“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Three Borders Federation (Falaise (2) Race).
Russell Ayres of Ash enjoyed a good race from Falaise in France, when won the Three Borders Federation by 20 ypm. Both Russell and Steve Appleby race in the Guilford club and live next door to each other, with their lofts being side by side with only the garden fence separating them. Russell told me they have some great friendly pigeon ‘banter’ over the fence on a Saturday afternoon while waiting for the race birds. The week before Russell top the Federation from Falaise, Steve won 1st Three Borders Federation from Kingsdown and I wonder what was said over the fence on those two races! To complete three weeks of brilliant pigeon flying by Guildford club members; Colin Puddicombe recorded 2nd, 3rd Three Borders Federation Kingsdown, the weekend after Russell’s Falaise Federation win. Three great performances by Guildford members! After the race Russell brought his Federation winner up to my home in Claygate to get his photo taken and he came in the company of another premier Guildford fancier, Peter Sharman. Peter has been to my house several times before, being a great pigeon racer and world class Carp angler. It was a great pleasure to meet up with the two lads on the day!
The first ten in the Falaise Federation result were: 1) Russell Ayres 1376: 2) Paul Johnson & Partner 1356: 3) David Watson & son 1341: 4) M. Dmitruk 1292: 5) David Watson & son 1292: 6) Paul Johnson & Partner 1292: 7) M. Dmitruk 1289: 8) Freddie Ditch 1283: 9) Koritsas & Kas 1278: 10) T. McCoy & son1272. The 463 birds were liberated at 07.15hrs into a no wind situation.
Russell Ayres’ Falaise Federation winner was his good yearling mealy cock, ‘Vale Racket’ and he was sent to the race driving his hen to nest, after being first bird to the loft the previous weekend from Kingsdown. Talking over the garden fence, Russell and Steve estimated the Falaise birds would take just under four hours to get home and Russell told me on his visit to Claygate, ‘I was sitting on deck chair, contemplating making a cup of tea before the birds arrived and on looking due south, I noticed a bird way up high in the sky racing hard. He got above my house and went into a steep dive, and then did a half turn and shot across the ETS pad. I’ve never seen a pigeon drop like that before in my life and wasn’t expecting an arrival in three and a half hours! I had to wait just over half an hour for my second bird, a yearling Jan Aarden, which recorded 2nd club. I really enjoyed that race’. ‘Vale Raket’ is a son of Russell’s good Hollywood Janssen red cock, ‘Trebble Free’. This wonderful red cock is getting on in years now, but in his day won three firsts racing and has bred many premier winners including: ‘Vale Raket’ and ‘Ariel’. ‘Trebble Free’ is Arron’s favourite pigeon and is full brother to the outstanding racing hen, ‘The 23 Hen’, the winner of: 22nd open L&SECC Guernsey, 23rd open L&SECC Tours, 161st open L&SECC Guernsey, lifting the ‘John O’Connor Trophy’, plus 1st club, 18th Federation Yeovil. Other premier racers in the Ayres loft today are: ‘Ariel’: this mealy hen is sister to ‘Vale Raket’ and won: 2016: 1st section, 9th open BICC Falaise Young Bird National: ‘The Fed Hen’: 1st club, 1st Three Border Federation Yeovil, 1st club, 25th Three Borders Federation Wadebridge, 1st Guildford Breeder / Buyer: ‘Lucky Lad’: 1st club, 4th Federation, 5th Combine Fougeres, 2nd club, 6th Federation, 6th Combine Vire, 3rd club, 10th Federation, 18th Combine Alencon and is the sire of winners.
Russell races his old birds on the roundabout system, because, he maintains he wasted too many good hen when he raced only cocks on the widowhood system, and feeds all ‘Country Wide’ and GEM mixtures, backed up with De Weerd and GEM supplements. The bird’s droppings are tested three times a year and ‘Gemthepax’ is used all the year around. Russell has a young family, with his two sons, Adam aged fifteen, and Aaron aged nearly twelve, so he only has a limited time with his pigeons and only now concentrates on races from over the English Channel. His good lady, Vicki, is a great help with the pigeon management, as Russell works long hours at his job at a firm that manufacture compute printers. His loft is 24ft long with four sections, both stall traps for the young birds and open door trapping for the old birds, an offset pan tile apex roof and the young bird section has a wire flight. The 12 pairs of stock birds are housed in a 7ft x 8ft loft, which also has a wire flight. He breeds 40 youngsters to race on the ‘dark’ system each season and he likes to get them paired up and sitting on eggs for the young bird National and Classic races. The Ayres young bird team are worked hard during the racing season and are given as many 40 mile training tosses as Russell can find time for. He told me he really enjoys young bird racing and his biggest thrill was when he won 4th section E, 4th open NFC Guernsey (6873 birds) in 2002 when he flew in partnership with John Eastwood. They won it with their good blue hen, ‘The National Hen’ and she was bred by Brian Keegan of Sandhurst. This great hen was put in the stock loft to breed some outstanding racers and her dam won 1st open CSCFC Sennon Cove for the Keegan loft in 2001.
