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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four top dogs - a springy German Shepherd, a sleepy borzoi hound, a bulldog and a shih tzu - advanced on Tuesday to the final round of Manhattan's annual Westminster Kennel Club show, where they were to vie for the contest's blue ribbon later in the day.
The four canine finalists - Rumor, Lucy, Annabelle and Panda - entered alongside 2,748 other dogs to reach the "Best in Show" round of the prestigious competition, now in its 140th year and held at Madison Square Garden.
"She's definitely in the big-time now," said Kent Boyles, co-owner of 3-year-old German Shepherd Rumor, who enjoyed celebratory meaty treats backstage after winning an earlier round on Monday on her way to being named best herder of the bunch.
Each finalist was chosen best in its breed before working its way to the top spot in one of several broader groups: hound, toy, sporting, non-sporting, herding, working and terrier.
The sporting, working and terrier champions were due to be selected later on Tuesday to compete against Rumor, Lucy, Annabelle and Panda in the final event.
Panda, a 2-year-old shih tzu, won best of the toy group on Monday. "I feel like he put every foot where it should have gone," said handler Kathy Garcia, who wore a sparkling blue dress that matched the glittering bow securing a pony tail atop her male dog's head.
Lucy, a 4-year-old borzoi, traveled from her home in Chiba, Japan, to make the cut in the hound group. Owner Mai Ozeki said she was shocked when her dog, with its characteristically narrow head and silky coat, advanced to the finals. "I'm almost having a heart attack," Ozeki said.
Annabelle, a pudgy 3-year-old bulldog, won the non-sporting group.
Among the contestants in the other groups were skye terrier Charlie, who rested in his crate backstage on Tuesday before his run for best in the terrier group. Handler Larry Cornelius said he hoped Tuesday would bring Westminster gold to Charlie, who retires in Ocala, Florida, this year.
"It's the best show in the world, the one everybody wants to win and the one where everybody cries if they lose," Cornelius said.
Before Tuesday night's judging, spectators snapped photos and fawned over the contestants.
Vanessa Constantine, 36, of New York, said she would root for Rumor to emerge the ultimate winner.
Friend Paula Forero, 40, said she thought Annabelle would make a worthy champion for one simple reason: "She's so cute."
Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Sandra Maler