“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
LOOKING BACK OVER THE YEARS (PART 19.)
Dorin & Denis Melinte of Harrow.
In recent seasons Dorin Melinte has concentrated on long distance pigeon racing with the British Barcelona Club, British International Championship Club and National Flying Club. The 2015 has proved to be one of his best seasons and two brilliant pigeons in his Harrow loft have shone out above the others. The first was the handsome white flighted blue chequer cock, ‘Unique Junior’ and he is a son of the champion racing and breeding cock, ‘Unique’, when mated to a Van De Wegan hen. He is a super pigeon in the hand, being long cast, with nice silky feathering. ‘Unique Junior’ is only two years old and has a brilliant racing record already, winning: 2014: 10th section, 21st open BICC Agen (514 miles), 2015: 10th open BBC Palamos (694 miles), 1st Greater Distance Club (only bird clocked in race time), 16th open BICC Marseille (653 miles), 41st open BICC Perpignan (639 miles). He likes to race to ten day old eggs or a small youngster and on his build up to the long distance Nationals in 2015 he had two inland and three races from France. The other ‘star’ of the 2015 season was the three year old blue chequer hen, ‘The Spanish Princess’ and she really is a class act! This wonderful hen has recorded: 2013: 124th open Agen (514 miles): 2014: 2nd section, 8th open BICC Perpignan ( 639 miles), 4th section, 33rd open BICC Barcelona (714 miles): 2015: 4th open BICC Barcelona (714 miles), 2nd Greater Distance Club, 42nd open BICC Perpignan (639 miles). This wonderful hen was bred down from the original Riley pigeons, with her sire being mostly Jos Thone and her dam being bred down from the Van Lint yearling champion ‘Bea’, winner of 1st Belgium National Bourges 2005. At the time of submitting this article Dorin has clocked ‘Unique Junior’ and ‘The Spanish Princess’, within an hour of one another, from the BICC Perpignan International (639 miles) to record 41st and 42nd open. A fantastic performance! Dorin raced on the round-about system for the early part of the 2015 season and repaired up in June to set the birds up for the long distance Nationals and International races.
This is the incredible Dorin Melinte story. The story of Dorin’s very short time in the sport, but with him winning many premier positions at the highest level from the outset. Dorin was born in Romania, not far from the great Nadia Comanici and no one in his family liked pigeons, even after he had fallen in love with them, and he said that hurt him. He had a few birds when he was a young lad, which he obtained from a fancier who lived next door, but had to pack them up after a few years because his parents didn’t like them. Dorin was a very keen amateur boxer at the age of nine, but had to pack that sport up on emigrating to the UK in 1999, but tells me he really enjoyed boxing and thinks he could have been successful. Some years later, in 2011, Dorin was in Spain on holiday with his family and their attention was draw by a batch of pigeons, including race rung birds, that lived on the local beach. Dorin and his son, Vlad- Denis, fed the birds on beach every day and being bitten by the pigeon bug, on their return home decided to get some proper racing pigeons. They looked on the internet and found, Mr. Riley of Enfield, a local fancier who was selling a family of pigeon and they purchased their first twelve birds for Dorin to start his pigeon racing career at the age of 30 years old.
Dorin started racing in the Harrow club with young birds in 2012 and won his first race that season. His first racing saw him with several premier positions, including 28th, 37th open NFC Fougeres (4,350 birds). The original stock birds bred winner from the outset and one pair in particular have bred several premier racers, including Dorin’s champion cock, ‘Cezar’, and his nest brother, ‘613’, which was the cock that won his first race and broke his novice status. The families from Mr. Riley were Gaby Vandenabeele, Jos Thorne, De Klak and M. Van Lint, and after breeding his first team of youngsters, Dorin decided he needed a new bigger and better loft. He met his friend, Lucian Costache, at that time and he helped him build his first proper pigeon loft. The loft has housed lots of good winners over the last three seasons and Dorin would like to say thanks to Lucian for all his help and wishes him the very best of luck with his own pigeons! The Riley pigeons have won from all distances from the outset for the Melinte loft, including: three times 1st Federation and 1st Combine La Mans in the 2013 season, and 1st, 2nd section BICC Perpignan International. Dorin has become very interested in the long distance races from the south of France and northern Spain and says this new interest has made him aware of great fanciers like Mark Gilbert, who performances in the National and Classic races are ‘World’ class. When he first started up he can remember giving his birds lots of different medicines, which he says was his first big mistake and maintains this practice of giving the birds pills and potions when they are not ill is spoiling our beautiful sport. Dorin still races in the Harrow club and his smart ‘L’ shaped loft is 10 metres long and has five sections. He is not a fan of deep litter on the loft floor, so has a grill floor, which is cleaned out regularly, and he maintains good air flow is the main factor in good loft design.
