“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Three Borders Federation (Yeovil Race)
The Three Border Federation were at Yeovil for the second young bird race and for the second week on the trot the birdage was low because of poor weather forecasts for that weekend. Once again the convoying crew played it ‘smart’ and liberated at 06.45hrs into a south west wind situation to beat the weather and produced an excellent race. The father and son partnership of Eustace and Koby Benjamin of the Richmond club had been ‘knocking on the door’ for several weeks and finally hit the top spot by recording: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 25th Federation from Yeovil. Their young birds were on ‘fire’, winning 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 18th, 20th, 24th Federation Blandford the weekend previous. Brilliant pigeon racing!
The first ten in the Yeovil Federation result were: 1) Eustace & Koby Benjamin 1266: 2) Eustace & Koby Benjamin 1266: 3) Eustace & Koby Benjamin 1266: 4) Eustace & Koby Benjamin 1265: 5) A. Gamblin 1265: 6) A. Gamblin 1263: 7) Freddie Ditch 1263: 8) Eustace & Koby Benjamin 1263: 9) M. Wojtczyk 1261: 10) M. Wojtczyk 1261.
Eustace was born in Trinidad and both his father and cousins were pigeon fanciers. When I asked him how he started up in the sport, he told me, ‘I played most ball sports when I was young and was a junior athlete, competing in many junior championships. I became a pigeon fancier at the age of six and was led to take up the hobby because I have been around the birds ever since I born and have aways had a love for pigeons. I can remember, I was so attached to my birds that as a young lad I took my first youngster to school with me every day! I obtained my first real racing pigeons at the age of twelve, when my dad migrated and left me in charge of his entire stock. In the early years I admired some of my dad’s friends, who were all good fanciers and flew races between Caribbean Islands with great success. When I migrated to join my dad in the UK, I remember reading the ‘Racing Pigeon’ paper which was regularly on our dining room table and admired great fanciers, like Alf Baker and Vic Johnson. I was in the sport for many years and after a break, I restarted again in 2009’. In Eustace’s early days in the sport he was young and in partnership with his dad, who he gave a lot of support and help.
The Richmond partnership enjoyed a wonderful 2019 season racing in the Three Borders Federation. They were in top form the start to the end of the season, winning: 2nd, 15th, 16th, 17th Federation Newton Abbot, 20th, 21st Federation Kingsdown, 20th, 21st Federation Blandford, 5th, 11th Federation Yeovil, 8th, 9th Federation Blandford, 3rd Federation Yeovil, 8th Federation Truro, 21st Federation Kingsdown, 5th, 6th, 7th, 18th, 19th Federation Honiton, 11th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 21st, 22nd Federation Blandford, plus several other firsts won in Richmond club. Eustace and Koby also had a wonderful 2018 season, but really hit top form from the third young bird race, flown from Blandford. The partners had five youngsters come together and they all went over the ETS in under 20 seconds to record 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th Federation. A brilliant performance! The first two birds recorded were only a second apart on the ETS and the Federation winner was the Gaby Vandenabeele blue chequer hen, ‘Miss T’, and she was raced to the perch. Four weeks after her Federation win from Blandford this brilliant youngster step up again to win 1st club, 4th Federation Newton Abbot. What a great hen! The second bird on the ETS from Blandford was another Vandenabeele hen named, ‘Easy Go’ and two weeks after this race she came again to win 1st club, 24th Federation Kingsdown (656 birds). Eustace and Koby finished off the 2018 racing season in great style by winning the longest young bird race from Yelverton. The last Federation winner of the season was the partnership’s game Vandenabeele, ‘23857’ and she had previously recorded 7th Federation Newton Abbot the weekend before. Eustace and Koby won 13 firsts in the Richmond club in 2018, including all seven of the young bird events. Eustace and Koby have won in the Three Borders Federation in the 2018 racing season: (OB) 8th Federation Falaise, 13th Federation Kingsdown, 8th Federation Honiton, 4th Federation Kingsdown, 15th Federation Exeter, 24th Federation Yelverton: (YB) 3rd, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th Federation Blandford, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th Federation Blandford, 17th Federation Yeovil, 24th, 25th Federation Kingsdown, 21st, 22nd, 25th Federation Yeovil, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 23rd, 24th Federation Newton Abbot, 1st, 21st, 22nd Federation Yelverton. Great pigeon racing!
Eustace races in the Richmond SR Flying Club (Three Borders Federation) and raced the Busschaert and Janssen pigeons for many years, but now races the Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons with outstanding success. He told me, in the early days he made to many mistakes to mention, but the main thing to learn is to keep pigeons healthy. The fancier must recognise illness early and deal with it and get into good habits to maintain fitness and conditioning. Eustace has several lofts, with 8ft for the stock birds, 10ft for young birds and an 18ft loft with two compartments for the old bird racers. He maintains the most important factor in good loft design is: it must be easy to keep clean and have good air flow. He says it should have the ability to be secure against bad weather and vermin. He likes to clean off the bloom from all surfaces regularly and has tried ‘deep litter’ on the loft floors, but didn’t like it. The lofts are now fitted with floor grills and Eustace inspect the dropping under them every morning, to monitor any problems with the inmates. He says the indication of the flock’s good health is on the loft floor.
