“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Steve & Tessa Howard of Guildford.
Congratulations to Steve and Tessa Howard of Guilford for their great performance in the British Barcelona Club Thurso (521 miles) National race on 16th July. It was a good weekend, with the 576 birds entered being liberated at 05.00hrs on the Friday morning. Day pigeon returns were very good, with 25 game pigeons being clocked on the day of liberation. Steve sent three birds and clocked all three to record: 1st, 2nd, 4th section G, 38th, 54th, 82nd open National. There was only four pigeons clocked in race time in section G and Steve clocked three of them down in Surrey. His first pigeon on the clock to win the section was his natural mealy cock, ‘Heinz’ and he was bred by Steve’s good friend, Peter Taylor, who lives in Pembrokeshire in Wales.
The cock was sent driving his hen to nest and on his build up to the Thurso race he had two north road races with the Godalming club, and then was sent to the BBC Berwick which took him several days to get home from. His basic breeding is Ponderosa Muller / Aarden with a sprint cross in him. Most of his breeding is around ‘Ponderosa Tony’ and ‘Ponderosa Prince’, a pair of Muller / Aarden stock birds that Tony Hayne and Mary Bartlett gifted to me several years go. They were bred around Champion ‘Red Rising Sun’, the winner of 1st open National Dax (6,397 birds) and 39th open International Bergerac (20,643 birds). The Ponderosa stock was second to none and when I was gifted ‘Tony’ and ‘Princess’ by the stud, I had the pick from about 120 premier sale birds. Well done to Steve and Tessa on a brilliant performance from the BBC Thurso National!
Steve and Tessa are always a formidable racing partnership to look out for in the National results from the France races, especially when the going gets tough! The Guildford partnership sent four birds to the British International Championship Club race from Poitiers (336 miles), which turned out to be an extremely hard race, with only a few gallant pigeons being clock on the day of liberation. Our good friends, Steve and Tessa clocked two of their four entries on the day, to record 2nd, 14th section, 2nd, 33rd open, with 1,807 birds competing. Steve rang me after the event to tell me the good news and Betty and I were highly delighted! The 2nd section, 2nd open BICC Poitiers winner is their good two year old latebred blue hen, ‘Tessa’s Girl’, which was one of three hens that were paired together and sitting six eggs. She is a daughter of Steve’s good Barcelona hen, ‘Tessa’, when mated to a blue cock of the very best Eric Cannon bloodlines that he purchased from Mick Parish of Essex. Steve’s best two racers in recent times are both natural hens and both are very special winning several premier positions from the long distance. ‘Tessa’ is a 2012 bred blue hen and she flew Barcelona twice and has won: 2015: 15th section, 45th open BICC Barcelona (690 miles), 2016: 14th section, 37th open BICC Alencon, plus other positions.
This wonderful little hen was bred by the Godalming ‘ace’ Ray Hammond. The other hen is a 2013 bred blue pied named ‘Gee’ and she is a Cannon / Newman cross, with her dam being a full sister to ‘Scot’s Boy’, Steve’s Bordeaux Combine winner. This little hen is Steve’s favourite and has won: 2014: 6th open Amalgamation Bergerac (450 miles). This race was a ‘smash’, with only about four or five birds clocked on the day of liberation in the Amalgamation, and she was clocked early next morning, returning to the loft badly injured. ‘Gee’ is the dam of ‘Gee Force’, the second bird on the clock from the 2018 BICC Poitiers National too win 33rd open. The sire of ‘Gee Force’ is another Eric Cannon pigeon bred by Keith and Betty Mott.
I have a constant stream of visitors to my pigeon loft, 12 months of the year, but a fancier who comes up the A3 to my home in Claygate regularly is my good friend, Steve Howard of Guildford. The first time Steve came to my home about 25 years ago was when he had won the SMT Combine from Bordeaux with his good cock; ‘Scot’s Boy’ and we were sorting out an article. He moved down to Cornwall for several years and is now back living in Guildford racing pigeons with his partner, Tessa. Like me, Steve is a long distance enthusiast and is always keen to look at my Eric Cannon and Brian Denney stock birds and racers. Being a Guildford man and friend of my ol’ mucker, Peter Taylor, they came up to Claygate together for the loft visit. Steve is a really nice man and being an acquaintance of the late great Eric Cannon, has a good knowledge of long distance racing. We have a good couple of hour on his visits and enjoy some good pigeon ‘banter’ with our cup of tea!