Dorin raced only yearlings in 2013, his first full season in the sport and in the Harrow club won: the Combine Averages, Old Bird Averages from France and the Old Bird averages. In the Inter Counties SR Federation and UBI Combine the Melinte loft won: O.B: 1st, 2nd Federation Blandford (1,974 birds), 15th, 18th, 19th Federation West Bay (2,249 birds), 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Federation Kingsdown (1,725 birds), 10th Federation Blandford (1,675 birds), 11th, 16th, 18th Federation (1,690 birds), 11th, 18th, 20th UBI Combine (2,621 birds) Honiton, 6th Federation (1,105 birds), 26th UBI Combine (1,929 birds) Falaise, 1st, 18th Federation (740 birds), 1st UBI Combine (1,302 birds) Le Mans, 44th UBI Combine (856 birds) Poitiers, Y.B: 4th Federation Blandford (1,474 birds), 6th Federation Blandford (1,363 birds), 13th Federation Honiton (937 birds), 1st, 2nd Federation Tours (59 birds). This very hard young bird Tours (295 miles) races was run in conjunction with the British Barcelona Club and Dorin recorded the only two birds on the day in the Federation. Some other highlights of Dorin’s first full season were: 25th, 35th section, 26th, 38th open NFC Carentan (3,330 birds), 14th, 23rd, 42nd section, 39th, 62nd, 92nd open BICC Alencon (4,797 birds). A fantastic loft performance!
The Melinte pigeons are raced on the roundabout system and the old birds are fed on two Versa Laga mixtures, ‘Superstar Plus’ and ‘All Round’, being knocked up together in a 20% / 30% ratio. They are given ‘Matrix’ minerals after every fed, which Dorin thinks is very important. He tells me he never medicates his pigeons, apart from the annual PM vaccination jab and they are exercised around the loft for an hour every day, weather permitting. He tries to get the out of the loft twice a day to keep their fitness up, morning and evening, but this is not always possible with his heavy work commitments. Dorin never trains his old birds before the first race. He told me, ‘I have become very interested in long distance pigeon racing and 2014 and 2015 has seen me have very successful racing seasons, racing in mainly long distance National and Classic races. With the long distance in mind, I pair the birds up in January and I breed a pair of young birds from each of the racing pairs, as I only own five stock birds. I never start with more than ten to twelve pairs of racers at the beginning of the season and I race them like this till they go past 400 miles. For the long distance, I increase the food with fat only on the last five to seven feeds before basketing, depends on the forecasted severity of the race and on their return from the long races I recuperate the race birds with ‘Recupfast’ obtained from Jos Thone’s online shop. I try to race right through the to the last International race with the BICC and Perpignan was my last race for old birds in 2015.
Dorin Melinte’s young birds are put on the ‘sun rise’ system which is a type of darkness and they get darkened from 16.00hrs until gets naturally light the next morning. He feeds the youngsters on ‘Junior Plus’ with 20 % barley and increases the food when they cross the English Channel. After the channel races they get ‘Recupfast’. Dorin try to send them on every young bird race if possible and always pays more attention to the babies bred from his best producers of first prize winners. Every year in late February or early March he tries to get a youngster from a loft which looks to have young bird sickness, so his young bird team catch the sickness off it and get the now annual problem over with, so his birds are clear by the time racing starts. Dorin says, they always get over it in 3 to 4 days after he sees the symptoms in the loft, which is when they don't fly for at least 30 minute on loft exercise and they sick up their corn after feeding. He starts the season with no more than 24 young birds and starts training when they start to disappear for thirty minutes from loft exercise. They start training at six miles, progressing in ten mile stages up to 60 miles, where they stay for three tosses and then get two weeks rest before the first Federation race. Dorin maintains that, in his opinion the ‘darkness’ system is essential if you to want to win races with young bird. If they are not on the system the youngster’s feathering will fall apart when racing starts and he thinks that the moult is very stressful time for a pigeon. He gives the babies extra light towards the last races in September to delay the moult until after the last race, which is the open race with BBC from Tours or Ancenis.
