John & Jason Groom, 6 RPRA Sprint/Middle Distance Awards
By Martin sheppard
Enzo Ferrari created a timeless masterpiece within the automobile industry, his legacy has left a vacuum of perfection never to be equalled.
Ferrari created from his total self-belief, dreams and vision, a brand that will last forever more, also coming from the humblest of backgrounds to becoming the greatest innovator of excellence we have ever witnessed. Every aspect of the Ferrari phenomenon would be created from one simple thought within one man’s mind, to eventually go on to generate wealth through innovation and monitory unparalleled across the globe. Within every corner of our World, we see perfection created from various individuals, champions of their chosen path who set the benchmarks for the rest of us to aspire. John & Jason sit comfortably within this Dynasty.
John & Jason along with a chosen few, have made pigeon racing an art form, visionary’s, with foresight and a longing for perfection.
Having a simple conversation with Jason, who’s very unassuming, is like listening to a scientist, his attention to detail, is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed throughout my life within pigeon racing, his knowledge of the sport is immense, he remembers ring numbers, races, parentage of pigeons from years ago, as though it were only yesterday, his mind quietly ultra-effectively working on the intricacy’s that help keep this partnership at the top of a what has to be one the most competitive in Great Britain.
Jason has perfected the breeding side of the partnership, crafting this wonderful strain of pigeons, cultivating the threads of strength through this wonderful family of pigeons.
John like Jason, constantly looking for that minutest of things, to give them those vital few extra yards on race days. John looks after the racing side of the partnership, from day break till nightfall, cleaning out, basketing, building new sections, loft improvements and watching the pigeons with the keenest of eyes, never leaving anything to chance. His appetite for knowledge is again unsurpassed, he works tirelessly with their pigeons.
Bill Lees with John & Jason Groom
The start of this ultra-successful partnership, began with one pair of pigeons, back in 1993, when John bought the “Broken Keeled Cock” a 1986 pigeon from local fancier Ken Berry, this cock had already bred winners for Ken and others. This cock being a Wildersmerch, all down from the original champions, John then obtained a top breeding hen direct from the “Fielder” to pair to the “Broken Keeled Cock”.
1994 the following year, John & Jason’s new pair of pigeons bred a pigeon to win the immense Van Robaeys Gold Ring race, arguably, the greatest race in UK pigeon racing history. They decided to pair the “Broken Keeled Cock” to another hen, a daughter of the “Fielder” (Wildersmerch) which bred John & Jason’s first Worcester Federation winner.
During 1994, with the taste of success, the partnership decided to approach another great fancier, Brian Ferris of Bristol, to try to improve on their performances, Brian who had bought in the new sprint sensations of Van Den Bosch, which were breaking all sprint records within the Midlands, by the legendary Albert Babington. The Jos Van Den Bosch pigeons go back to the 1940/50’s, when two principle birds were to create a dynasty of thoroughbred racing pigeons, “Vurige Van 58” x “Princess of 56” this pairing would be grandparents to both Janssen Brothers & Meulemans champion “Merckx”. Jason explained, he’s traced his bird’s parentage right back to these pigeons. Like most strains today, they all originate through the likes of the champions mentioned. Jos Van Den Bosch birds would help create champions the like we will never see again in Belgium, Huyskens Van Riel, Adriaan Wouters, Karel Meulemans and the World famous Janssen brothers.
Again, these giants of our sport, started with exceptional individual seeds of quality, just as John & Jason, and other champions of today and yesteryear.
John & Jason would purchase 6 Van Den Bosch youngsters from Brian, the six youngsters were raced, with only two of them taking minor cards, but like most top stock men, Jason & John saw something in these pigeons, so they decided to bring in some other pigeons to cross into the them. John then approached Glyn Phillips another well-known top fancier, to see if he would lend him a Van Den Bosch hen, to pair to one of the young cocks they’d raced. Glyn Phillips had the best of Ernie Williams Van Den Bosch pigeons at the time, all going back to the originals, along with Babington blood. The young cock picked to pair to the hen of Glyn’s ended up being ace breeder the “Premier Producer”
The year is now 1995 and John & Jason’s pairing of the young Brian Ferris cock, “Premier Producer”, to the hen, they had on loan from Glyn. Unsuspectingly this pair would prove to be one of partnerships greatest individual moves, “Champion 008” would be bought into the world by this hand-crafted pair of pigeons.
John & Jason like many other champion fanciers, will see something within a pigeon, before they’ve even bred or raced it. Staf Van Reet springs to mind, along with the obvious fancier’s choice of the Janssen Brothers, they seem to a have a extrasensory perception, most ultra-successful individuals have this in abundance, as I pointed out with Enzo.
