Claire is a bone-afide champ.
History was made Thursday at the National Dog Show, the beloved annual event hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia when a Scottish Deerhound named Claire, who also won last year, was named Best in Show.
Claire’s victory marks the first time a dog has won back-to-back in the show’s 20 year history, hosts noted.
She was cheered on by vaccinated spectators — a return toward normal after last year’s scaled-down, fan-less spectacle — as she pranced in a victory lap around the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania. The event was filmed on Nov. 20 and 21 but aired Thursday on NBC.
“She’s a year older and more sure of herself,” her handler Angela Lloyd said of Claire, whose registered name is GCH Foxcliffe Claire Randall Fraser.
Part of the Hound group, the 4-year-old canine also earned a $20,000 prize in addition to the glory. Competition this year was tight as Claire was pitted against Chester the Affenpinscher, Sasha the Pyrenean Shepherd, MM the Lakeland Terrier, Jade the German Shorthaired Pointer, Mo’Ne the Kuvasz, and Winter the Bulldog.
Last year, Claire was the first of her breed ever to fetch the coveted title, but she’s not the first champ in her family: Claire’s grandmother won Best in Show at the 2011 Westminster Dog Show.
But Claire, who resides in Virginia, has one-upped her granny since she’s now the top-winning Scottish Deerhound in history.
“Claire, in her mind, really believes in herself and has a lot of confidence in who she is. And if you looked like her, wouldn’t you?” Lloyd said. “She is just truly at the top of her game.”
In addition to the two-time victory, the Biewer Terrier made its debut Thursday in the Toy group, stealing the show with cuteness for the milestone year.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of the National Dog Show, which has become somewhat of a Thanksgiving Day tradition, airing immediately after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The 2021 event was hosted by John O’Hurley and David Frei, who have both played emcee for the show since it first aired on NBC in 2002.
“We estimate that, since then, one-quarter of a billion people have watched,” organizers said in a statement.
“Dogs more than ever have become a part of people’s lives and the show reminds us of how great they are and how easy it is for them to make us smile,” added O’Hurley, best known for playing clothing catalog mogul J. Peterman on “Seinfeld.”
This year, 209 dog breeds and varieties, all purebreds sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, were split into seven different groups — Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding — to select the winner of the coveted Best in Show title. Last year, only 600 dogs entered — a far cry from the nearly 2,000 that typically compete in the show.
Claire also won the 2020 National Dog Show, notably the first of her breed ever to fetch the coveted title. The Scottish Deerhound beat out seven finalists and a total of 538 entries.
The show, which was founded in 1879, has been held annually since 1933, but NBC’s first broadcast happened less than two decades ago. Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network, told The Post in 2013 that Christopher Guest’s beloved 2000 mockumentary “Best in Show” actually inspired him to air the show on a national scale.
“The ratings surprised everyone that first year, and it’s been on the air ever since,” Miller said. He also credits his wife, Janine, as the “genius” who came up with the concept.
“I’m very proud of the fact, after 44 years at NBC, it’s one property that will live far after I am gone,” he added.
Judges select winners by examining the dog and how closely each dog compares with the perfection of the “perfect dog” in the breed’s official standard. Conformation, overall appearance, temperament, structure and movement are all considered, as well as the dog’s ability to “perform the function for which his or her breed was bred.”