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The Backyard Marathon Challenge Part 4




by John Ghent

So the time finally came for me to meet Nic Harvey and learn the tricks of the trade and his Barcelona "system". Well... in all honesty, it is all very straightforward. Nic will not mind me saying that either. The birds that I handled that tackled the Barcelona to Taunton challenge were bigger than I expected, in comparison to everything that you read, and this did surprise me.

Trying to learn to get away from what me and Nic call "racing them on the tin" is very difficult. Having grown up on the North Road where it is train, trap, feed on a daily basis and routine is King, to be thrust into a world of relaxed regime, no fixed feed amounts, and just keeping the birds happy, is very much a culture shock. But how can I argue? After handling birds that had finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 9th Section and meeting a man who had 4 birds home in race time, only equalled by a man they call Gilbert over in Winkfield, it shows the "system" certainly works!

Intuition plays a massive part in what Nic and Jim Emerton do on a daily basis. For example the feeding, exercise, daily management is all about Nic as a stockman, knowing his birds inside out and making sure they are right. Couple that with the intuition of Jim, knowing that the yearlings would be right for Bordeaux/Agen International at over 500 miles despite having never seen the birds and living some 6/7 hours away and the relationship dovetails perfectly!

The testing of the birds is imperative. All year round top quality care and allowing the birds to discover the elements for themselves is the whole "system" in a nutshell. Having had all the theory I needed from "the Boss" as I now call Jim, which has been amazing, to finally see it all in the flesh and know that it works if you have the right birds has really put the final piece of the jigsaw together for me.

I've nearly completed the aviary joining the 2 lofts together and that will make the daily management a lot easier, which is what I am striving for as the stock birds are at my grandparents and I will be making daily 9 mile round trips once the breeding season is here to take the pressure off my grandma, who I want to say a huge thank you to for everything she does for me. I reluctantly sent a text message this morning asking if she would kindly check to make sure the water had not frozen; she tells me she went down with hammer in hand but the water was fine!

Barcelona sometimes seems a million miles away (790 miles actually) and other times I feel like I can reach out and touch it. The off season is motoring on and I am very excited about a meeting on the 12th December which is going to explore the options that we have available to us to increase the interest in National racing into the Midlands (see the notice on the Elimar home page). Blackpool is around the corner and before I know it we are going to be in the thick of racing again. Every day that goes by brings me closer to the dream that I have had of turning up at the marking station for the birds to go in the basket for you know where...

Thanks again. All news, views and questions to me as usual. Anyone wanting more information about the meeting we have, do not hesitate to get in touch.

John Ghent


83, Newport Street



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