“SHOW RACER WORLD” – Number 3.
Mike & Theresa Horner of Alton.
One of Mike and Theresa Horner’s red hens is one of my favourite Show Racers and that is reflected in how many times I have personally carded her in Classic and National shows. I first became aware of the wonderful red hen, ‘Cilla’, when she won Best in Show RPRA Southern Region Show for her owners, Mike and Theresa Horner, in 2007. The day after the Southern Region Show, Mike showed at the Southern Counties SR Society show held at Gravesend and ‘Cilla’ won Best Opposite Sex, being beaten by her half-brother, who won Best in Show. Mike and Theresa won Best Opposite Sex at the 2008 RPRA Southern Region Show with their champion red hen, ‘Cilla’. Mike tells me she has won 69 cards in premier shows, including 33 firsts and both her parents were very successful breeding reds, with her sire being obtained from Colin Carter in 2003, and her dam from Tony Williams. Champion ‘Cilla’ won: BIS RPRA Southern Region, BOS RPRA Southern Region Show, BIS Southern Counties SRS Open Show, BOS Southern Counties SRS Open Show, BIS CHASE Charity Show, BOS CHASE Charity Show, BIS Thame & Oxford Open Show, BIS South Coast Championship Show, BIS Reading ‘Gold Cup’ Show and was five times best red at the Southern Counties SRS Shows. She was bred in 2004 and no longer lay eggs, but has bred many winners, including card winners at the BHW Blackpool Show. What a fantastic hen!
I first met Mike Horner back in November 2006, when he first won Best in Show at the R.P.R.A. Southern Region Show and I was there at the High Wycombe event judging. To say he was overjoyed at his performance would be an under statement. This was his best performance ever with his Show Racers and he was over the moon! His team for the Southern Region Show were exceptionally good that year and in the light of that he fancied his chances. Mike and Theresa Horner won Best in Show (645 birds) with their four year old Mosaic show racer cock, ‘Barny’, and he has plenty of previous good form, having won in the show pen twelve times. He won Class 7. (Coloured Cock or Hen) at High Wycombe and also lifted two trophies, ‘Best Show Racer’ and ‘Best in Show’. He was a brilliant stock cock, breeding many winners including being the sire of ‘Bella’, winner of eight firsts and grand sire of ‘Misty’, winner of Supreme Champion SCSRS Show. A fantastic Show Racer cock!
Mike has been in pigeons, in one form or the other, all his life and is from a racing pigeon family, with his father and grandfathers being pigeon racers. He had racing pigeons up to the late 1970’s and flew in the Godalming & Dist. F.C. (Surrey Federation) with all the old greats of that time including, Stan Edgington, Paul Bridgewater, Alec Martin, Ron & Chris Cox and Eric Cannon. In those days he got lot of help from Pat McFadden, the secretary of the Godalming club at that time and raced the Channing of Wales family of pigeons. Years ago Mikes also kept a few Show Racers obtained from Bill Meader of London. The Horner racing loft had some good success, mostly from the longer channel races, as he flew on the natural system. He started up with the Show Racer properly on marring Theresa in 1980, with birds from Tony Williams, which were reds and mealies, and later some stock from Mr. & Mrs. Colin Carter of Churchdown. Mike’s latest champion, ‘Barny’, was bred from these original bloodlines.
