Today, everyone in dogs has heard of the Hound known as the Whippet, but there was a time when he was known by only a handful of people in America. All of this changed on February 11, 1964 when a “dark horse,” known by the press as “Fleetfoot” and by his friends as “Ricky,” swept the competition, toppling the obvious favorites and winning legions of fans for the breed when he took Best in Show at the 1964 Westminster Kennel Club dog show. There are many longtime breeders today who will tell you, “I saw my first Whippet when Fleetfoot won the Garden.”
An Overwhelming Experience
At the Garden in 1964, even though six really good specimens were in the ring at the same time, the race quickly came down to the Boxer and the Whippet. The Best in Show judge for the evening was Len Carey, himself no stranger to the thrilling emotion of winning at the Garden. His legendary Doberman, Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm, had won Best at the Garden twice in a row, in 1952 and ‘53.
This was Mr. Carey’s night to give something lasting back to the fancy and he studied the exhibits carefully, wanting to make the right choice for the records of time. The Boxer bitch was the very essence of power and her chiseled good looks sent waves of cheers from a bevy of fans. But what of the Whippet? To the greater public, this was a breed that hadn’t been seen before. They may not have known exactly what he was, but even the crowd could get behind this elegant racing machine. Later, Margaret would say, comparing her own experience to her mother’s at the Garden, that “at least nobody booed!”
Studying the field, Carey clearly liked both the Boxer and the Whippet, asked them to move again but did not vacillate in choosing his champion. It was the Whippet, hands down.
In his coverage of Westminster for the AKC Gazette, the late Arthur Frederick Jones said of Fleetfoot, “The Whippet is a dog hard to find fault with from any angle and he trotted dutifully beside Bob Forsyth whenever he was asked to move.” Margaret remembers the night; “I just couldn’t believe it. Oh, my! It was just the most thrilling experience for me. I remember wishing that my mother could have been there. That would have been doubly thrilling for me.”
Continuing, she says, “I ran down onto the floor and had to wait my turn but finally, I picked that dog up in my arms and just kissed him. He’d done so marvelously. Everyone was hugging everyone. There was no display of poor sportsmanship that night. It was pure happiness. Winning the Garden is such a great honor and I just couldn’t believe that my mum and I had both now done it. What a thrill!”
After the night of the Garden, Ricky’s brass nameplate on his crate was replaced with one that read “The Golden One”—and his career continued to climb.
After winning the Garden in February 1964, Ricky continued through the year, ending up being crowned as Top Dog All Breeds, the only time this title has been earned by a Whippet. He went on to Chicago where he took another Best at the International Kennel Club show, and then to Harbor City, a show which no longer exists but was considered on par with the other great venues, and won that, too. Says Forsyth: “Ricky was the first Triple Crown winner, the first dog to capture these top three shows in one year.”
After a large number of Best in Show wins during the year, Ricky took six Best in Shows in a row that led back to the 1965 Garden, where Margaret Newcombe hoped for another victory. But it was not to be. With Robert Forsyth at his side, Ricky did conquer the Hound Group that year, but in the final judging, the Scottie, Ch. Carmicheal’s Fanfare, stole the crown from Ricky’s golden head. Disappointed and knowing how fickle fame can be, Margaret Newcombe made the decision to retire The Golden One from the show ring. “I’ve seen it so many times and it’s just so sad,” says Margaret. “The dog gives you everything he’s got and the glory-hungry people just keep dragging him around to shows. It’s not fair to the dog’s dignity.”
Ricky lived out his life as Margaret Newcombe’s companion and top stud dog. He died peacefully when he was fifteen years old. As a sire, he left his mark on the breed with a total of 47 AKC champion get. He was the Top Hound Sire in 1965 and the Top Sire of all breeds in 1966. It would seem that almost everybody wanted a piece of The Golden One. Some of the notables sired by Ricky were Ch. Pennyworth Mother Goose (winner of 3 American Whippet Club Specialties), Ch. Canyon Crest’s Bakara, and Ch’s Dragonfly’s Wingedfoot, Fleetfoot and Sugarfoot—all from one litter, bred by Jackie Quiros Kubat.
Ricky’s blood runs through the veins of many great modern Whippets, including the great American Whippet sire of the 1980s, Ch. Delacreme de la Renta. “Oscar,” as he was known, sired well over 100 champions and was considered by many to be one of the most gorgeous Whippets ever—but then, of course, Oscar’s dam goes back twice to The Golden One.
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