Sage, a Miniature Poodle, Pulls Off Best in Show Upset at Westminster

Sage, an extravagantly coifed miniature poodle with a certain winsome mystery about her, won the 148th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night, prevailing over a tough field of competitors including a majestic German shepherd, a silken Afghan hound and a proud giant schnauzer.

The competition began with some 2,500 dogs from more than 200 breeds, then eventually pared down to a field of seven group champions who vied against each other for the top prize. The best-in-show judge, Rosalind Kramer, who remained sequestered during the proceedings so that she could emerge fresh for the final round, selected Sage over what she called an “absolutely glorious” lineup of dogs.

Sage, a three-year-old bitch whose full name is GCHG Ch Surrey Sage, was a surprise win. Before the show, which was held for a second consecutive year at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens, she was ranked just 39th of all show dogs on the country — based on points amassed in previous shows — and only fourth in her group, non-sporting dogs. But she had something about her.

Like all show poodles, Sage appears to be about 75 percent hair, with a sumptuous coiffure that rises to a huge pouf above and around her head, surrounds her body in a kind of puffball, and reappears again as topiary-ed pompoms on the end of her tail and at the bottom of her skinny legs, as if she is wearing après-ski boots. She trots daintily, as if running was slightly beneath her.

It was the 11th time a poodle of one size or another has won the competition. In 2020, the title was won by Siba, a standard poodle; in 2002, it was won by Spice, another miniature poodle who happens to be Sage’s great-grandmother. Sage (and Spice’s) handler, Kaz Hosaka, said that this was his 45th Westminster and that it was time for him to retire.

Mr. Hosaka, who is known for his poodle hairdressing expertise, — a Times profile in 2009 called him “an artist who tends his poodles’ poufs as if they were bonsai trees from his native Japan” — carried Sage into the ring for the best in show competition, and again into the post-show news conference, positioning her in front of a yellow-and-purple ribbon twice the length of her body. “She’s heavy,” he said.

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