Casting my mind back 25 years, I remember I made the 20-mile drive to Guildford to visit Steve Howard, who had just had a golden two weeks racing his team of natural pigeons. From the London & South East Classic Club's Yearling Nantes Derby, he clocked a Bill Johnson Busschaert blue cock, which was especially paired for the race after being spare all season, to record 2nd open (1,443 birds). Two weeks later he clocked his good yearling blue chequer cock ‘Scott's Boy’, on the day from Bordeaux, 436 miles, to win 1st open SMT Combine (2,143 birds). This game cock was unpaired, flying to his nest box, and was 10 hours 4 minutes on the wing to top the Combine. All Steve's yearling cocks were unpaired because, at the start of the season, he had eleven hens and one cock killed by sparrow hawks. ‘Scott's Boy’ was bred out of an Eric & Pat Cannon of Godalming cock and a hen obtained from Mr & Mrs Newman of Petersfield. As a young bird he was very consistent, being raced to the perch and on his build up to Bordeaux, had several inland races and the L&SECC Yearling Nantes Derby.
Steve started up 40 years ago with ten pairs obtained from his friend and his father, Don and Richard Nicholas, who were good fanciers in the Guildford area many years ago. He likes races from 250 miles, through to 500 miles, and has won many premier prizes in the N.F.C. through the years, including 24th open Pau with only one pigeon sent. At that time he raced 15 pairs natural, because he said it's the best system for the long distance. He tried the widowhood system for one season and won five firsts in the sprints but could not get them from the long-distance races. He paired up the second week in March then gives them three 50-mile training tosses and a few club inland races to get them fit for the early Channel events. He liked the old birds to fly from Pau but preferred yearlings for the 450 mile stage, with hens sitting ready to hatch and cocks driving to nest. He hopper fed a good mixture of beans, peas and maize, with a little barley added in the winter months. Steve had three lofts, the main one being 16ft long, three sections with sputnik trapping. The other small lofts contained the young birds and seven pairs of stock birds. Steve only cleaned the lofts out once a year, as he maintained too much scraper upsets the inmates and he liked the dryness of the un-cleaned loft. I must say his pigeons really did look well!
Steve’s best pigeon was his champion blue pied cock, ‘Blue Jean’ and he was a Dordin / Barker cross. Steve tells me, he was a brilliant channel racer and the harder the race, the better he came! This game cock won: 1st club Marmande, 1st club Bergerac, 1st club Bordeaux, recording top positions in the Federation and Combine in all three races, he flew and scored in the NFC Pau National five times, recording 24th open NFC Pau as an eight year old and won 112th open NFC Bordeaux. A fantastic racing record! ‘Blue Jean’ was also a good breeder and when mated to his hen, ‘Victory Girl’, produced several top racers, including: 42nd open NFC Pau and 100th open BBC Rennes. At that time of my loft visit Steve Howard had a really bad hawk problem, living as they did on a hill near woodland, but he said he lost a lot of his pigeons to crows. The main families raced then were Eric & Pat Cannon and Mr & Mrs Newman, and the two long-distance families crossed very successfully. One of the main stock hens was a two year old and on the road she won 4th open L&SECC Angers Yearling Derby. Steve had a type in mind when picking out stock birds but said at the time winning long distance lines are very important.
Steve’s present racing loft in Guildford is a smart 18ft x 6ft structure and he maintains good air flow is the most important thing in good loft design. He uses a deep litter on the loft floor and finds it keep the loft dry, and the inmates like it. He races on the natural system with long distance racing in mind and pairs up the first week in March. The 15 pairs of old bird racers are trained twice a week off the south coast in preparation for racing and they are fed a very heavy mixture, with the view of racing through to Barcelona. Steve only keeps three pairs of stock birds and these are mated up the same time as the racers in March. When he brings in a new stock pigeon, he is not that bothered by type, but always looks at performance. He has one outstanding stock pair that are breeding excellent 450 mile racers for him every season. On the main his race team is bred around Mr. & Mrs. Newman of Petersfield and Eric & Pat Cannon of Wormley pigeons, with recent introductions of Eric Fox, Ray Hammond and Keith & Betty Mott pigeons. Steve is a small team man and only races 12 young birds, and these are trained up to 40 miles before the first Federation race. He tells me, his young birds do not go on the darkness system, but if he was interested in young bird racing and wanted to compete, he would defiantly put them on the system. He races in the Godalming pigeon club (Solent Federation) and his youngsters race most weeks to educate them.
His advice to new starter in the sport is to approach a good fancy, by some stock him and ask how he races them. Don’t over crowd the loft, as that is a big mistake he made when he started up! He thinks Ray Hammond is the best local fancier, with Mick Tuck close up behind and says their performances from the long distance are second to none. Steve is a retired Taxi driver and his wife, Tessa, is a great help with the management of the pigeons. She is full on and even helps with the training of the birds. Although the birds get tosses off the south coast, they get a lot on inland racing to get them ‘match’ fit, with long distance racing in mind. The Howard loft has put many outstanding performances over the years, but Steve tells me his biggest thrills was clocking his good blue pied cock, ‘Blue Jean’, as an eight year old to win 24th open NFC Pau and clocking birds in from 700 miles races. He maintains the sport has slipped back in the last 20 years and we need to get younger people in the pigeon fancy. Steve also thinks a law should be introduced to allow farmers to cull birds of prey.