But with no clear-cut favorite, oddsmakers face tough task
By Sandy Robins
updated 8:24 a.m. PT, Sun., Feb. 10, 2008
It looks like 2008 could very well be the Year of the Poodle.
John Avello, Las Vegas’ famous wizard of odds has picked this breed to take the best in show title at the Westminster Dog Show on Feb. 12.
Last year, Avello, the director of race and sports book operations at the Wynn, picked the winner, the English Springer Spaniel named James. And the question being posed by dog enthusiasts is, will he do it again?
The Westminster Dog Show was put on the sports book for the first time last year and was very well-received by an enthusiastic dog-loving public.
“Even though it’s purely for entertainment and no money changes hands, people loved the idea and had a lot of fun,” Avello said. “It’s undoubtedly America’s premier dog sporting event and has a huge following. That’s why we’re doing it again.”
Avello has a Standard Poodle ranked to win at 25-1, followed by a toy poodle at 28-1.
According to David Frei, director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club in New York, there are two standard poodles listed in the top 10 dogs competing in this year’s show. Champion Brighton Minimoto, known to family and friends as Remy, is a white Standard Poodle who won the non-sporting group last year. Her competition is Champion Rendenn Tristar Affirmation, commonly known as Yes, a black Standard Poodle super dog.
“I think Avello’s had an even tougher job working out the odds for this show because there’s no clear favorite as there’s been in previous years,” Frei said. “This year, apart from two Standard Poodles, there are several Boxers that are show dog favorites, which means that there’s going to be really tough competition in the breed rings.”
Avello has Boxers ranked at 60-1 to win the best in show title. Last year’s winning breed, the English Springer Spaniel has slipped to 45-1. Although it was a Sealyham Terrier named Charmin that won the AKC/Eukanuba National Dog Show last December in California, the biggest show to precede Westminster, this breed is ranked at fifth to win on the green carpet at 40-1. The Tibetan Mastiff, a newcomer to the Westminster lineup, is at the bottom of the list at 1,000-1 along with another newcomer, the Swedish Vallhund.
Avello also has the odds on a dog from the toy group (where the toy poodle are listed) winning the title listed at 3-1, and a winner from the non-sporting group (where the standard poodles compete) at 8-1.
“Irrespective of who wins, we are thrilled to once again be on the sports book,” Frei SAID. “What greater testimony to the fact that Westminster is a part of the fabric of sporting America than to have odds listed in Vegas along with the Oscars, the Super bowl, and other major events. And the fact that Avello picked last year’s winner was very impressive.”
“When it comes to working out the odds, apart from research, it’s all about instinct, intuition and networking,” Avello said.
“When I do my Oscar odds, I talk to Hollywood insiders and get what they’re thinking, and the same applies to other events like the Grammys and TV shows such as American Idol and The Apprentice.”
For Westminster, Avello turns to Frei, who is a walking history book for the event.
“In the process I’m certainly learning a lot of about different dog breeds and how they’ve performed in the show over the years,” Avello said. “I was interested to learn that a dog from the Herding Class hasn’t won since 1987 when a German Shepherd Dog took the best in show title. This year, I have a German Shepherd Dog ranked third at 30-1.”
Avello also admits that because he picked the finalist last year, there was definitely more pressure on him this time to keep his winning streak intact.
Once again, the breeds that are popular to win in the show ring paint a very different picture to what breeds are popular in American homes.
According to an annual list compiled by the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever is the country’s most popular family dog for the 17th year running. Although the Bulldog, a ubiquitous sports team mascot and one of the most recognizable and iconic purebred dogs in the country, has muscled its way into the 10th spot.
“This is the first time the Bulldog has made it onto the top ten list of America’s most popular breeds since 1935,” said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. “This breed appeals to a very wide range of dog lovers. It’s both docile and adaptive, and can thrive in small or large homes. It’s an excellent all-around family pet.”
On best in show night, Avello will be at home in Las Vegas watching the show with his own two dogs a West Highland Terrier named Piccolo and a white Cocker Spaniel named Bacio.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.
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