I once had a night out in Blackpool with another champion fancier Kevin Brecon (Locker & Brecon) he explained, that too be at the pinnacle of our sport, or any sport, or business, every tiny piece of the huge jigsaw, has to be perfectly in place. Every single piece representing a tiny part of what makes and keeps fanciers like John & Jason at the top for so many years, the most difficult, is getting those pieces to fit perfectly.
What is prevalent amongst all the champions I’ve had conversations with, has been the overwhelming common denominator with them all, outstanding thoroughbred racing machines.
1995 saw the young “008” only having one first along with a few minor prizes. “008” had two brothers who raced the programme they would also have minor prizes, but something told the partnership, these were going to be great pigeons.
1996 would prove to be completely different, John & Jason’s skill and patience now would suffice, the foresight and vision, were coming to fruition, this year would see the partnership have one of their all-time great years, scoring 24 x 1sts with “008” having 7 of them while his brothers having 6 x 1sts between them, the brothers having 11 x 1sts between them over their racing life. John explained, it didn’t matter what the wind, whatever the conditions, “008” would come bang on line, direct over the same tree, week in week out, racing from the transporter, racing his heart out, until he hit the board, skidding through the bob wires.
The results of “008’s” first years racing as a yearling would win the 100-250-mile class, winning John & Jason their first RPRA sprint award. During that year, “Old Tom” topped the Worcester federation from Nantes, he scored on every channel race, a truly great channel cock, bred down from John’s original Wildersmerch from the 1970’s. Their other federation winner, being a daughter of the “Broken Keel Cock” taking 1st Worcester fed from Frome. The “Broken Keel Cock” from Ken Berry’s sale in 1993, bred John & Jason’s 1994 “Van Robaeys” winner, when paired to a daughter of the “Fielder” The Van Robaeys, will probably go down within racing pigeon history, as being the greatest race of its generation. Bill, Shelia & Mark Palmer gave pigeon racing majesty, with an incredible venture, it’s estimated that close to £1 million was paid out in prize and pools, along with brand new cars, plus the exclusive holidays. John & Jason won over £12000 in prize money from this prestigious race.
1996 saw John & Jason have one of their most successful season to date, winning the Worcester federation combine average’s trophy.
1997 again would be another great year for “Champion 008” winning yet another RPRA sprint award, this year winning 5 x 1st clubs and numerous top federation places, although he never topped the federation, he had numerous positions, but, he is responsible for generations of fed winners since. Unfortunately, his winning phenomena would come to an abrupt end, “008” would lose his racing strength, simply for the love of one mate, “008’s” hen would be found dead one morning, sitting a pair of youngsters, this would break the heart of a magnificent racing superstar. John explained, he just wouldn’t race anymore, he paired him to different top hens, but, he just wouldn’t be the same, “008” may have lost his racing prowess, but he would still have the ability to produce the likes of him over and over again, “008” would now be put into the stock loft, to reproduce a family of unbelievable legacy. Jason being the great stock man, would see this family go from strength to strength, it’s as he said, and it’s down to observation and patience. The Van Roabaeys/Rohnfried would be a milestone within pigeon racing, which will always leave an everlasting burning impression on anyone who raced in, or was part of the organising of such a great event. Since then, quite a few similar very successful ventures have come to fruition, bought into our sport by dedicated unsung steadfast fanciers, who help keep our sport alive and kicking.
Another one of these races, was the Teurlings Futurity classic from Guernsey, another great endeavour for anyone who participated.
John & Jason set out to have a go at this new prestigious race using the “008” lines, crossed with proven long-distance birds. Firstly, they approached Brian Sheppard of Trowbridge, who had an excellent pedigree from 500/600 miles, winning 1st National, 1st International Dax, a son of Brian’s “Leon” along with a daughter of Brian’s 5 times from Pau were obtained. They would also bring in birds from other outstanding long-distance fanciers, Jim Donaldson and Arthur Jones.
Crossing sons of “008” into daughters off these new long-distance birds would see John & Jason finish in the top 10 within 3 of the new Teurlings race’s, winning over £4000.
During this time, they decided to try the long-distance racing properly, John made a section especially for the new long distance birds, within a few short seasons, and they were also making their mark on the long distance scene. One game little hen, “Isla” scored as a young bird in the MCC, from 225 miles, then as a yearling, she was 200th open NFC from Saintes 475 miles. From Bordeaux 530 miles in the BBC, she would be 33rd Open in 2010, 18th Open 2011, 58th Open 2012 on the day, all these races were in a head wind, giving away 225 miles to the shortest droppers.
