By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Adrian, an Irish setter, became the first finalist on the second night of the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, with two more to be named en route to the "Best in Show" finale that will close out the second-oldest U.S. sporting event.
More than 2,800 dogs in 200 breeds are vying for the blue ribbon at Westminster, which began in 1877, making it the country's second longest-running sporting event behind the Kentucky Derby horse race, launched in 1875.
Adrian was the winner in the sporting group, made up of hunting and retrieving dogs. He becomes the 11th Irish setter to win that group.
Working and terrier dogs will also be judged on Tuesday.
Several hundred people filled the backstage area before show time to view the competitors, who rested and nibbled treats in between grooming.
Among the canines was a two-year-old field spaniel and first-time Westminster challenger, named Boston.
"He's just getting started, so I just want him to show well," said owner and handler Jessica Thibault, whose grandmother bred Newfoundlands for half a century.
She began showing dogs at Westminster as a teenager, and says the show is defined by new beginnings and sentimentalism. "It's a place where dogs start their careers or where they retire, so there's a lot of emotion involved."
A Norwegian elkhound, a Pekingese, a miniature poodle and a German shepherd became the first four finalists at the New York show on Monday, the opening night of the two-day competition. Once all seven finalists are named, one dog will be named best in show.
"I'm looking to see all the dogs, but I'm partial to the terriers because they have spunky personalities," said attendee Angela Manibay, 34, from Rahway, New Jersey, whose husband surprised her with tickets to the show as a Valentine's Day present.
This year's contestants came from 49 states and 16 foreign countries, and are judged on characteristics specific to their breeds.
The herding winner, Rumor, a German shepherd, won the category for the second consecutive year.
Aftin, a miniature poodle from Chandler, Arizona, took home top honors for the non-sporting group. In the hound group, Duffy, a Norwegian elkhound, was named the winner, while a one-year-old Pekingese called Chuckie came out on top of the toy dogs.
Three new breeds debuted in this year's competition: the sloughi, a North African sighthound; the American hairless terrier, first bred in the 1970s to hunt rats and other vermin; and the pumi, an ancient Hungarian herding breed.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Richard Chang and Sandra Maler)