NEW YORK — Johnny Avello, director of race and sports operations for Wynn Las Vegas casino, knows a few things about picking winners.
His pick this year for the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, one of the world’s most prestigious events for pedigree breeders, is a German shepherd.
From toy-sized Brussels Griffons to 200-pound Great Danes, thousands of purebred dogs are preparing to strut their stuff at this year’s show in New York.
Some 2,700 dogs from more than a dozen countries have entered the competition, which kicks off on Monday. Now in its 140th year, the show is the second-longest continuously running sporting event in the United States after the Kentucky Derby.
“It’s the best time of year,” said show spokeswoman Gail Bisher. “Dogs take over New York.”
All are vying for the top prize of Best in Show, to be announced on Tuesday evening at the finale of the two-day competition at Madison Square Garden.This year will mark the last show co-hosted by David Frei, who is bowing out after a 27-year reign as the face of Westminster.
Nearly 200 breeds and varieties are eligible for this year’s Westminster competition. As usual, Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers have the most entries, with 51 and 50 contestants respectively. The French bulldog, with 48 bat-eared entries, comes in third.
Seven breeds – the Bergamasco, Lagotto Romagnolo, Berger Picard, Miniature American Shepherd, Boerboel, Spanish Water Dog and Cirneco dell’Etna – will make their debuts this year, having just been added to the American Kennel Club’s registry.
After judges select the best of each breed, the top dogs are narrowed down to best of each group: hound, toy, non-sporting, herding, sporting, working or terrier. The winners go on to compete for Best In Show, the contest’s ultimate prize.
Avello releases his predictions for winning breeds.
Last February, a bouncy female beagle named Miss P was named the winner, earning a trophy and a U.S. media tour.