Bob Besant & Son, Worcester Park
Retired Postman Bob Besant is no stranger to success in the pigeon sport, he and his Brothers had won two Nationals in 1991 before deciding to take a break in 1994, although they were the best performing loft in open races from 55 miles out to 555 miles.
From 85 miles to 180 miles they won six consecutive open races on the trot and this versatile loft also won three RPRA London Region Awards plus a Gold Medal for the best young bird performances with “Classic Surfer” who won the London South East Classic from Guernsey, and with Besant’s “Bishops Pride” they won 1st Open National Flying Club Bordeaux by 40 minutes, or in other words, 30 miles in front of the whole convoy of 3776 birds, winning a record amount of cash and prizes totaling £4478 in one race. The break lasted for 14 years, when in 2008, Anthony wanted to begin racing again and asked his Dad if he would like to start up again.
He agreed and careful thought went into the birds required, and as Anthony only had a small back garden at the time, it was decided to place a loft at Bobs home in Worcester Park, South London. Koopman pigeons were the top one day pigeons around at the time, and the best available were bought with a view to racing the sprint to middle distance races, where they very quickly confirmed their return by winning many top positions in Club, Federation and Classic races.
But fate took another turn when Bob was told he had to work longer hours on a Saturday, and instead of finishing his postal round at 9am, he was having to do extra rounds, thereby not finishing until 1pm, and missing the birds racing home on many occasions. Another decision had to be made, as it was not working out too well for Bob, and in 2012, after the sale of their Koopman pigeons, long distance became their main aim.
Top bloodlines were invested in and they were impressed with the Brian Denny “Tuff Nutt” pigeons their good friend Keith Mott had been racing. Keith returned the complement with the gift of a few eggs for Bob to rear and two golden hens came forth out of these, namely “Foxwarren Return” and “Half Crown” which is the mother of “Noble Dream”!
Geoff and Catherine Cooper bloodlines were also acquired through “Morning Glory” who was twice 2nd National Flying Club from Pau, (when raced by Paul Kendal), and direct out of their top pigeons, “JW”, “Farm Boy”, “Wriggler”and “George” and it is a combination of these that is the base of this International Agen O/B winning loft. Both families have repeated top performances and continued to show their true qualities in other breeding lofts too, as very many top National and Classic winners are descendants of both bloodlines. Bob and Anthony Besant certainly do their due diligence, when setting out to build their long distance family, and have acquired world class bloodlines like “Euro Diamond and Mark Gilbert’s “Southfield Supreme” and Matt Rakes “Indy” 1st National Flying Club Tarbes, amongst others.
Anthony works in the City, and lives about 10 minutes drive from his father, so reluctantly he has to leave the day-to-day husbandry to him. But he has been involved with the pigeons since he was a very small boy, in fact both his grandfathers raced pigeons all their lives too. If he was not in his fathers loft, he would be in his grandfathers, so much time was spent with the pigeons his parents began to worry about his school work suffering. So Anthony himself has more than 35 years experience with the pigeons, and he has had many years of successful racing experience passed down to him. Lengthy telephone conversations regularly take place between him and his father, discussing all aspect of the racing team and stock pigeons. He is not afraid to invest in the breeding loft and is always on the lookout for something special. Being a Father of three young children himself keeps him busy too, but he exudes enthusiasm for the long distance races, and waiting time, is quality father and son time to enjoy. They can feel the magic in watching the race unfold on the Internet, where on the Pipa website, every pigeon is shown as a red dot on the European map, within ten minutes of it being verified. So the race can literally unfold before your eyes, and once they entered their first arrival, Anthony cheerfully informed Bob, who was amused and in disbelief at the time, that he was going to take a screen shot to save the page, because they were top of the sheet and he thought they would be soon overtaken by the further flyers.
But as the afternoon wore on, they were slowly realising that they may actually win the International overall and when the telephone began to ring, with the many congratulations that follow such an achievement, Bob still did not want to tempt fate, as some of the very best long distance lofts in England, who were directly behind them on a line of flight, were yet to show on the result. But once Carol Francis, the secretary of the British International Championship Club, called to arrange for the pigeon to be verified, it finally hit home that they had won the race, and a further phone call from a Pipa representative, asking for details of the winning bird, confirmed their wildest dream.
Their pigeons are raced on the widowhood system and two youngsters are taken from them soon after the Blackpool show. Bob obviously has “pigeon fingers” and I asked him what were the main criteria needed to race long distances. Feeding fats until they are fully fueled was his first point and he recalled asking Mark Gilbert how to tell if they had had enough fats for the task ahead, to which Mark replied, “When they will not eat any more”
He is also a big believer in the slow but sure, building of a team, and he says the yearlings should not be given too many difficulties if possible. Indeed last year their yearlings had three relatively easy channel races at the middle distances, and were put aside until, as two year olds, much more could be expected from them. It was a wise choice as the next channel race proved to be very difficult with many losses experienced by other fanciers.
So, preparation for the International race from Agen in 2015 began in 2013 with the aim of building a team of 10 or so, to send with confidence. “The most difficult job is to get them to this stage and many plans can go awry due to hawks or poor racing conditions” he says. He knows how difficult this can be and holds top lofts in great esteem, “fanciers like Roger Lowe, Mark Gilbert and Geoff and Catherine Cooper are there every race, every year” he says, “imagine how difficult it must be to build a team to enter every race like they do”
Bob recently overheard a comment whilst standing in the queue at a marking station, “Besant’s back” someone said, to which there was a reply “yea but they were only good in their day”, WRONG!! after this International win, they have cemented their feet firmly at the very top again, and Bob repeated the comment “such an amazing thrill” as they drank the champagne that evening to their superstar “Noble Dream”
On a lighter note Bob recalled a story to me that I feel would be nice to share. Many years ago, when he raced to the local council estate, he received a call from the London Region of the RPRA asking if he was available to show some visitors around his pigeon loft. They were in the country for a short stay and had asked to see some good pigeons, and as the partners had won two nationals he was a prime choice. Bob agreed and received a phone call that they were at New Malden station, could he please guide them in? So of he went in his little Mini Van that they used for training and pulled up behind a large stretch Limousine, inside it were his guests and one was a Prince from United Emirates, Bob could not believe his eyes as he asked them to follow his little van back to the council estate! All the time during the visit he was wondering if the wheels would still be on the car when they went back outside.