He is a member of the Devon & Cornwall Show Racer Society, the Southern Counties Show Racer Society based at Gravesend and says he never missed a show for years at the Midland Show Racer Society, but it has now mover up to Birmingham and it’s to far to travel. His main show loft is a two section 18ft x 8ft structure, which houses his 32 bird show team and has a thick wood shavings litter on the floor. The few pairs of stock birds he owns are kept in a smaller loft and all are paired up in late January, producing about 30 young birds each season. Mike likes to split the show pairs up again in late May or early in June to get the moult going, ready for the show season the following winter. His nest boxes are removable and are taken out of the loft at the time of the birds being parted and replaced with ‘V’ perches, which the birds sit on through the show season. The birds are fed on a heavy racing mixture called ‘Cranleigh A1’, which he gets from Des McFadden’s ‘Pet’s Pantry’ at Cranleigh and
Mike gives them a conditioner every Sunday morning. Grit and Minerals are in front of the birds all the time. When Mike brings in a new stock bird he looks for a good type and likes a bigger bird in the hand. The birds never fly out and are given a bath at least once a week, with bath being moved from section to section every day. Mike is a busy self employed builder and hasn’t got the time for special preparation on his birds in the week leading up to a big show, but says his system has got a regular routine, which is the same week in and week out. His present day Show Racer family are bred down from the original Tony Williams / Colin Carter pigeons and has added a few blue chequers from Les Petty. Mike and Theresa travel around a lot judging at the National and Society shows every year and he says his wife is very helpful with his hobby. His favourite colours are reds and mealies and Mike told me the competition on the Show Racer scene is getting better every season and it’s getting harder and harder to win. His birds get about 15 shows in a season and Mike maintains the Welsh boys, Ron McCarthy and the late Norman Perry, were the fanciers to beat in the open National shows. Mike told me the fanciers on the Show Racer scene are a smashing bunch of lads and he really enjoys their company!
Some of Mike and Theresa’s best birds are: ‘Princess’ a red hen bred in 2000 and she was one of the top pigeon in the Alton loft winning fourteen firsts in Society shows. Mike says this grand ol’ hen is well past showing now, but has producing some outstanding young birds. ‘Blue Boy’ was a blue cock bred in 2004 and he won eight Society firsts to his credit. ‘Freddie’ a mealy cock also bred in the 2004 season and he had won six firsts in the Show Society events. Another beautiful blue cock that graced the Horner’s loft was ‘Cassius’ and he won twelve firsts in the show pen and two of them at SCSRS Shows.
Every January we all looked forward to the CHASE Charity Show and Auction, held at the Horsham YMCA Football Club and were put on by the Horsham Pigeon Club, under the leadership of Show Secretaries, Gordon and Delia Marsh and in later years, Clive Turner. Mike and Theresa Horner won BIS in the Show Racer classes several times and I can remember one of the wins with their champion red hen, ‘Cilla’, who had at that time previously won BIS at the 2007 RPRA Southern Region Show and then BOS at the 2008 RPRA show. What a fantastic hen, that went on and won everything in front of her after that!
Les Petty & Phillip Crawford of Little Addington.
Lester Petty and Phillip Crawford are one of the leading Show Racer partnerships in the UK in recent years and they set a new record at the 2018 BHW Blackpool Show, by winning six classes in that show. I believe the previous record was held by Doug McClary and he won five classes. One of their best seasons was in 2011 when they won BIS and BOS at the RPRA Southern Region Show and also won BIS at the Dome Show, with a beautiful silver hen which was one of their most successful birds, also winning her class at many shows. Les and Phil ended that season winning class one (old cocks) at the BHW Blackpool Show and in the last seven years they have won class one four times. Last year they broke the record at Blackpool by winning six classes.
I recently met up with Les at the recent RPRA Southern Region Show and he told me, ‘I first met Phil Crawford when we both lived in Aylesbury back in 1998 and I was keen to acquire some show racers, and Colin Hill introduced me to Phillip. At that time Phil was very friendly with the late Paul Rogers and a lot of his birds had come from Paul. Phil gifted me my first show racers and Paul bred me six young birds, one a red hen called ‘600’, because of her ring number, bred me some really successful birds. I showed for a couple of years on my own and won my first class at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2000 with a mosaic cock bought from the sales class at the RP ‘Old Comrades’ show. We formed the partnership in 2002 and not long after that Phil moved to Wales and I moved to Northampton. We thought it would mean we could show in two societies so we joined the Monmouth and also remained members of the Midlands which we have continued to do until this day’.
