Dr. David Fitzpatrick has spent two decades as a veterinarian with the Illinois Racing Board, so he knows something about winners. This week, though, Fitzpatrick experienced something that was as far from harness racing as you could get.
Fitzpatrick is part owner of Star Valley Double Double, a Parson Russell Terrier who on Tuesday was named Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Show in New York's Madison Square Garden. Fitzpatrick owns the dog with his ex-wife, Karen, and Linda Apel.
"It was a good day," said Fitzpatrick, who made the trip to New York for the show. "He just won the Eukanuba back in December, so we were pretty sure he had a good shot to win this. It was pretty amazing. I was surprised how many people jammed into Madison Square Garden to look at these dogs."
Star Valley Double Double, who goes by the name Davis, won both the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship and Westminster for the first time in his career. He was born in December 2005 and named in honor of then-Michigan State basketball star Paul Davis, who was known for posting double figures in points and rebounds (a double-double) on a regular basis.
Davis beat a dozen rivals to claim the Westminster title.
"We were really pointing toward Westminster," said Fitzpatrick, who bought into the dog last September. "It's been a pretty good run. This dog has been good for a couple years. He's looked really good. I took the opportunity and it's worked out really well."
The dog stays with Karen Fitzpatrick, who is usually his handler, and averages around three shows a month. Karen Fitzpatrick was not his handler at Westminster because she bred and owned a dog in the Border Terrier class -- which also won.
"Davis likes to travel with Karen; he likes to be in the hotel room and he loves to do the showing thing," Fitzpatrick said. "He never misses a beat when he's showing. When there's any clapping going on he thinks it's all for him. He knows to start showing. He's like a little machine out there. He just floats along and never misses a beat.
"He loves to show off, and if people clap, he'll show off even more. He's pretty cool like that. He's a pretty smart dog like that."
Now that Fitzpatrick has had a taste of success, he is hungry for more.
"I'm thinking I'm going to keep going," Fitzpatrick said. "Our plan with Davis is to do another year. When they get to be 4, they could be getting too old to show, but he is really at his best right now. I'd like to win the Eukanuba again and Westminster again.
"Sometimes you get in on something and you don't think it's going to go right to the moon like this, but it did. This dog had the potential and he certainly reached it this year."
Courtesy Ken WEINGARTNER (Harness Racing Communications USTA)