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Westminster to pick Best In Show, Patty Hearst's dog a finalist





By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The crowning of the grand champion of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday brought together the world's top dogs, from shaggy to sleek and from famous to infamous, namely a finalist owned by heiress Patty Hearst.

The 139th Westminster show, the United State's second-longest continuously running sporting event after the Kentucky Derby, features 192 breeds and varieties and culminates with the selection of the Best In Show winner.

More than 2,700 dogs from 15 countries and all U.S. states except North Dakota and Idaho are competing in this year's prestigious two-day event at New York's Madison Square Garden.

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Judges select the best of each breed and group, divided into seven categories - hound, toy, non-sporting, herding, sporting, working and terrier.

On Monday, the first night of events, a bouncy 15-inch beagle, named Miss P, was selected to represent the hound group.

Chosen to head the toy group was a silky-haired Shih Tzu, called Rocket. Rocket, who wore a sparkling ponytail, is co-owned by Patricia Hearst Shaw, a publishing heiress famous in the 1970s for being kidnapped by and then apparently joining an American revolutionary group called the Symbionese Liberation Army.

A dark and puffy standard poodle named Flame was also a group winner on Monday, and will represent the non-sporting group. For the herding group, the friendly 110-pound Old English sheepdog, Swagger, was picked.

Sporting, working and terrier groups are judged on Tuesday evening.

Miss P, Swagger and a Portuguese water dog, named Matisse, are considered this year's show favorites. Matisse will compete for best in the working group on Tuesday.

Those selected as the best in their groups compete for the ultimate Best In Show prize, won last year by Sky, a wire fox terrier from California. The winner gets a trophy and embarks on a media tour.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Barbara Goldberg)