The loft houses lots of race winners, but the best in recent times are: ‘Lady’, a beautiful Vandenabeele blue hen that now resides in the stock loft and her racing performance is: 1st Federation Exeter (1,338 birds), 6th Federation Yelverton (851 birds), 15th Federation Newton Abbot (1,145 birds), 19th Federation Yelverton (887 birds). ‘Rosetta’, another Vandenabeele blue hen and she recorded 2nd Federation Exeter (712 birds), beaten by a loft mate, which was killed by a Sparrowhawk soon after the race. ‘Miss T’, the star of the 2018 racing season winning as a young bird: 1st club, 1st Federation Blandford, 1st club, 4th Federation Newton Abbot. ‘Easy Go’, another outstanding 2018 young bird and winner of: 2nd club, 2nd Federation Blandford, being beaten by ‘Miss T’, 1st club, 24th Federation Kingsdown. ‘23857’ was the winner of 1st Federation Yelverton (365 birds), 7th Federation Newton Abbot (379 birds) as a young bird in the 2018 racing season.
Eustace basically races cocks and some hens on the widowhood system, but is flexible and if necessary he will change in the racing season to one section on natural and the other one on round about. The Benjamin family go away for a winter break and Eustace pairs his 25 pairs of old birds up on their return and he says this sometimes doesn’t make for a successful start in the early racing season. The old birds get as much training as he can give them before racing starts and then they get a half hour plus exercise around the loft twice a day during the racing season. The racers are broken down if required, but not as a rule and the hens are only shown to the racing cocks on marking evening if he thinks they need it. Eustace is very flexible with his pigeon management and basis what he does on obviation. He treat pigeons as individuals and some need to see their mate before going to marking and some don’t, but all stay with their mates on return from the race until Eustace returns from clock checking at the club. He told me he prefers pigeons to be on the natural system for long distance races or for more than two nights in the basket and his favourite condition for the long distance races is a bird sitting due to hatch. The feeding system is very uncomplicated with tic beans being the winter feed, the young birds get a ‘no maize’ mixture up to their first race, then maize is added and the old birds, stock and racers are fed on a ‘no maize’ mixture. The old bird racers are fed on the cheapest widowhood mixture, with added seed and grain as required.
The main family kept is Gaby Vandenabeele and the eight pairs of stock birds are paired up in February if the Benjamin family are back from their winter holiday in the sun. Eustace’s best breeders are ‘Nearly Noon’ and ‘Son of Pearl’ and they are from the ‘Golden Gaby’, ‘Lady Bond’, ‘Band of Gold’ and ‘Benetton’ bloodlines. When obtaining new breeders, Eustace goes for good winning bloodline which will enhance his stock team and not type. He takes an interest in the eye sign theory and says, I try to broaden my knowledge and hopefully I may short circuit to my process of picking a world class breeder. Eustace believes in a degree of inbreeding with his birds, but many of his pigeons are line bred and then crossed. The origin of the present team is from George Slaven of ‘Glenview Lofts’ in Scotland. Eustace breeds 30 young birds every season, but also obtains some youngster off George Slaven, plus four babies from his good friend, Paul Faulkner in Leeds. The youngsters are race to the perch and they are not encouraged to pair up, although the sexes are not separated. The young birds start training at about ten weeks old and their first toss is from 20 miles. Three weeks before the first race their first training toss is on a Monday morning, as Eustace says everyone is at work and the sky is clear of other fancier’s trainers. The toss distance is increased by about 12 miles every Monday and finish up at about 45 miles before the first race. Because of the position of the young bird loft in the babies are naturally on ‘dark’ at about 07.00hrs and they are only raced inland, although the 2018 saw Eustace send a few birds to the BICC young bird Guernsey race, with good success. He trains all his babies to be tame and calm, so working with them is easy. He is not sure if this enhances good performance, but hate mad pigeons! The young birds are weaned in race crates so they lean to drink through the bars.
The Benjamin family are all very interested in the pigeons, with Eustace’s son, Koby, being his pigeon partner and the grandchildren naming the pigeons. When I asked Eustace what his most thrilling experience was with his racing pigeons, he said, ‘every race, Keith! I just love watching the birds coming in from the races’. He has never held an office in a pigeon club and says he likes the quite life, and keeps away from pigeon politics. He advises novice entering the sport, when they are in the presence of a top fancier listen and learn and he rates Ron Foster the best fancier in his area, because he has won everything in his time. He maintains the moult is a special time of the year in a pigeon’s life, so importance must be attached to nutrition and all his birds are separated in the winter months to ensure a good moult.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).