The final of the 19th South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SAMDPR) was held on 24 January, with birds from 37 countries taking part. The countries with the highest number of competing pigeons were: Germany (532 birds), the US (505), Kuwait (213), South Africa (169), The Netherlands (167), UK (146) and Belgium (140).
On the day of the final, 2 453 pigeons were released at 6am at Douglas to journey 521km back to the SAMDPR loft complex at Linbro Park, north-east of Johannesburg. The weather conditions at liberation were fine and clear, and the temperature was 22°C. This quickly soared to above 31°C, and the pigeons had to work hard.
Only 17 made it home by nightfall on the day of liberation. Returns improved after a night’s rest and 844 pigeons were timed in before 7pm on day two. According to the last available loft report, 1 430 birds had made it back home. This is a 58,3% return rate. Last year, 3 478 pigeons competed in the SAMDPR final, which was held over a longer distance, and only 1 216, or 34,95%, returned. In 2013, 1 956 (70%) out of 2 793 pigeons returned.
At 3.04pm, after nine hours and four minutes on the wing, Sanjay 1 and Robben Island arrived together, landing near the loft entrance where the electronic timing devices are fitted. After some hesitation, Sanjay 1 entered first to scoop up the first prize of US$150 000 (about R2 million).
Sanjay 1, a tough little blue hen, was entered by Karl Koch from Germany. Robben Island, a medium-sized blue cock, was entered by Saad Al Abhoul from Kuwait. Third prize went to Welfen-Fuerst, a fine blue hen entered by Georg Oswald from Germany.
The SAMDPR 2015 Ace Pigeon was Robben Island. The runner up was Horse-Reliable from the US, entered by the Nanez Family Syndicate. Third was Lady Rose, entered by André Lazarus from Cape Town. The 2015 SAMDPR Knock-Out Champion Pigeon was Mo Chuisle, entered by Hok Jos Vercammen from Belgium. It was the 114th pigeon home in the final. This competition works on a sliding scale that ‘knocks’ out the pigeons not within the required returning percentages in each of the Five Hot Spot Car Races prior to the final.
The first 100 scoring pigeons of the final were auctioned on the day after the race. Sanjay 1 went for R70 000 and Robben Island for R200 000. Welfen-Fuerst brought in R20 000. Horse-Reliable was bought by Mark Kitchenbrand for R30 000. It is related to SAMDPR Ace Pigeon Birdy that Kitchenbrand bought in 2008 for R800 000. The SA pigeon Lady Rose brought in R11 000.