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THE HARDEST ROUTE - PART 3

Sergio Capín Barreda tells the story of Mario Conde

Esp-92 11943

“Mario Conde”

Mario Conde handled by his owner “Pandiella” at the age of 20

Today I want to tell you the story of the best racing pigeon bred in this province in the history of the sport in Asturias. Mario Conde is the pigeon's name. He's named after the most famous Spanish banker of all time, accused of fraud and imprisoned in 1994, while his namesake was racing against the odds in Asturias. The reason for its name is the presence of a small head feathers forelock similar to Mario Conde's slicked down hairstyle.

All started two years before, in 1992, when a chequer squeaker was rung in a small loft situated in a little village in the central part of the province called “La Pandiella”, with the ring number Esp-92 11943. That loft was situated in front of quarries which are excavated for a Spanish cement factory on the other side of the river valley. This is terrain which Mario Conde was to fly over thousands of times along his racing career.

Overflying the valley. In the rocks of this quarry, a pair of peregrines nest every year, “training” Roberto´s pigeons.

Roberto - nicknamed “Pandiella”- is the owner of Mario Conde. I've been good friends with him for more than 10 years and he agreed to chat with me on May 12th, on a day when the area was surrounded by fog.

Roberto (right) with his partner Dioni in front of their loft.

Roberto started with racing pigeons in 1985. Nobody in his family had owned any type of pigeon but he enjoyed them and was engaged by the high difficulties of racing pigeons in our province. After 7 years he was lucky and bred this champion: an ugly cheq cock with white eyes (today diluted by age) but with superb silky feather and a superb soft wing. Also a long tail (a good tool for evading peregrines and sparrow hawks). He is a long cast pigeon with flexible vents (like a hen's vents). Perhaps the feather quality and this conformation helped him to achieve so many big wins in a hard environment like this!

Mario Conde at the top of his career at the age of 3

From 1992 - as a youngster -  to 1996,  Mario Conde was raced without a break. In a place like this where every race (short or long one) can be a disaster, his numbers are amazing:

He was controlled 11 times inside the top 30% of pigeons sent from races between 300 and 500 miles. (In 1995 he was controlled the same day of liberation from 450 miles.)

He´s the ONLY pigeon in history capable of winning the Provincial Championship (Ace Pigeon) 2 consecutive years (1995-1996).

In 1996 as a culmination of a brilliant career, he obtained the 2nd Place in the NATIONAL Championship (National Prestige 3 years {regularity along 3 years} category).

Anybody who doesn´t live here, won´t give these results their deserved value. But I can assure you these numbers are unbeatable!

A few pigeons SURVIVE here after 2-3 years in the basket. And very few race a high number or races every year. You can own a super fit pigeon one year… but the same tip top condition along 4 years… only BLOOD realises these performances!

The wing theory doesn´t work here. The power is in his head!

About blood…

As all the myths, not all his ancestors are known. His father was a cock from Emile Matterne bloodlines loaned by another fancier of the province, a close friend of Emile. His mother  - the top breeder of the loft producing different champions along many years with many different cocks, but none as good as Mario Conde - was a gifted cheq hen.

In 1990, Roberto and another fancier friend visited an important loft housing foreign pigeons. The owner of that loft gifted them a couple of youngsters (bred only on barley points out Roberto). He chose the ugliest and… "Was right!"he says.

I had the opportunity of handling this hen at the age of 15 years. We had to scarify her because she had a fat tumour around her vent bones. She was like a tennis ball in the hand: short keel, very very wide back but very light. Again superb feather and a soft wing. A marathon pigeon structure.

 

Although 20 years old, he still posseses an “eagle eye”

After 20 years from the birth of this legend and handling Mario Conde - who was fertile until the age of 17 - I feel something special. I have pure history in my hands. I have memorized all his anatomy. I always will remember his wing and also his feather. And since I first handled him 10 years ago I have learnt one thing: a champion pigeon can be bred in many sizes and shapes. At the end of the day, especially in a survival area like this province, the only thing that matters is BLOOD.

Parts 1 & 2 of Sergio's series The Hardest Route can also be found under the Loft Reports & Articles section on Elimar.