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Joe Bradford's Against All Odds




Gareth Watkins' New Series


Joe Bradford's Against All Odds

Against All Odds. Photo by Terry Peart.

The subject of the second article in this series, a series based on highlighting the long distance performances of top individual marathon racers, is a dark chequer cock named "Against All Odds" bred and raced by long distance legend Joe Bradford of Sutton in Surrey.

Bred in 2002, the cock flew Bergerac on the day (14 hours 20 minutes on the wing) as a yearling. He has since flown Palamos twice and Barcelona three times - that's FIVE times at close on 700 miles! Some pigeon and here's his race record while racing with BICC from Barcelona:-

2009. 13th section 17th Open.

2010. 2nd section 13th Open.

2011. 3rd section 16th Open at 9 years old.


When he began his quest for success at extreme distance racing, Joe Bradford went to two of the pre-eminent exponents of long distance racing at that time, namely Joe Shore of Comberbatch in Cheshire and the great Frank Cheetham of Pontefract in Yorkshire. Both Shore and Cheetham were regularly clocking good pigeons at around 700 miles in top-class competition. Eight birds were bought from Joe Shore and six from Frank Cheetham and these two sources proved to be the foundation of the Bradford long distance team.

The breeding of Joe Bradford's latest long distance champion "Against all Odds"  can be traced back in part to these original birds and proves the accuracy of the old saying "blood will tell". Read on and you'll see how.

His Grandsire was a son of pigeons that were 2nd Open in races organised by the LSECC. The cock was 2nd Open LSECC Pau on the day 14 hours 40 minutes on the wing and the hen was 2nd Open & 15th Open Dax where she was 15 hours on the wing on the day.

Both these pigeons were bred and raced by the late Ernie Parker of Sutton and of his old Clayton Gits family crossed with birds obtained from Joe.

The 2nd Open Pau cock’s dam was a daughter of Joe's own very good stock hen who was bred by Joe Shore of Northwich, Cheshire. This hen in turn, was the Dam of Joe's best Palamos and Barcelona pigeons. One of her sons, called "Lucky Lad" [see accompanying photo], flew Palamos 4 times, 3 times on the winning day i.e. liberated Friday home Saturday flying into a north-east wind on each occasion. He was 3rd, 33rd & 41st Open BBC. In the 1976 Palamos race he was 3rd Open during one of the hottest years on record. A full sister to Lucky Lad was later to win 2nd & 4th Open BICC Barcelona. Her nest mate brother was the sire of Joe's 1st Open BBC Palamos hen "Jubilee Lady", which was to finish with three top Open positions from Palamos i.e.  1st, 21st and 142nd Open.

The dam of "Against all Odds" was a granddaughter of a hen that won 2nd Open Barcelona in  1995, when only 3 birds made it on the winning day. She in turn was bred by Tony Twyman of Harrow, another Barcelona winner with the BICC and contained some of the Bradford bloodlines in her pedigree. Whilst the dam's grandsire was bred by Les Kidd of New Milton, Hampshire, another long distance enthusiast.

Phew, with breeding like that the cock couldn't possibly fail!

It would seem abundantly clear therefore that if you want to succeed at 700 miles, you first have to have birds bred from birds that have been successful at that distance or have bred birds that have been successful at 700 miles. Those are the foundation stones to build on. Then comes the management. It's not rocket science folks.

Photo montage courtesy of Cameron Stansfield


The 20-30 strong team of youngsters reared annually are rarely raced nowadays, but do undergo an extensive training programme with plenty of single up tosses including some from points along the south coast of England.

At the yearling stage, the birds are again brought along quietly and are not over taxed, but are expected to compete from the longest race in the Federation's race programme which is normally a race of around 450 miles.

The older pigeons, in preparation for the long distance trials ahead, get just 2 races a year: one short channel race then into the selected long distance target race. The pigeons are only lightly trained before their first Channel race. Joe likes his marathon race candidates to get some time on the wing, ideally around 8-10 hours in this preparatory race before going to the "big one".

In 2010, the preparation of "Against all Odds" was even less extensive as a month before Barcelona Joe jumped him straight off the loft to a short channel race; he came the next morning. He was then allowed complete rest to sit around and relax and three days before marking he had a 30 mile single up and was then sent to Barcelona to finish at 2nd section 13th Open!
Joe firmly believes that
long distance racing is all about timing. He doesn’t want them ready in June if the race is at the beginning of July. Joe also thinks that a lot of fanciers go wrong by sending the birds too heavy. As Joe commented, "You don’t see many 6ft 4inch, 14 stone marathon runners!"

He recalls sending to the 1970 Palamos race where his bird finished at 2nd Open BBC. The cock was the lightest he'd ever sent a pigeon to a 700 mile race, it was like holding a tennis ball, and he came home better than when sent!! Obviously the pigeon was in the ideal condition for the conditions prevailing on the day of the race.

Joe holding his champion long distance racer Against All Odds. Photo by Terry Peart.


The twelve or so pairs of old birds are mated in early March and then enjoy an open loft from early morning until dusk and are never forced to fly. They are fed a strong mixture of beans, peas and tares in a hopper and there is always food available to them so they never over eat. In the build up to the long distance races they also have sunflower hearts as a tit bit. In the past Joe has also used groats coated in molasses, dried off and then soaked in cod liver oil as a boost during pre-race preparation. Simple isn't it when you have birds bred for the job from generations of top performers at the extreme distance?

Here are two of the things that Joe does NOT do when preparing his pigeons.

1. Doesn’t train them in a North East wind. He waits for the sun to be on their backs before training yearlings.

2. Doesn't train or race hens when they are in egg or for 3 days thereafter.

Joe's loft. Photo by Terry Peart.


The only product added in the water is Epsom Salts. Joe's late father used to give it to them every Wednesday. When he was given the recipe for Johnson Tonic he used that, but since 1996 the birds have only been given clean water. However, when in the moult the birds do get some Epsom Sales once a month. The reasoning behind Joe's decision to stop giving supplements of any kind came about when he was waiting for pigeons from a short channel race. A green woodpecker landed in his neighbour’s garden and Joe could see that the condition and the feathering was fantastic. As he said to himself at the time, "To get in that condition he was not treated for all and sundry" so the use of all supplements was suspended forthwith!!

Put simply Joe believes in keeping as close to Mother Nature as he can.


Elimar - January 2014