The 150 mile drive up the M1 motorway to Nottingham in early November, to judge at the National Young Bird Show, started my 2015 judging commitment and I must say, I was looking forward to it very much, after my lay off from judging in 2014. The Rushcliffe Leisure Centre in Nottingham is a brilliant venue to hold a big show like the National Young Bird and this wonderful show has been run by Andy Lowe for about the last 25 years and the 2015 event was sponsored by Howdens and the Roper Store. Andy runs the show, being assisted on the Show Racer side by Les and Sarah Carter, who have been very successful for many years exhibiting the Colin Carter pigeons. The show is run under NPA rules and the entry was down slightly that year as there was another show staged locally, but about 400 birds were entered, which included the usual Racer and Show Racer classes and several fancy Tumbler, Fantail and Roller classes. The Les Petty and Phillip Crawford partnership won ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Best Opposite Sex’ with two wonderful mealies, which very closely related.
Les Petty was born in Greenwich, South London and he tells me his dad was a fancier, racing in the Friendly Homing Society. He had his first small 8ft x 6ft loft, which his dad built, with a small aviary on one end and he was about ten years old at the time. Les said, ‘my first pigeons were two pairs of Sion Mealies from one of my dad’s pals, Tom Sexton and another of dad’s friends, Ray Baker of Eltham, was very successful and taught me a lot about eye-sign. My interest in pigeons only lasted until I was about fourteen when football and girls took over. Years later in 1998 I was settling down and decided to restart and bought a pair of show racers at the Comrade Show, not sure how good they were I asked the opinion of an experience fancier standing by the sale pens. He turned out to be Ralph Howman and his birds form the basis of my red and Mealies today. At the time I was living in Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire and was introduced to Phil Crawford who lived about 10 minutes away, and he also kept show racers. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot about showing and encouraged me to join the Midland S.R.S. He also introduced me to Paul Rogers whose birds featured strongly in Phil’s team and I was given some of those birds whose bloodlines are still present in my team today’. He started showing in 1999 and in 2003 Phillip Crawford and Les decided to from the partnership and were quite successful. In 2005 Phil had to move to Wales and Les moved to Northamptonshire where he is still today and they are members of the Monmouth as well as Midland Show Racer Society. Several years ago Les met Alistair Tankard and on becoming great friend with him, have spent holidays at his house in the Scottish Highlands. Les says he has some of the best blues and blue chequers he has ever seen and Alistair has given Petty & Crawford some superb birds over the years. Two of Les and Phillip’s best Show Racers are: Red Cock GB 08S6522 winner of.1st Yearling Cock Bridlington 2009, Reserve Champion National Winners Show 2010, 1st Old Cocks Blackpool 2011 and Silver Hen GB 09S06208 winner of Best in Show Nation Winner Show 2011.
The partners have two lofts, the first a brick built 18ft x 9ft two sections structure with double glazed and is heated, which houses old and young cocks. Loft number two is made of timber and is 16ft x 8ft, with two sections and this houses their old and young hens. Les and Phillip pair up their 20 pairs of Show Racers in the second week of February each year and they breed about 60 young birds. They clean out twice a day and bath the birds twice a week during the show season, and keep more red and mealy birds than other colours. The partners have a penning room, which is heated and birds are penned the night prior to the show. Les Petty is currently the chairman of the Midland Show Racer Society and they only have about six members who show regularly, but the standard of birds is very good. Les is also a member of the Midland Columbarium Society based in Towcester Northants, where he also shows his German Beauty homers.
Colin Reynolds of Gravesend.
The Show Secretary of the Southern Counties Show Racer Society, Colin Reynolds, has won Best in Show at most of the major shows and he tells me he has a good winning family of blues, which believe it or not, originally started from a pair of blue chequers! He has been Show Secretary for about ten seasons and says he like the standard colours of blue chequer, blue, red chequer and mealy best, although he has several Mosaics in the loft. Colin keeps 20 pairs of Show Racers in his four section ‘L’ Shaped loft and pairs them up after the BHW Blackpool Show in January. The birds are fed on a high protein mixture, which includes Beans and Maple Peas. He has been keeping Show Racers since 2004, when the SCSRS was formed and says the Societies chairman, Jim Trim, was a big help in getting him going. The Reynolds loft has won Best in Show many times through the years, including BIS at the Thame Show in 2010. Colin started in the sport as a ten year old lad, when he got his stock birds by catching ‘roadies’ in old farm buildings near his home in Morpeth, in the North East of England. He has now been in the sport over 60 years and obtained his first racing pigeons in the 1950’s from Clarke Brothers who had won the Combine in long distance races. Colin moved to Gillingham in Kent, in 1971 and enjoyed racing long distance, with the Les Stevens / Fabry pigeons for many years. He raced very successfully with 16 natural pairs, but went completely over to Show Racer in 2004. Colin Reynolds, one of the sports workers and outstanding show men!