Then along came “Winnie” one of the partnership’s RPRA winners, this game little hen, won 6th Open Tours, in the youngbird National, flying 375 miles 1170ypm, she is bred from their Brian Sheppard’s no1 cock, when paired to a daughter of Jim Donaldson’s “Reims Girl”
Distance racing for both John & Jason offers up the ultimate challenges, but their ultimate passion, is for the thrill of competing and leaving their mark within the red hot bed of sprint racing within the Midlands, against legends who will be etched into the pigeon halls of fame forever.
The “008” blood continues to go from strength to strength, the family now well established, when they both decide, to bring in an outcross, they set about carrying out extensive research on the fancier, they feel, will bring in the right pigeons, to cross into the “008” family. John & Jason attend the sale of Joop Groenen, a top fancier with Janssen based pigeons from the Netherlands, Joop’s pigeons also contain the blood of the “Oude Merckx” similar as “008’s” ancestry. Joop Groenen like most of the World’s great champions, have created their own strain of racing pigeons, which is exactly what John & Jason endeavoured to do.
Two hens were bought at the sale, these were to be paired to cocks specially bred from “008” when he was paired to “Evita” (One of the original+ 6 bought from Brian Ferris’s)
This proved to be another decision that would lead to another outstanding contribution to this growing sensational sprint family of racing pigeons. From one of the pairings came “Champion Creosote” another federation winning thoroughbred racing and breeding ace for John & Jason. The name of this champion came from fellow fancier Ashley Dixon, who was waiting for the race birds to come around at John & Jason’s, when all of a sudden, what he seemed to be a Raptor folding up for the loft, was “Creasote” he skidded onto the drop board, and straight through the bob wires. The day before John had creosoted the traps, and were still not quite dry, Ashley remarked, after watching such a sight as this pigeon trapping as he did, “If that cock tops the Wolverhampton Federation today, Id name him “Creasote” and that is exactly what they did.
At the time of writing this article 5 of “Creosotes” grandchildren took the first 5 in the strong Tipton club on the Saturday, another outstanding result. In fact, out of the 6 youngbird races, in the mighty Worcester federation their pigeons have been in the top 20 of the fed every week. This is the run they have had, week 1, 1st club 6th Fed, week 2, 3rd club 15th fed, week 3, 1st 2nd 3rd 4th club, 1st 2nd 3rd 4th fed, week 4, 4th club, 22nd fed, week 5, 1st 3rd club, 20th fed, week 6, 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th club, 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th fed. That’s without the super season they’ve had with their old birds, again similar results, week in week out, against arguably, some of the best fanciers within the UK.
I’ve asked John & Jason on numerous occasions, what do they put it down too? the consistency with which your pigeons perform. John replied, as mentioned earlier in this report, nothing left to chance, “everything needs to be cock on”, as John puts it. But their most important part of pigeon racing at the levels the Groomy’s race to, is without doubt, thoroughbred racing pigeons! These pigeons, along with other champions, across the UK, and Europe, mentioning the likes of Leo Hereman’s, Lambrechts, Van Den Brande, Stickers Donkers etc. which are the base of a lot of consistent champions today. Families of pigeons created over generations, expertly and skilfully crafted, to carry the winning and breeding genes that have propelled our sport so far in such a short period of time. It’s a pity that our champions, like John & Jason, along with other truly outstanding visionary’s who don’t get the same recognition as the Europeans.
John & Jason like other champion fanciers within the Midlands, and there are some truly phenomenal pigeon men out there, are equal, or better than a lot of the European’s in respect of creating their own winning families.
“Champion Creosote” is a grandson of “Champion 008”, but during the 25 years its took to create this wonderful family of thoroughbred racing pigeons, different lines were blended into the “008” family with no expense spared. They have obtaining some of the best blood available to John & Jason. This would be made possible, by other fanciers, who are prepared to travel across the continents, with entrepreneurial skills, to develop international relations with some of the greatest names our sport has ever had, giving us access to superior winning genes, that have helped create such excitement within our sport over the last 10 years. Mark & Andy Darby are such visionaries who have tirelessly sought, some of the greatest bloodlines from across the continent, obtaining sons and daughters of National Aces, pigeons you wouldn’t imagine being in our lofts, bought back to the UK for huge sums of money. This enabled the man in the street access to purchase pigeons that were completely out of their reaches in previous generations.
