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Wire fox takes early winning steps toward Westminster title

By BEN WALKER
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) – Packed with personality, Burns the longhaired dachshund has all the qualities of a Westminster Kennel Club champion.

He has a great coat. He has a wonderful gait. He has a playful spirit.

But does Burns have the right combination to become the big winner at America's most prestigious dog show?

His body of work says yes. History says no.

“Best in show breeds need the flash to compete,” said his handler, Carlos Puig.

Despite always being among the nation's most popular dogs, a dachshund has never won best in show at Westminster. Neither has a Havanese, schipperke or bouviers des Flandres, all of whom were set to join Burns in the final ring of seven Tuesday night at the Garden.

Instead, past results say to look for a wire fox terrier to step into the shiny silver bowl. Of the previous 112 best in show titles awarded at Westminster, a wire fox has won 14 times – Scottish terriers are next, way back at eight.

A prime wire fox called King took some winning steps early Tuesday, earning best in breed.

No surprise, really.

“I look at King, he's like a beautiful painting, a piece of art,” said King's handler, Gabriel Rangel. “The way he stands and performs, he's the whole package.”

Rangel should know. He's twice guided terriers to best in show at Westminster – Sadie the Scottie in 2010 and Sky the wire fox in 2014.

That's a lot better showing than popular golden retrievers and Labs. They've never taken the top title at Westminster.

“I love goldens. They're so sweet, you just want to hold them,” he said. “But they don't have that sharp expression.”

King advanced to the terrier group round Tuesday evening. If he reached the final ring, he'd face Bono the Havanese, who is guided by Taffe McFadden.

McFadden's husband, Bill, is a two-time Westminster champion handler, winning with Flynn the bichon frise last year and Mick the Kerry blue terrier in 2003.

“They're all great dogs,” he said. “But when I think of a best in show winner, I think of a wire fox or an English springer spaniel or a standard poodle. They have the star factor.”

That doesn't mean a more common dog can't emerge. Chances are, though, a fancier breed will catch someone's attention.

“I think in a big show there are a lot of judges that hope they will have something they have never seen before to sweep them off their feet,” Bill McFadden said.

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