New York -- The No. 1 ranked show dog of 2011, a black cocker spaniel named Casablanca's Thrilling Seduction, shockingly lost in its breed competition at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show on Tuesday afternoon.
Casablanca's Thrilling Seduction -- better known as Beckham -- came into the competition as the dog of 2011 and had the second-best odds to win Best in Show, but lost out to Ace, a two-year-old dog handled by Marlene Ness. Ace has mostly been showed in Canadian dog shows, but did finish select dog -- essentially No. 2 -- to Casablanca in two competitions.
Ace didn't have near the amount of fan support that surrounded Beckham's every move, but Ness said that he has performed well in Canada, where she lives. This was Ace's first time competing at Westminster, but will likely continue to compete more in the United States as long as it stays successful.
Ace's victory was a major triumph for Ness and the dog's breeder Mark Ragusa, but served as a big disappointment for Casablanca's owners. The dog was far and away the top dog of 2011, according to point totals, and most expected it to have a great shot at winning Best in Show. That disappointment was particularly visible on Linda Pitts, the wife of Beckham's handler, Michael Pitts.
Pitts was visibly agitated by all of the attention being paid to the victorious Ness and even at one point said, I'm right here for God's sake. She told a group of reporters afterwards that it was frustrating that a dog that had only lost a few times in its career didn't make it out of its breed competition, but that was what comes with the territory of judge subjectivity.
The subjectiveness of judges -- there is a type guideline to follow but judges make their own decisions -- was a hot button issue throughout Madison Square Garden for the two-day event, but breeder Ragusa doesn't think it is too big of an issue.
It's not frustrating, he said. You just have to wait your turn. Especially not frustrating when it's against a good dog.
(Beckham) is a great dog. But (Ace) is a great dog too.
Dr. Donald Sturz, who judged the breed competition, called it an honor to decide between two fantastic dogs.
Both are lovely representatives of their breed, he said. You really relish these judging moments.
He went on to say that Ace simply fit the type guidelines for the breed a bit more, but that both were great and were a great treat.
Ace will compete later on Tuesday night in the Sporting Group. Last year Beckham won the Sporting Group before losing out to Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, a Scottish Deerhound.