Les Carter & son of Birmingham.
This week’s article is a very special one for the Show Racer fraternity and features the outstanding loft of Les Carter senior & son, Les junior, of Kingstanding, near Birmingham. Les Carter senior sadly passed away a few years ago and now Les junior manages and shows the Show Racer team with his wife, Sarah. Les Carter senior first had some tumblers at the age of eight and then graduated to racing pigeons which he raced in Hockley, near Birmingham. Due to moving house the pigeons had to go and he restarted in the early 1980’s, racing in the Pheasey Flying Club along side some ‘household’ name, including Albert Babington. He raced the Wildersmerch and Van De Bosche pigeons and being a heavy feeder had most of his best success from France, although he won the Tamworth Federation from Hullavington in 1996. When he was racing Les liked to compete from 80 miles through to 550 miles. Les junior had a great interest in the pigeons in his teenage years and when he became 21 years old in 1998, he decided to leave his full time job within the jewellery quarter, and set up his own business with his fiancée. This new venture demanded all the hours Les junior could physically manage to get the business up and running, so could not cope with the racing of the pigeons, which included his regular job of giving the birds 60 mile training tosses down the Motorway.
When I asked Les junior how he got into the Show Racer side of the sport he told me, ‘Well I remember in 2000 reading the British Homing World and looking at some Cornish show reports written by Sandra Williams and these featured some stunning photographs of Show Racers, and thought that was for me. This was my new pigeon venture and needed to obtain some Show Racer breeding stock. I remember at that time the Show Racer side of the sport was not that well reported, but whilst looking at the BHW, I noticed that Kevin Hicks of Cornwall was doing very well, so I decided to contact him to obtain some Mosaics which seem to be doing all the winning at that time. The first time I contacted Kevin he came across to me as a genuine man who would do all he could to help a new comer to Show Racers. I arranged to meet him at the Midland Show Racer Society open show in 2001, where he supplied me with a lovely Mosaic cock bird, which carried terrific colour and a suitable Mosaic hen that could be mated to him’.
Les had to find a Show Racer club to compete in, so joined the Midland SR Society and the Nottingham Fancy Pigeon Club, which at that time was organized by Andy Lowe, and about a 50 miles drive from the Carters home. In the early days, Les obtained birds from good fanciers from all over the country, from Cornwall through to Scotland. He obtained a number of birds from Sandra Williams of Cornwall, who was doing well with her Reds and Mealies at that time and after speaking to Sandra, she sent the Carter’s a Red cock and Mealy hen, which was Les’ first major breakthrough. This pair provided them with their first goal, winning a class at the mighty Midland SR Society show in 2002, when everything was being dominated by the two premier show men, Les Petty and Phil Crawford. Les says the feeling of the victory was brilliant and that bird went on to win other top prizes, becoming a consistent card winner. More Show Racers were obtained and his father’s racing pigeons were gradually phased out to make room for the show team. Les junior told me, ‘I can remember at that time my dad saying what have you got these show birds for and didn’t seem interested in them, but as time went on he grew to love them and now is very competitive with them’. In 2004 the father and son partnership purchased birds from Ted Bramley, which originated from Jim Fitzpatrick of Glasgow in Scotland and then some direct from Jim himself, who they say is show man with a big heart and would do anything to help newcomers to the sport. In 2003 Les had the opportunity to meet his now good friend Colin Carter of Gloucester and he also was one of the most consistent show men at the National events every winter, and he sold him a Red cock and Mealy hen, which have proved to be a brilliant stock pair for the Birmingham loft. In 2006 Colin’s pair bred a lovely Mealy cock which has won well in good company and has proved to an exceptional breeder of several premier winners at the Midland SR Society. From 2005 onwards the two Les’ acquired some more quality stock birds from Colin and Jean Carter on several visits to their Cotswold show loft and say they are lovely people and always greet you with a warm welcome.
