The final event of the annual South African Prestige Invitational Pigeon Race (SAPIR), with a distance of approximately 570km, was held from Gariep Dam on 25 September.
The first of 23 road training flights was held on 1 July (45km), and the distances were gradually increased until the last of the four Hot Spots was completed.
Loft trainer, Daniel Chilengue, and loft manager, Billy Kitchenbrand, did a fine job; the few losses and quick returns in the final race attest to the quality of the pigeons.
Due to the limited number of birds competing, the challenge for breeders is to correctly assess the ability of the pigeons they choose to enter.
Buyers at the auction then get an opportunity to buy birds that might not otherwise have been available, giving them access to the best gene pools in South Africa.
The SAPIR 2016 Hot Spots were held on consecutive Fridays. Entrants could enter a team of five pigeons, of which three were activated for the first Hot Spot. Only these three were eligible for prize money:
Hot Spot One
From Brandfort (346km); 239 pigeons; 19 August.
First: Queen of the Sky (Tony Santana, at a velocity of 1 333 metres per minute (m/ min). Second: Etienne 2 (Etienne van der Walt). Third: Oelof 2
(Du Plooy Lofts). The first 100 pigeons arrived within 11 minutes of each other.
Hot Spot Two
From Bloemfontein (400km); 241 pigeons; 26 August.
First: Secret 1 (Secret Syndicate) at a velocity of 1 402m/min. Second: Zanhe (GJT Lofts Syndicate). Third: Jemma (Boshoffs). The first 13 pigeons timed in within one minute and 100 pigeons arrived in less than seven minutes.
Hot Spot Three
From Trompsburg (509km); 234 pigeons; 2 September.
First: Cigar (JMB Hertzog) at a winning velocity of 1 294m/min. Second: Willie 3 (Leon and Willie ‘A’ Team). Third: Darling (Flip Wessels). The first 12 pigeons timed in within one minute. The 50th pigeon arrived within only 30 minutes. The longer distance and warmer weather started to separate the more capable birds.
Hot Spot Four
From Springfontein (510km); 220 pigeons; 9 September.
Etienne 4 (Etienne van der Walt) flew away from rest of the field at 1 194m/min, seven minutes ahead, but was part of the reserve pigeons in his team and not activated. The official winner was Charl 4 (Charl Stander) at 1 174m/ min. Second: Diamond Crown (Poggenpoel Lofts). Third: Wild Kosie’s Fire (Wildboys).
Structure & prizes
The SAPIR final has three separate prize categories. On entry, the pigeons come under the ownership of the SAPIR Loft. One week before the final race, the pigeons are auctioned, resulting in the breeder’s, auction and challenge stakes.
The breeder (original entrant) competes for the breeder’s stakes, the prizes of the Hot Spots, the Hot-Spot Ace pigeon, the Grand Average winner and the main race. First: JBM Hertzog. Second: Leon & Willie B Team. Third: Samuel Mbiza A Team.
Each nominated team of three birds is sold as a unit, and un-nominated back-up reserves are sold individually. The breeders (or anyone else) who pay the highest price at the auction compete in a separate cash prize category.
If the breeders have enough faith in their pigeons to buy them back at the auction, they have the chance of winning two prizes.
First: Leon de Villiers (Truflight). Second: Leon & Willie B Team. Third: Beneke Broers.
Winning bidders of a team may opt to enter the reserve pigeons into the Auction Challenge at R5 000 per pigeon. Pre-final non-nominated pigeons bought at the auction may also be entered into this category.
First: Thomas Smit B Team. Second: Poggenpoel Lofts. Third: Leon & Willie B Team.
Thomas Smit is a racing pigeon selector, and a freelance journalist and writer.