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Keith Mott writes about winning fanciers past and present

Piero & Jan Obertelli of Ashfield

Some people know him as Piero the Italian pigeon racer, others call him the ‘Italian Stallion’, but for the 30 years that I’ve known him he has always been Peter Obertelli! He was born in a small village north of Malan called, Piacenza, near Morfasso and the family house was built in the Italian mountains, and on a good clear day you could she the Swiss Alps. Peter is from a big family, with six brothers and five sisters, and tells me, only one of his brothers was also interested in pigeons and that was Renato, who was a very successful fancier in the London area a few years ago. When the family lived in the Italian mountains the older brothers chop down trees for logs for the house fires and to sell, plus they lived off the cattle, sheep and poultry they kept. The young Piero used to hunt for Fox and Badger in the mountains, which often got him into trouble with his parents, as he should have been working in the woods cutting trees. He kept a few Fantails when he was a lad and started racing pigeons when he came to the U.K. in 1976. He bought a house with a nice long garden in Hounslow, near Heathrow Airport, and very soon erected a pigeon loft. Peter recalls the premier fanciers locally in the 1970’s were Jack Knowle, George Burgess, Brian Goodwin and Eric Hurley. At that time pigeon racing was his passion, but still enjoyed hunting and quite often went shooting Pheasant and Hare.

I first met Peter Obertelli on one cold winters night in the 1970’s, when I judged an old hens show class for Isleworth S.R. Club and he had just finished the season of a lifetime. There were two classes that evening and Peter had entered four hens, lifting lst, 2nd, and Commended in the young hens class and 2nd in old hens. After the show we had a chat and he told me about the fantastic young bird season he had had flying in the Thames Valley Federation. Peter started up in the sport in the spring of 1976 with birds he purchased for 50p each from Petticoat Lane Market in London and after doing no good with these birds he decided to purchase some better stock. About that time Eric Hurley of Hanwell was packing up so Peter purchased four hens and a cock, all Stassarts, from him and these birds were the base of his 1970’s family. He also purchased Eric Hur1y's 16ft x 6ft one compartment loft and after added a 8ft x 6ft young bird loft. He kept 50 old birds and bred 28 young birds each year. Peter broke his novice status at Leicester the first young bird race in 1976 and also won the longest young bird race from Durham that same year. Peter's three most outstanding 1977 young birds were the red chequer cock, ‘Albion Lad’, winner of 1st Club, 1st Thames Valley Federation Pontefract, a blue pied cock named ‘Albion Galahad’, winner of 1st Two Rivers 2-B Club Nottingham and 2nd Club, 3rd Thames Valley Federation Leicester (beaten by loft­mate) and last, but by no means least, the dark chequer cock, ‘Albion Rocket’, winner of 1st Club, 2nd Thames Valley Federation Leicester. The early Obertelli racing team was formed mostly from the Stassart and Busschaert bloodlines and a good pigeon that Peter recilected from that time was the Busschaert cock, ‘Blue Boy’, and he was always the first bird home, but not always the first on the clock, having been caught to many times.

On moving up to the midlands in 1990, Peter and Jan packed up the pigeons, but aquired a field near their home in Sutton-in-Ashfield, and started keeping a few chickens, sheep and of cause Jan’s beloved Horse. Peter restarted with pigeons in 2004 and the lofts were erected on the field, which has proved to be an excellent enviriment for the birds. The field is complete with stables and has housed Jan’s very successful Show Jumper for many years. Jan is very interested in the pigeons and helps out any way she can, including stitching up and repairing broken legs on the damaged birds. She is very good with the pigeon having a vast experience of looking after live stock, after many years in Africa working with wild animals. In recent years most of her time has been taken up looking after and jumping her Horse at big shows, but unfortunely last year she lost him with a sudden terminal illness.

Peter’s several lofts at Sutton-in-Ashfield are set out in a square, with a slabbed area in the middle and he told me, the most important factor of his set up is all the structures are built at least 2ft off the ground. The lofts are well ventilated and deep litter has been used in previous seasons, but Peter wasn’t impressed with it, finding it very dusty. The birds are paired up at the beginning of February and the 24 pairs of old birds are raced on the roundabout system. The racers are trained from 20 miles three times a week and the cocks and hens are allowed to run together on marking day. The birds are left together for about an hour on their return home from the race and mid-week training continues right through to the end of the season. Peter repairs the old birds for the longest races and likes them sitting ten day old eggs for the major 500 mile events. They are fed on ‘All Rounder’ mixture, which is as the name surgests is a general mixture and this sees them though the racing season to 509 miles, with not much else added. Peter thinks the moult is a very important time of the year and gives his birds plenty of rest, backed up with a good heavy feed, with extra condition seed and linseed.

The Obertelli family of pigeons are mostly Janssen and Busschaerts, and eight pairs of stock birds are retained, which are paired up with the racers at the beginning of February. These are fed on ‘Breeders’ mixture and when bringing in new stock birds, Peter looks for an appled well ballanced body, intelegent eye and light in the hand, but above all it must come from premier winning bloodlines. When I asked if he was interested in the eye sign theory for his breeding, he said he liked to see a nice eye on a pigeon, but it made no difference when it came down to it producing winners in the stock loft. Peter never breeds late breds and says, years ago he used to take some off his best racers, but never did any good with them. The 50 young birds he breeds each season start training at 15 miles and when they reach the 30 mile stage they stay there, being given three tosses a week until the end of the racing season. For the first six weeks after weaning they are fed a heavy ‘Breed & Wean’ mixture and after this period they go on a lighter corn for racing. Peter did the darkness system for the first time in 2009 and he had a brilliant young bird season. The young birds are raced to the perch and are never sent further than 180 miles, as Peter believes they are still growing and sending them on to silly distances will only set them back. The Obertelli’s enjoyed a brilliant young bird season flying against the very best company in 2009 and won: 2nd, 3rd, 4th club, 12th, 14th Notts & Derby Borders Federation Stratford (2257 birds), 1st, 2nd, 3rd club, 15th Notts & Derby Borders Federation Windrush (2109 birds), 1st club, 6th Notts & Derby Borders Federation Newbury (2829 birds), 3rd club Salibury, 1st club, 7th Notts & Derby Borders Federation Portsmouth (2282 birds), 1st club Newbury, 4th club Messac. Peter’s two best performers in the 2009 season were the two blues, ‘Kirkby Boy’ and ‘Picola’, who lifted a list of top prizes.

Peter prefers sprint racing and although he wins his fair shair of old bird races, he like young bird racing best. He is a member of one of the strongest clubs in the Midlands, in the form of the Sutton Central Club and is flying against premier fanciers like Ron Vardy and Phil Elliot, but he says this is great to keep his approach sharp, and spurs him on to try harder to win. Peter loves to show his racing pigeons and has won many firsts through the years in club and open events, with big birdage. This is a testiment to the wonderful condition he keeps his pigeons in! He has judged at several premier shows, including twice at the RPRA Southern Region Show, when he traveled down from the Midlands with his good friend, Russell Lowbridge and stayed over for the weekend in Surrey. He thinks generally the sport has progressed in the last twenty years, but feels the hawk problem is pushing it back with people leaving the fancy because of their teams of pigeons get constantly smashed up by these preditors. The hawks are always in his field attacking his birds! He thinks the ETS system is a great leap forward for the sport, but fancier giving their birds too many treatments is a step backwards and thinks we should look after our workers better.

There you have it the Piero Obertelli story! I’ve enjoyed doing this week’s article, as Peter has been a good mate for a long time. I can be contacted with any pigeon comments on telephone number: 01372 463480. See yer!

TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT.            

 

 

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