When I asked Les about one or two of his best Show Racers he said, ‘In 2004 we entered a fair quantity of birds into different shows, including the Midland SR Society events, including our good Mosaic cock, ‘Hicksy’ and he was bred from Kevin Hick’s original pair. He was going into the big open show as a two year old with some good form, having already won at the Midland’s club show and to my surprise ‘Hicksy’ had won his class his class and Best in Show from 523 birds. This champion Mosaic Show Racer won many premier prizes including six first at major shows. Well two very good performances of the 2008 season was at the National Young Bird Show held at Nottingham, with our good Mealy hen, now named ‘The Cotswold Hen, and she won her class, 1st Section and Best in Show with over 400 birds competing. A handsome Red cock, bred by Colin Carter won his class and 1st section at the same show in 2008. Then in December 2008 we entered the Midland SR Society open show and that same Red cock, being shown against some of the best show men in the UK today, won his class and Best in Show (573 birds), and qualified to compete for Supreme Champion of Great Britain at the BHW Blackpool Show. This wonderful young cock is now named after Colin Carter’s loft, ‘The Cotswold Cock’, and finished the 2008 season with four firsts and three times Best in Show. To date he is the best young bird we have had the privilege of owning. In my view my good friend, Colin Carter, has had an exceptional 2008 / 09 show season by breeding three big winners for other fanciers, in the form of ‘The Cotswold Hen’: Best in Show at the National Young Bird Show, ‘The Cotswold Cock’: Best in Show at the Midland SR Society open show and Champion ‘Colin’s Cracker’: Best in Show at the BHW Blackpool Show 2009 for the ‘master’ show man, Ron McCarthy of Wales’.
Until February 2008 all the show birds and stock birds were housed in Les senior’s six section loft, but some have now been moved in to a smart new 20ft x 8ft loft in Les junior’s garden. The loft has a corridor, four spacious sections and is very well ventilated along the roof and floor levels. This enables fresh air to be constantly moved around the sections. The Carter partners do have different views on management of the pigeons, including feeding, supplements and Les senior uses deep litter in his loft and Les junior likes to scrape the floorboards on a daily basis. The Carter partners have about 20 pairs of Show Racers between them and pair up two weeks after the BHW Blackpool Show each year, and breed about 60 young birds for showing. They breed mainly from the stock team, but don’t like to breed to close, with Grandsire to Granddaughter being a favourable mating and the youngsters get lots of pen training at Les senior address. They like the birds to be tame. The partner’s feeding systems differ, but both feed a heavy mixture in the form of Buckton’s ‘High Speed’ which consists of beans, peas and tares. A handful of condition seed is given now and again, and the birds get a bath twice a week during the show season. The bird’s bath is in a small flight which is on wheels and is pushed up to the open windows of the loft for the birds to get access.
Les junior told me, ‘I think the future of the British Show Racer stands in good stead for the future, with competition being very strong and over 2,000 birds aways at our number one show, the BHW Blackpool Show. There is no standard for British Show Racers and I agree with this policy, as I don’t think there is any need for one. All the top judges do a brilliant job and know what to look for in a Show Racer, and obviously there are certain aspects that should always be took into account, including good bars, good tight chequering, good stance, strong head, well balanced in body, silky feathering and lice free. These are all common sense points! I like to see a dark eye on a Show Racer, especially a Red or Mealy pigeon. I would recommend the sport of showing pigeons to any newcomer or ex-racing fancier, as the competition is strong and the social side is brilliant. As regard to who is the top show man in sport, I think there are many good fancier in the UK, but for their vast knowledge within the sport I would include Kevin Hicks, John Robilliard, Jim Fitzpatrick and Ron McCarthy. I admire my good friend, Colin Carter, as one of the premier Show Racer fanciers in the UK at the present time, for his energy for success at all the leading shows whether it be in Scotland or at the other end of the country in Cornwall. Colin certainly gets his birds in the thick of the best competition and enjoys great success with them. I am grateful for all the advice and support I have received from Colin and Jean Carter over the last few years’.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).