the day," fanciers say.

A black cocker spaniel called Beckham who was the nation's No. 1 show dog and a wire fox terrier named Eira who was favored by many to walk away with the title Tuesday night proved once again it takes more than a great reputation to own the green carpet.

Underdogs ruled Madison Square Garden in early judging on Day 2 of America's biggest pooch parade. The sporting, working and terrier winners were to be chosen later, and judge Cindy Vogels was to pick the best in show shortly before 11 p.m.

They will be joined by a Pekingese, German shepherd, Dalmatian and wire-haired dachshund in the best-of-seven final ring after their wins Monday night.

Marlene Ness came from Canada to show her black cocker, Ace, at Westminster for the first time. Her main opposition? Beckham, a popular pick to win the whole thing.

Yet on this day, Ace was aces.

"I should have bought a Lotto ticket," Ness said.

The fans crowded around Ring 3 seemed to sense an upset, cheering for Beckham but then yelling for the smoother-looking Ace. Judge Donald Sturz Jr. studied them intently, checking their body type and making them run around several times before making his final choice.

On this afternoon, Ace was in the right place. Best dog of his breed.

"Today was our day," Ness said. "Eye of the tiger, baby!"

Eira also made an early exit. She won the prestigious National dog show that was televised on Thanksgiving Day and was the top terrier last year. That meant a lot — terriers often rule Westminster, with wire foxes winning the silver bowl more than any other kind.

Among the winners Tuesday were a boxer with a grand champion's name of Winfall Brookwood Styled Dream who was the country's No. 3 show dog last year and a Kuvasok that also ranked in the top 10.

It also was a big day for a Tibetan mastiff, and even more so for his owners.

Major won his breed, a nice start for Debbie Parsons and Brad Slayton. A few hours later, the co-owners from the Seattle area made it a special Valentine's Day — they got married in the backstage benching area where hundreds of dogs are housed.

With dogs brushing by, people climbing on crates to get a better view and the overall crush of the crowd, it made for a somewhat chaotic scene. Cherilyn Frei, a chaplain and director of family support for Ronald McDonald House in New York and the wife of Westminster television host David Frei, performed the 5-minute ceremony.

The 54-year-old Parsons wore a pale pink Vera Wang gown and the 58-year-old Slayton donned a silver tux, with each sporting accents of Westminster purple. The 120-pound Major stood right between them, and they kissed him to celebrate.

"This dog brought us together," Slayton said. "Today," he added, choking up, "I bought a Valentine's Day card for my wife, not my girlfriend."

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