By the time you read this, the final of the 19th South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SAMDPR) will have been held.
At the time of writing, 2 454 pigeons have completed the SAMDPR training programme. Weather permitting, they will be released at dawn on 24 January to fly 525km to the SAMDPR loft complex at Linbro Park, north- east of Johannesburg.
If conditions are fine, the pigeons are expected to complete the race in eight to 10 hours. The first 100 home will be auctioned on the day after the race. More than 30 countries have entered their best birds. These include: Germany (531 pigeons), the USA (509), Kuwait (212), South Africa (168), the Netherlands (165), the UK (149) and Belgium (135).
As always, the names of the owners will be revealed for the first time when the results of the winning pigeons are announced.
Although 19 years have passed, it feels like only yesterday that I entered a pigeon into the first million dollar race, little knowing how important the event would become on the international race scene.
This growth was largely thanks to the zeal of the first race director, the late Zandy Meyer. While many in the world of pigeon racing saw only the chance to win US dollars, Zandy rightly believed that the friendships formed during the event were more important.
The SAMDPR preparation programme consists of a series of training flights and five Hot Spot car races (see panel) to get the pigeons fit for the final. The pigeons that compete in all the pre-final training flights are known as the SAMDPR Grand Average pigeons. The owner of the SAMDPR Grand Average Ace will receive US$10 000 (about R115 000). The pigeons in the second and third positions will win US$5 000 (R60 000) and US$2 500 (R30 000).
Currently, the three front runners and the closest South African contender are:
- Daisuke Jigen (Italy), entered by Cristiano Paltrinieri. Sire: Jonge Super, from the Alain and Dirk Van Den Driessche lines. Dam: Beauty, daughter of the golden couple Fuego and Rosy, that were responsible for class racers and an Olympiad Pigeon. Originating from the lines of Peter Van De Merwe (the Netherlands).
- Ocean Tide (USA), entered by the syndicate of Jim Ward and Bill Hylek. Sire: Deacon, a proven breeder purchased from Verheyen in Belgium. Dam: Riley, a daughter of Mona Lisa, one of the greatest breeding hens in Europe (from Mike Ganus Family Lofts). In 2014, the USA won the Grand Average Ace Pigeon title with Thriller, entered by Rory Smith Loft. Eddy (Belgium), entered by Fondclub Antwerpen; pedigree not yet revealed. Four pigeons from Belgium feature within the Top 100.
- Hollos (South Africa), ranked 14th and bred by Gaddin Bros and Charl Stander for Sonskyn Pigeon Club.
South Africa has seven pigeons in the Top 100. In 2012, the SA syndicate of Fred Brough and Dr Cliff Meyer won the Grand Average Ace Pigeon title with Cliff Two.
South African club challenge
The SAMDPR South African Club Challenge winner was Mark, bred by Mark Charman and entered by Club Benzing RPC Pretoria. Second was Hein, bred by Beneke Lofts, while Chilli from Plettenberg Bay Pigeon Club was third.