Old Bird Racing Part 2
Are the early Nationals used for training the long distance birds?
Mark: I have two teams of pigeons, my middle distance and my long distance. The middle distance team are sent to win up to 450 miles and my long distance team will also go for education purposes. You cannot expect to win out of 20,000 pigeons in an International race if they have not had some work before hand. For a middle distance National race I will have about 30% middle distance birds in to compete and the other 70% will be going for education. They are just slower pigeons that need time on the wing.
Roger: I use the Federation channel races for my yearling cocks because they will not have gone over as young birds and I do not want them being pulled about all over the country in a National race.
They get three short channel races and then they go to Saintes National, which is 400 miles.
How do you play the pools in the Nationals?
Mark: The first thing is to pick out the right pigeons in your loft and if it is a middle distance race I choose the best of those 30%. I pool them open and section but these days with the internet, you can get a fair idea of the wind direction and you should only pool in the section if the chance of winning the open is remote. You cannot defy the wind very often and everyone has access to class pigeons.
What is your major event of the year?
Mark: I don’t really have one but the race I would rather in in the year is the Tarbes National, but having said that I can not wait for the first Fed race because I do like to race to win, and still get a buzz waiting for pigeons whatever the distance
Roger: I like middle distance racing from 300 to 450 miles and my main race of the year is Saintes NFC, which is 400 miles. That’s what I enjoy the most because all pigeons have a chance to come home.
Apart from winning, what position do you consider a good result in the Nationals?
Mark: Sometimes an exceptional result cannot be in the top 200 if the wind is against, you have to look at the race and how it has gone. Firstly you have to have the best in your clock station then section etc. Sometimes you can have an outstanding result that is not recognised because it does depend on loft position on the day. Sometimes fanciers can get frustrated in the Nationals due to wind etc. I think Nationals should come from the local club and then the result can begin with the club because that’s where the fun begins. If we did it that way everyone could take part and we would be racing against 2-300 pigeons up to 30,000 in the same race. You then still have that camaraderie in your club.
Roger: When you finish with a good performance against the wind, no body recognises it but it can be the best pigeon on the day and not be in the top 50 of the result. We all know this but in this country winning is what it’s all about.
Are there any specific International races you aim for?
Mark: I think you have to enter these International races that can be won on the day because of the hours of darkness etc. I think Barcelona is the hardest one and the pigeons have to go into the Pyrenees Mountains at the beginning and if they get into the wrong line they are flying hours before they actually get any closer to home. I have a passion about it because it is such a prestigious race and I will keep trying but Argen is a good race because you can get them on the day.
Roger: International racing is a little bit out of my league but I did send Argen and was lucky enough to come third open BICC. The previous year I sent 6 experienced pigeons which I thought would come well even if they could not win it. As it turned out Mark was timing yearlings from the same race and I did not see a pigeon! I was very down hearted by this and frustrated, but the following Tuesday I did have one come back and he was driving my cocks along the ridge of the loft which I thought was strange. The same happened the next day on the Wednesday, a cock came back from the race and was bouncing around like nothing happened. So on the Thursday I was sending to the Saintes National and thought no one would send birds back after a long race and several days out but I di d because they were so fit and they finished being 20th Open and 35th Open! I am inexperienced in International racing but I would like to compete, so I have bought some long distance birds for it.