“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Gary Wood of Ruislip: (1st UBI Combine Le Mans 2019).
The month of October saw me get an update from Gary Wood about his race performances in the 2019 season and as always, this great pigeon racer has set them ‘on fire’ again this season. The Inter Counties Federation must rate as one the strongest organisations in the south of England and he won that four times, plus 1st UBI Combine in the 2019 season. His club has a three birds per member in the race results limit and in some races, he could have taken the first six prizes, but was restricted to the first three positions. His results for the 2019 season were: (Old Birds) 1st, 2nd, 3rd club, 1st, 2nd Inter Counties Federation Lyndhurst (1,962 birds), 4th, 5th club, 28th Federation Blandford (2.402 birds), 3rd, 4th, 5th club Blandford, 1st, 2nd, 3rd club, 4th Federation Honiton (2,521 birds), 1st, 2nd, 4th club, 12th Federation Exeter (2,301 birds), 1st, 2nd, 3rd club, 17th, 18th Federation, 50th Combine Guernsey (2,493 birds), 1st, 2nd, 4th club, 6th, 7th Federation, 10th, 12th Combine Honiton (3,158 birds), 1st, 2nd, 4th club, 5th, 6th Federation, 40th, 41st Combine Falaise (2,515 birds), 1st, 3rd club, 1st Inter Counties Federation, 1st, 9th UBI Combine Le Mans (1,656 birds), 1st, 4th club, 14th Federation, 17th Combine Messac (652 birds), 1st, 2nd, 3rd club Blandford, 1st, 2nd, 6th club, 7th Federation, 13th Combine Falaise (1,297 birds): (Young Birds) 1st club Blandford, 1st, 2nd club, 3rd, 4th Federation Honiton (1,374 birds), 1st, 5th club, 1st Federation Honiton (1,153 birds), 1st, 2nd, 3rd club, 1st, 2nd, 3rd Federation Blandford (873 birds), 2nd Spelthorne open race from Kingsdown (£400). A brilliant loft performance!
Gary won 1st, 9th UBI Combine from Le Mans (246 miles) in June with 1,656 birds competing and had won the Inter Counties Federation twice at that point of the season. His Combine winner was his good three-year-old blue chequer cock, ‘960’, which strayed into Gary’s loft in 2016 as a young bird. The breeder and owner, Rod Oakes of Kettering, gifted the handsome cock to Gary and he has won many race diploma cards including: 2017: 1st Great Harrow club Exeter: 2019: twice 2nd club Honiton, being beaten both times by loft mates, 1st club, 1st Inter Counties Federation, 1st UBI Combine Le Mans. This game cock’s breeding was Frans Zwols and goes back to many premier winners in Holland and Belgium.
Gary tells me, he was ‘gutted’ as ‘960’ was lost from a Blandford race three weeks after his Combine win, with all his loft mate returning home in good time. He suspects he might have been killed by a hawk! Too make matters worse his son won 1st club, 1st Inter Counties Federation Honiton (1,153 birds) as a young bird in the 2019 season. What a stray! Gary’s good mealy pied hen, ‘Marion’, won three races in the 2019 season and has now won eight firsts in her wonderful racing career. Gary’s champion 2016 young bird, ‘Honiton Hitman’, which won the UBI Combine from Honiton, has gone on to win many other premier positions including: five times 1st club and three times 1st Inter Counties Federation. Well done to Gary, brilliant pigeon racing!
The month of December 2016 saw Terry Haley, Steve Howard and I make the 40-mile drive to Ruislip in Middlesex to visit the highly successful loft of Gary Wood, with a YouTube film and article in mind. Gary races in the Inter Counties Federation and UBI Combine and enjoyed a brilliant 2016 racing season. The Wood loft won the Federation several times, 1st UBI Combine Honiton, 2nd and 3rd UBI Combine Carentan in 2016. The star pigeon and he must be described as a ‘champion’ young bird, was the blue cock, ‘The Honiton Hitman’. This wonderful cock was bred Mr. & Mrs Brian Hawes and won 1st UBI Combine Honiton (130 miles), 1st Inter Counties Federation (twice) and three times 1st club. What a great achievement! Gary tells me he is bred from Brian’s old lines and was raced in 2016 on the ‘darkness’ system, and to the perch.
