The gene pool, guts and the wing

Thomas Smit gives local fanciers tips on competing at Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race.
Issue date: 27 February 2009

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Thomas Smit gives local fanciers tips on competing at Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race.

South African fanciers in the 13th Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SCMDPR) need answers. Since the race falls outside our usual pigeon season, its demands are different. I handled all the top-scoring SCMDPR birds Mark Kitchenbrand bought, and found we need:

  • Superior quality, above all else. What is the success rate of our choices when competing against the world’s best, as per pedigree? Specialised, researched breeding plans, within the SCMDPR gene pool.
  • Hygienic pigeon keeping. Only pigeons in super health will develop into top racers.
  • The highest immunity against disease and fast recovery after strenuous racing.
  • Early maturity, and the ability to learn and respond quickly to what’s expected in races.
  • Superior direction-finding ability. When they’re scattered into smaller flocks, the birds should know which direction home is.
  • The will to win and refusal to give up.
  • Assertive temperament. As a norm, don’t enter the shy or wild type.
  • Notebooks. We need to enter pigeons which moult either very quickly or very slowly. To identify this trait, we must keep notebooks at the lofts and note all the details of the moult, breeding and selection.
  • Birds should be able to handle hours on the wing, in the heat.

Small to medium birds, but also larger pigeons if your gene pool falls within the SCMDPR boundaries – there are a few big, bold and beautiful candidates in the top 100 every year. Don’t send small birds, for its own sake, but consider the rest of the package.

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The guts factor
The guts factor is the most desired in the SCMDPR. I discussed it with various champions, race director Zandy Meyer and head trainer Corrie Naude.
Zandy notes the pigeons of Gerhard Koopman of the Netherlands, which came in second position last year and third this year, both had lengthy hours on the wing in the pretraining flights, because they weren’t sprinters. But if the SCMDPR trainers sent all the birds to longer prefinal training flights, it still won’t be an advantage to sprinters as the race isn’t designed for them.

After Hot Spot five the birds had road trained for 7 000km and more training would have done more harm than good. But the race isn’t designed for extreme plodders either. Despite long prefinal hours on the wing, many still don’t score in the final.
Corrie advises looking at your gene pool and the birds which scored at the SCMDPR in the past, and follow the example of successful fanciers. He emphasises the guts factor, stressing the final is a different race of eight to 10 hours. This year under 10% of the birds completed the race in less than 12 hours; the others lacked the fighting spirit.

The right wing
Not having the right wing was my mistake this year. Long wings are the trait of longer-casted pigeons, which aren’t the SCMDPR norm. A short to average wing has a faster rowing action, which will let a bird with guts outfly the plodders.
Winners are fast without being sprinters. In relation to her size, SCMDPR winner Birdy has wings of average length, but a good curve (umbrella). She’s the best pigeon in the history of the race, despite being large.

Longer wings must be more louvered to let air escape on the upward stroke or the bird will tire. This year’s winner is longer-casted with thin, well-louvered flights. Broad flights and rounded wing tips on the outer for primary flights are undesirable.
My close long wing, Whispers in the Rainbow, excelled on fast pretraining flights, but was pushed back on the final – guts don’t compensate for the wrong build.
A step-up in the wing between the last secondary flights and first primary isn’t necessary. The outer three primary flights don’t need to be equal length, but a step-down from the secondaries to the primaries is a disqualification.
The coverage of the wing on the back doesn’t need to be exceptional. A smaller back wing is desirable (a two third/one third wing structure), as are a shorter armbone and forearm. It depends on the bird’s power.

General tips
The top SCMDPR pigeons carry weight and eat well. It’s not about the size of the muscles but their quality. The heart is a muscle, and if the muscles are good, the heart is good. An aerodynamic pigeon doesn’t have to work as hard in flight. Avoid lighter white or red and brown pigmentation for summer races. Don’t pretrain your entrants at home, or their orientation will be confused when they’re re-homed at Sun City. The top birds have the best form and condition on the day. – E-mail Thomas Smit at [email protected] or call (011) 680 4778.     |fw