Miniature poodle Spice keeps her cool in winning best-in-show at Westminster

Wednesday, February 13th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Almost everyone at the Westminster dog show acted surprised except for Surrey Spice Girl.

In an upset, the miniature poodle pranced off as America's top dog Tuesday night after winning best-in-show at Madison Square Garden.

While her handler and the crowd of 10,000 were caught off guard by the victory, the 3-year-old called Spice took it in stride.

``Every step was right,'' judge W. Everett Dean Jr. said. ``She was smooth, gorgeous.''

Spice was not like last year's winner. When the popular bichon frise called J.R. won, he sprang up and beat his feet as if he were pounding a piano.

``I think she was very steady, very easy,'' Spice's handler Kaz Hosaka said.

The perfectly manicured Spice became the first miniature poodle to win America's most prestigious dog show since 1959.

This was Spice's 39th best-in-show victory, and her last one.

Owners Ron and Barbara Scott of Mechanicsburg, Pa., plan to retire her to breed. Spice can look forward to a life of her favorite things _ playing outside, frolicking with toys and listening to the sound of ringing cell phones.

A Kerry blue terrier named Torum's Scarf Michael was the early pick among dog fanciers and the crowd. He was bidding to become only the second dog ever to win Westminster and Crufts, England's banner show.

But instead of becoming a world beater, the 5 1/2-year-old terrier called Mick appeared a bit distracted and left room for the composed Spice.

There were more than 2,500 entries at the show, representing 159 breeds and varieties.

Group winners earlier Tuesday were a Brittany called Jester (sporting), a Rhodesian ridgeback named Wetu of Kalahari (hound) and a Pembroke Welsh corgi called Sammy Sosa (herding).

A standard schnauzer named Charisma Jailhouse Rock won the working group, and an affenpinscher called Cosmo won the toy group Monday night.

Spice came from the non-sporting group and Mick won among terriers.

Hosaka expertly led Spice around the center ring, prompting her with bits of chicken as ``bait,'' and he could hardly talk after the victory.

``I was very surprised,'' he said. ``I came to this country 23 years ago hoping to win this show.''