John & Jason would purchase a few birds from Mark & Andy, to cross into their already winning sprint family. Grandchildren of the famous “Olympiade 003” “Di Caprio” plus a direct son of the “Goudhaantje” Immediately, these pigeons would help bolster the winning lines, inbreeding to preserve, outcrossing to improve, all blended in with the “008” x “Creosote” family.
The racing side of this partnership is very basic, there’s no fancy hidden secrets or mysterious feeding techniques. The widowhood cocks are paired up January, they rear one round of youngsters, then the hens are taken away, then the cock sits out the second-round eggs, after that they are on full widowhood. The widowhood cocks are trained well before the first race, John & Jason believe the pigeons are athletes, and thus should treated as such. Both the cocks and youngsters are trained well, up to 60 miles.
John has been known to loose youngsters on Weston Super Mare Beach, only a few days before basketing. I’m sure if there were a motorway across the English Channel, John would be across it before any other pigeon fancier.
After the first old bird race, the cocks are not trained again. Youngsters are trained and schooled well, John will say, “The more you put into the youngsters, the better they’ll be as old birds” I think most, or all of the top fanciers, will put plenty of road work into their youngsters, this puts them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
They are fed very basic, on return from the race, they will get a light diet mix, then Saturday night, they will receive a high protein mix, the same on Sundays, Monday, then back on the Gerry plus, enriched with protein as the week goes on, depending on the wind. Easy race, then just Gerry plus mix only. There are only three mixes in their lofts, Gerry Plus, Concord high protein and diet. The only additive to the water, is Vita Pro Combo from Syndicate lofts, the pigeons get this on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They both swear by this multimineral, there are quite a few fanciers using this product today, plus it’s cheap as chips.
They will on occasion get the birds tested by a vet, but this is seldom. I think, because of the length of time they have had this family of pigeons, it’s of my opinion, the immune system, is so, that it has built up a good immune to some of the virus’s that have become prevalent today. The birds will be treated for canker every fourth week, but, if their winning well, they won’t bother. Again, I think it’s down to the constitution of this family of pigeons. The birds are inoculated religiously for paramyxovirus.
Jason is a carpenter by trade, he built the loft with the help of his dad, the pictures show, what a beautiful loft it is, it also shows how large it is. The one overwhelming feeling, when visiting this lovely loft, is how much room the birds have in each section, there are very few pigeons, in very large spaces, I’ve found this to be so, with most of the top lofts I’ve visited. Jason built, what he calls the caves within the widowhood boxes, they are situated in the middle of the main boxes, which are opened occasionally for the cocks to hide in there with their hens, it’s a motivational tactic, that they say has worked really well over the years. Jason explained once, he accidentally left a late comer in one of the caves, he didn’t realise, he was left in there, until basketing the following Friday, he named the pigeon “Caveman” who himself, was another multiple winner.
A lot of emphasis is placed upon cleanliness, the lofts are absolutely spotless at all times, I also found, that, John & Jason have a trophy cabinet within the corridor, what I noticed, there was never any bloom on the glass front, which tells me, the ventilation in their loft, is perfect. The sections are all on deep litter, using Easy-bed or Aubiose.
This father and son partnership started with one thing in mind, all those years ago, to do everything within pigeons the right way. To do everything at the highest levels they could possibly achieve. If John & Jason had taken up any other sport, hobby or pastime, they would in my opinion, without doubt would have become champions.
I’ve visited various champion lofts over the years since being involved with this fantastic sport of ours, the burning imprint within my psyche, is they are all the same. They all have that burning desire within them to succeed, they all have that mental agility to get where they want to be, just like Enzo did.
John & Jason have a present 10 racing widowhood cocks, in two sections, those cocks have a total of 31 x 1st clubs and a staggering 55 federations cards between them, that’s without all the 2nds 3rds etc. That’s racing in probably the strongest club within the West midlands, the “Superclub” which they’ve won a total of five times.
Along with the other Backcountry clubs, which are in there self, “Super clubs” in their own right. Next year they have the young cocks that have dominated the youngbird programme this year, to race alongside those 10 racing machines.
John would never have done any of this some 5 years ago, when his health was failing, he would go on to have 8 large operations, which were all life threatening over the next few years. I personally saw him, and he was a very ill man, but, to help him get over all this, someone who has the character of “Champion 008” and “Creosote” combined, is Lin, his lovely missis, who painstakingly nursed him back to health, who single headedly helped keep those lofts spotless clean, when John couldn’t even walk down the garden.
Lin is just one of those people who is there in the side-lines, who just gets on with things, never creates any fuss or bother, she is worth her weight in gold.
I would like to finish by saying, it’s been an Absolute pleasure doing this write up for John & Jason, there not just ace pigeon fanciers, but there great people.