Gary races on the roundabout system and he keeps 20 pairs of racers at the maximum. He pairs up after Christmas and lets the racers raise one baby each. After weaning off the babies by early March he will start to let the old birds fly out once a day, progressing to twice a day by the middle of March and also separate the hens and cocks at about that same time. The ‘roundabout’ racers start training three weeks before the first race, with two 10-mile training tosses and then four 20-mile tosses and then they will go into the first race. They do not see the basket for training for the rest of the season, as Gary feels the racing and exercise around the house is enough. He never breaks down the pigeons. The racing pigeons come together for 15 minutes on marking night and on their return from the race they stay together until about 5pm, and the Wood pigeons will generally race for the whole Federation programme, which is up to about 370 miles.
He feeds Vanrobaey’s ‘widowhood mixture’ throughout the racing season but will give the pigeons a light mix on return from the race. During the week he will mix ‘Gemthepack’ on the food twice a week and also puts Cider Vinegar in the drinkers twice a week. On a daily basis, they will also get minerals and grit with occasional Hemp and Black Rapeseed. Gary told me, ‘I feel the loft should point in a South East / South direction to help it get the most sunlight possible during the day. Another thing which I feel is a key factor is air circulation and having an aviary especially for young birds. Personally, I scrap out the lofts daily from March until the end of October and then for the winter months, I use wood chipping deep litter which I feel is very important as it helps to dry up the droppings which keeps the loft dry in these damp months. I feel having a dry loft is very important to the condition of the pigeons’.
When I asked Gary what sort of racing, he liked he said, ‘I like the sprint to middle distance races up to 400 miles, but I am introducing a few distance bloods birds this year (2017), so hope to compete with them in the coming years. My best racing season to date was 2016, winning nine old bird races and seven young bird races in my club, making the total of 16 times 1st club and also winning four times 1st Inter Counties SR Federations. IN 2016 I also won 1st UBI Combine Honiton (young bird) and also won 2nd and 3rd Combine from the Carentan (old bird) with a nest pair of yearlings’. One of the premier hens in Gary’s loft today is the Cattrysse / Van Loon blue chequer hen, ‘Double 0’, and she was bred by Russell Hawes. Before going into the stock loft, this wonderful hen had an outstanding racing career, winning three first, 2nd Federation Blandford (90 miles) and 2nd Federation Honiton (130 miles). She has bred several good winners for the Wood loft, including the famous nest pair: BC ‘Double 0 Boy’, winner of three time’s first club and 2nd UBI Combine Carentan (160 miles) in 2016 and his nest sister, BH ‘Tu Tu’, winner of 1st club (twice) and 3rd UBI Combine Carentan also in 2016. What great hen! Other premier pigeons in the Gary Wood loft are: MPH ‘Marion’ winner of 1st Federation Blandford (90 miles), plus three times 1st club: BC ‘Black Knight’ winner of 1st Federation West Bay (130 miles): BH ‘Queen Lou’ winner in 2016: 1st Federation Blandford and 2nd Federation Honiton, plus twice 1st club.
Gary was born in Paddington, West London and is from a racing pigeon family, with his grandfather, dad and uncles all being successful pigeon fanciers. He enjoyed helping his dad, Dennis Wood, with the pigeons as a child which lead to him taking up the hobby himself. Gary has no other sporting interest and he started racing on his own with the young bird season in 2013. On joining the Greater Harrow Club, he knew it was a strong club with the likes of Luis Mosquera, Clive Baldwin, Alan Gibbs and Derek Damalie to name a few of the successful pigeon fanciers over the years. Gary told me, ‘I purchased 12 young birds in February 2013 from Russell Hayes. The reason from purchasing from Russell is that my father, Dennis Wood judged a show the previous winter at the Stonebridge Pigeon Club. Incidentally, he awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd to one member who had also purchased his pigeons from Russell Hayes with the first-place pigeon going on to win a Combine in the following season.