Dorin only owns five stock birds, three of which are the originals from Mr. Riley and they are all paired up in early December. With the sole purpose of enhancing his long distance family, he recently purchased Champion ‘Unique’ from Balici Pavel in Romania. This fantastic cock is a history maker in Romania, being the only bird to fly Berlin (600 miles plus) five times and score five times, including 6th open in 1009. In the 2012 season ‘Unique’ flew Berlin twice in the same season to win 9th open National (3.900 birds) and three weeks later 37th International (350 birds). This great cock is proving to be a ‘gold mine’ at stock already, producing good racers for the Melinte loft including, ‘Unique Junior’, the champion long distance racing cock. Dorin also purchased a hen that had flown Berlin twice in the 2012 season and she recorded 17th open. One of Dorin’s top stock pigeons is the ‘Red Cock’ and he has bred several of the premier racers over the last couple of years. The best racing cock in the loft was named by Dorin’s young son, Vlad-Denis, and he has named the champion blue cock, ‘Cezar’. This great pigeon is a champion in the truest sense of the word winning: 2013: 1st Federation Kingsdown (1,725 birds), 2nd Federation Blandford (1,974 birds), 11th section, 34th open NFC Cholet (6,537 birds), 18th section, 24th open NFC Messac (6,495 birds) winning £730.00: 2014: 1st section, 7th open BICC Perpignan (624 miles), 41st section, 150th open NFC Tarbes (550 miles). ‘Cezar’ has an outstanding sister in the form of ‘616’ and she flew the English Channel nine times in the 2013 racing season, recording several premier positions including: 99th open BICC Agen (514 miles). Two other top hens in the racing loft are: ‘The Le Mans Hen’, winner of 1st UBI Combine La Mans (1,302 birds) in 2013 and the beautiful blue chequer, ‘The Spanish Princess’, winner of: 2013: 124th open BICC Agen (514 miles): 2014: 4th section, 33rd open BICC Barcelona (714 miles), 2nd section, 8th open BICC Perpignan (624 miles), 2015: 4th open BICC Barcelona (714 miles), 2nd Greater Distance Club Barcelona. A wonderful loft of racing pigeons!
Dorin is a self-employed grab lorry driver and he tells me his family help out with the pigeons a lot, especially his young son, Denis, who is addicted to first place. His wife is a good biochemist and she is very helpful with his many questions about the pigeons wellbeing and health. Dorin said, ‘I have only been in the sport four years, but I am very happy with my progression over that short time. I first won my club, then the Federation and then progressed to winning the biggest prize, 1st open Combine, which was a wonderful thrill. I think my biggest thrill was in 2013, when I recorded my sole entry pigeon from Barcelona (714 miles) and that was a brilliant feeling! In the 2014 season I managed to score in the top ten of the National results, with 7th open BICC Agen, 7th open BICC Perpignan and then went on to win 1st and 2nd section BICC Perpignan, clocking the two birds in four minutes from the 624 mile race and then won top positions from Barcelona and Tarbes. My good blue cock, ‘Cezar’, has given me a wonderful buzz over the last couple of seasons and what a fantastic pigeon he is? He is racing machine, winning a list of premier position at all distances, including 1st Federation Kingsdown through to 1st section, 7th open BICC Perpignan’.
He takes no notice of eye sign when picking out new stock birds, dismissing the theory as rubbish! When bringing in a new breeder he looks for top winning pigeons or pigeons bred from a long line of premier winners. Dorin rates Terry Haley of the Boxmoor club the top local fancier and told me, the ‘Watford Wizard’ sends his pigeons to any distance on both the North and South Road and wins the Federation and Combine. Dorin says he is not an expert on the breeding side, but pairs the best to the best, and this produces winners for him. He likes to breed late breds and his 1st UBI Combine Le Mans winning hen was a late bred in 2012. They are started off training in the January of the following year and he has produced some good racers using this method with late youngsters. Dorin maintains that a good moult is very important and the next year’s races are won at that time of the year. He increases the protein feeding to help the moult and doesn’t separate the sexes for the winter period until the moult has finished. He wants them happy and stress free for the moult.
Giovanni (Van) Sanchez of Romford.