Russell was born in Reading and is from a big pigeon racing family, with both his father and grand father being life time fanciers. His grand father was Ray Ayres of Thorpe and he was an outstanding pigeon racer, winning on the north and south roads, from 80 miles right through to 500 miles. Russell says pigeon racing is in his blood and his earliest memory was, as a two year old sitting in the loft shaking the corn tin! His father, Ray Ayres, was also a great fancier all his life, before sadly passing away in 1999. Ray raced in Wokingham before moving to Ash Vale in 1975 and flew in partnership with the young Russell. Their first stock birds were Ray Ayres’ Bricoux-Sion, Maurice Veheyes and Janssen Brothers, which all raced really well. The Ayres partnership won their fair share of prizes in the club and Federation, but their best position was 6th section E, 27th open NFC Pau in 1985. Russell has always been a 100% pigeon man, but when he was young he played a lot of Football and was a good Angler, with his best fish being a 20lb 3oz Common Carp. After his dad’s death, Russell entered a very successful partnership with John Eastwood in 1999 and after a short break from the sport started on his own at his new address in Ash, in 2006.
When Russell and his then fiancée, Vicki, mover into their house in Ash their next door neighbour was the pigeon fancier and then L&SECC race advisor, Steve Appleby, and on watching Steve’s birds exercising over the fence, he was bitten by the pigeon bug again. At that time John Eastwood was reducing his stock loft, so Russell obtain three birds from him and all three originally came from Brian Keegan of Sandhurst. The three stock birds have bred winners and are all down from the same lines, out off ‘Hollywood Rafa’, winner of 3rd open CSCFC. Russell told me that Brian and Sharron Keegan have become very good friends over the years and they have let him have the very best of their Janssen based family. His stock loft is based on ‘The Derby Cock’, the old Gust Hofkens pigeons and the Camphuis lines of ‘Red Caesar’ and ‘Red Dancer’. Russell maintains that ‘The Derby Cock’ is the ‘ace’ breeder and is sire and grand sire too many premier prize winners in the National and Classic.
Russell has twelve pairs of stock birds and mates them all up in at the beginning of January. He says a lot of the birds in the stock loft are Janssen based, in fact a lot of the stock birds came through Brian Keegan’s loft and he is always looking to improve his bloodlines. Russell and Brian Keegan visited a great fancier in Belgium named Frans Verheyen and he races the Hofkens strain of pigeons. Frans has been winning 20 plus first prizes ever season for the last 40 years, with the same Hofkens pigeons and has had many Olympiad pigeons. Brian introduced these pigeons into the UK and the fanciers who have raced these birds have won top National and Classic positions with them. Some years ago, Russell purchased two direct from Frans and both of them bred winners at his loft in Ash. Russell has a few Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons obtained from the late, David May and his wife Christine. In recent times the Ayres loft has introduced some Jan Aarden based pigeons for the long distance racing and some De Rauw Sablons for the shorter races from France.
The breeding loft in the Ayres’ garden is not based on the eye sign theory, as Russell is not a believer, but he like his pigeons to have some depth in their eye. He told me an eyesign judge graded two of his Bricoux pigeons back in the late 1980’s and stated the cock would win from up to 500 miles and other, a hen, would be lucky to make it home from 100 miles. In reality the cock was a duffer and the hen went on to win 27th open NFC Pau (550 miles) and bred several winners up to Niort (380 miles). Russell never shows his birds in the winter months and says it is their rest period and should be left in the loft. He maintains the moult period is probably the most important time of the year and if the birds don’t have a good moult the fancier will not get the best from them the following season, breeding or racing. He parts all his birds as soon as the last young bird race is completed and gives them a good quality moult mixture, plenty of rest, with very little exercise around the loft and baths with added salts. He normally produces a couple of pairs of late breds from his best birds for stock purposes, but these are never later than June bred. Russell hates ‘wildman’ pigeons in his loft and says they never last long, because they just up set the other birds. They don’t have to be tame, just under control!
Russell says, his friend Brian Keegan of College Town, Sandhurst is the top fancier in his area and has won it all over many years in the sport including: 1st open NIPA (23,000 birds) and five times 1st open Classic. A great fancier! Russell has no offices in the sport as he can’t attend the local club every weekend, because of his work and most of the time he wants to concentrate on National and Classic racing. He told me he doesn’t understand the anti ETS mob! With his work commitments increasing, he has have to have the trapping system and thinks it is a great invention and the way forward for the sport. He believes the clocking system is better for the pigeons, they will not being grabbed by a big pair of sweaty hand after a hard fly home and not have a rubber ring ripped off their leg and then dropped on the loft floor. He maintains the ETS is no quicker clocking than with a T3 clock and stall trap when used properly.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).