Some old friends of my father, George Gallagher, Luis Mosquera and Derek Damalie also bred me a few young birds to get me started. My first winner was one of Russell's young birds, a blue pied hen which also happened to be the very first race I ever entered, and I also went on to win the young bird averages in my first year in the Greater Harrow Homing Society’. The one thing that sticks in Gary’s mind about that first race was when one of the senior members in the Harrow club on the night of the first win said to him, ‘You can always say you were never a Novice after winning the very first race you entered’. The first strains he had were Cattrysse, Staf Van Reets and Van Loons, which he went on to win many races with as both young and old birds. The first loft he purchased a 22ft x 8ft structure from Park Hall Timbers and it has three sections with a corridor, a young bird section, breeding section with 20 nest boxes and a section for the hen. Gary told me, ‘one mistake I feel I made in the first preseason, when training the young birds was releasing them from Windsor on an overcast day and I only had three returned that night out of sixteen. Thankfully, the next morning, they gradually filtered back home, and this taught me to keep one eye on the weather when training’.
Gary’s four pairs of stock pigeons are housed in a very smart 18ft loft, with a flight and he pairs them up just after Christmas, the same time as the race birds, and he feeds them all on a Vanrobaey’s ‘breeding mixture’. One of the main stock cocks is a Soontjens mealy cock, which was gifted to Gary by his friend, Mario Iranmanesh and he has bred several top winners, including the champion mealy pied hen, ‘Marion’. Gary is not a ‘type’ man when picking out breeders, but just likes winning bloodlines. He likes to start the season with no more than 25 young birds and will normally wean them on a high protein mixture, but after a few weeks they will go onto the same racing mix as the old birds. They start training three weeks before their first race, starting at three training tosses from five miles, and then moving them up to three training tosses from ten miles. After that he tries to get in five 20-mile training tosses before the first race and will then keep the young birds at the 20-mile mark for two or three times a week for the whole racing season. Gary told me, ‘I do not believe you need to train pigeons further than the 20-mile mark’. The young birds are put on the ‘darkness’ system and raced to the perch but are allowed to pair up if they want. He doesn’t like to push the young birds too hard as he thinks you can destroy a pigeon for the future.
Gary works for himself in the plastics industry and sometimes gets very busy at his business, finding it hard to find time for the pigeons at sometimes of the year. His father, Dennis, races pigeons on the north road in the Stonebridge club with the Thames Valley NR Federation and grandfather and uncles where all pigeon men. His grandfather raced his birds from the balcony of a block of flats! His most thrilling experience was from one race seeing four pigeons very high in the sky and when he whistled his mealy pied hen, ‘Marion’ pulled out and fell like a stone, without taking a single turn hit the loft and straight in the trap. She won the Federation that day! Gary is the treasurer of his club and also works out the results on the computer each week. I asked him what he thought would improve club racing and he told me, ‘you often hear of clubs turning down fancier from becoming new members, maybe because the guy is a very good pigeon man or is a bit of a mob flyer. I would like to see a system where you send as many pigeons as you like, but have to nominate say, a maximum of 20 birds each week that can take positions in the result.
This would make it a more even playing field and no excuses when you are beat’. His advice to anyone entering into the sport is to buy some baby's from a local good flyer and feed good clean food. DON'T give them probiotics or antibiotics unless the pigeons are ill and keep them in a feeding and flying routine. When it comes to breeding, he pairs the best to the best and if that means line breeding then so be it. He doesn’t breed late breds and in his opinion tame pigeons seem to be the better racers, but that may be because they are the smartest? The only thing he doesn’t like about the ‘darkness system’ is the moulting going on to maybe Christmas and he feeds a moulting mix during this time and also give them linseed and black rapeseed.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).