Back in 2011 I had a visit to my loft from a premier Essex fancier by the name of Giovanni Sanchez of Romford, who made the 90 minute journey to Claygate to get Giovanni’s champion blue cock, ‘Now He’s Talking’, photographed. Giovanni is better known in the pigeon racing world as Van and is a young man who owns a very small set up with very big performances. Van’s fantastic five year old blue Van Loon widowhood cock, ‘Now He’s Talking’, had won 38 prizes in races up to 230 miles, including eight times 1st club and three times 1st Federation. Some of his best positions were: 2011: 2nd Club, 17th Federation Retford (1506 birds), 1st Club, 8th Federation, 20th Amal Wetherby (5489 birds), 1st Club, 2nd Federation, 5th Amal Ripon (5104 birds), 2nd Club, 23rd Federation (1,300 birds), 1st Club, 1st Federation Newark (1330 birds), 2nd Club, 12th Federation Retford (913 birds), 4th Club, 17th Federation Wetherby (876 birds): 2010: 1st Club, 1st Federation Newark (1390 birds), 3rd Club, 18th Federation 35th Amal Wetherby (4281 birds), 1st club, 6th Federation, 25th Amal Retford (4644 birds), 2nd Club, 13th Federation Ripon (1096 birds): 2009 (3 races only): 1st Club, 1st Federation Retford (660 birds): 2008: 1st Club, 3rd Federation, 5th Combine Witton Castle (2657 birds), 1st Club, 5th Federation Wetherby (832 birds). When I asked Van about his champion blue cock at the time, he said, ‘he is my best pigeon so far in my years in the sport, winning numerous positions at club, Federation, Combine, and amalgamation level. In the 2011 season, he managed to record seven straight weeks in the Federation results in eight races. He was 1st, 2nd, 8th, 12th, 17th, 17th and 23rd open with an average of 1,500 birds competing in the Federation’. I had a phone call from Van to tell me he had raced ‘Now He’s Talking’ only three times in the 2012 season and he recorded: 1st club, 1st Federation (1260 birds) Newark, 3rd club, 20th Federation (1429 birds) Peterborough. This champion cock has now won nine firsts in the club and four times 1st Federation. Van tells me, with this cock being on the widowhood system; he had hardly bred any youngsters out of him, but had bred several good winners, including 1st Federation. After winning the Federation again that season, Van had stopped ‘Now He’s Talking’ and was residing in the stock loft. A fantastic Van Loon sprint cock!
Van has been on and off in the sport for fifteen years and at his present address in Romford for only four years, but has achieved so much success racing his birds north road in that short time. His loft set up is the original loft given to him by his friend Dennis McDermott and consists of an open door 8ft x 4ft apex pan tiled loft with eight standard boxes and a 6ft x 4ft young bird loft with aviary, which houses his few young birds and old hens. He told me, he believes a loft with proper ventilation that promotes the correct atmosphere to bring birds into a good condition, free of dampness and vermin is the best. About the subject of using deep litter, he doesn’t use it for the old birds, but likes it in the young birds’ loft.
He only race a total of six to eight cock birds on the widowhood system and usually pairs up at the end of January, with the racers rear one nest of young birds. On their second round of eggs, sitting for 8 days they are given about three training tosses from ten miles and after taking away the eggs and hens, they start 45 minutes of exercise flights around the loft twice a day. Van says, he may train two to three times again while birds are on widowhood, but that is the only training they will get throughout the season. He breaks down, slowly building the cocks up at the end of the week, and shows the hens on marking night, especially to yearling cocks. The Sanchez loft only races the sprints, but has recently tried the long distances north road events with fair results. Van believes that to race the distance, you need a medium to large-sized team to be able to cope with inevitable hard racing. The feeding is mostly Versele-Laga ‘Gerry Plus’ and slowly builds the racers up on a much heavier feed, such as ‘Superstar Plus’ or ‘Start Plus’.
Unlike many lofts Van doesn't keep stock birds and his young birds are bred from his racers, with a few others bred by friends to try. The main family of birds raced at the Sanchez loft are the Van Loons from a gentleman in Lincolnshire by the name of Mr Russell Hayes. He bred most of Van’s most successful racers and he himself is a top fancier in his area. Van’s main breeder and best ever racer is, ‘Now He’s Talking’ and he has only bred two cocks so far with different hens in his breeding career. Both these cocks were given to close friends to race and both turned out to be first prize winners, with one a multiple prize winner, winning four times 1st club and a Federation topper. The other son of ‘Now He’s Talking’ won 1st club, 2nd Federation, 6th Combine Poitiers (370 miles) with 3,500 birds competing. He only keeps a maximum of 10-15 young birds and races them on the natural system from the start of the season to finish. He believes the darkness system is a must to win prizes consistently, but also believes that once natural youngsters get through the moult, their last two races as young birds could produce an exceptional result especially if well motivated i.e. paired up, on eggs or on babies. If he had the resources and time with the young birds, he would always try to be competitive. However, Van races the young bird program to weed out weak ones and educate the potential ones. He doesn't go further than 40 miles when training young birds.
When I asked Van about his past and how he came in to the sport he told me, ‘I was born in the Philippines and immigrated into the UK in 2004. I wasn't born from a family of pigeon fanciers, but have been raised in the countryside alongside different farm animals, not to mention pigeons as my favourite. I had pigeons as pets as a boy but were mostly unrung domesticated street pigeons and my friends and I race them on bikes or on foot. Started with proper racing pigeons in 2003 in my home country, but had to immediately pack up after my pigeons were shot one after the other, as shooting is popular in the countryside, but never had the chance to race them. After moving into the UK in 2004, I've restarted with the help of a local fancier friend Dennis "Mac" McDermott through the RPRA. My first proper stock birds were a mix of different strains including Janssen, Busschaert, Jan Aarden, Vandenabeele, Van den Bosche, and my successful Van Loons. My friend Mac and a few close friends in the local club rallied round given me some young birds to help me get started. I've raced the young birds with moderate success, however, winning my first ever red card in the last young bird race of that season in our club. The game of basketball is not a popular sport in the UK but it is a definite sports interest for me apart from pigeon racing. My first successful strain of pigeons at the moment is the Van Loons and they have given me great pleasure since I first raced them properly in 2007 until now. I first raced with the Pride of Romford club with the young birds and later on moved to the Dagenham Invitation, which is a strong north road club. I have made many mistakes in the past and I still make mistakes until now but I have always tried to learn from them. Regrettably, I have sent some of my best birds to long distance races and proved to be a very difficult one never to see them again’.
Van works as a full time nurse and his young family are interested in the pigeons, only as far as when they get bored indoors they come out to see them fly! He solely looks after the birds and says, to keep a good balance between family affairs and his hobby is very difficult, but he always tries his best to keep things in harmony. He enjoys the sprint racing at the moment, but if he had the material to race the distance, he would always have a crack at it. Because he only has a really small team of birds, six to eight widowhood cocks, he has managed to condition them for sprinting. Usually the best birds for the long distance races are the birds that arrive from a race always fresh with minimal signs of fatigue. A pigeon that has scored in the short distance and continue to do it consistently, he normally keeps in the sprints. He believes that specializing is the best move if you have a small team. Hence, sprinting is what he enjoys and will continue to specialize in it. He has proven his birds fly well up to 330 miles, but beyond that, he says, I’m afraid I don't have the courage to send especially my winning sprinters. He told me, ‘I enjoy the sprints and every week is thrilling for me especially when I get an early pigeon’.
He has always actively supported his club and says, ‘I may never have held an important position due to the nature of my work, but tried my best to do my part on marking nights. The fancy is losing ground and I believe that Federations and Combines should be discussing about joining together to cut costs and heighten the level of competition. Personal issues must be set aside and think of the future of the sport’. The only advice he can give to a new starter is to try to make friends among his fellow fanciers and to enjoy the social side of the fancy. With the pigeons, try to learn all the basic systems and adapt the best system that you can manage. Acquire birds from successful fanciers and try to buy only what you can afford. Race every single pigeon meant for racing and let the basket do the selection. Good pigeons, good loft, a sound system, and a lot of hard work especially with babies. I asked Van who was the top fancier in his area and he replied, ‘Consistency has a key factor in deciding who the best fancier is and in my local area, there is B. and J. Wilson, Ling Brothers, Tony Calverly, Davey Hunt, Ron Tubey, and a few others. These fanciers have always been consistent in the last few years and they deserve to be considered top fanciers in my area’. Van believes in inbreeding but not too close. He told me, ‘I must admit that I am not the most experienced fancier when it comes to breeding but I would probably try half-brother half-sister pairing, grandfather to granddaughter or grandmother to grandson, uncle to niece or aunt to nephew. Having said that, I believe crosses bring vitality’. He gives the birds nothing really special during the moulting season, but usually gets a good moulting mix, with a lot of rest and minimal loft flying, to ensure every individual bird to get a stress free moulting season.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).