The first place in National Flying Club Tarbes Grand National is the most coveted title in the UK pigeon sport without exception. It presents the biggest haul of silverware that can be won in any race in the country, accumulated in more than 100 years of the National Flying Club history.
These trophies have been donated over the last century by Royalty and the working class alike with the names of Champions engraved upon them that dedicated themselves to the challenge of the Grand National. In these modern days of choice and fragmented birdages, many true long distance fanciers still regard the winning of this race as a life time’s ambition, to be relentlessly pursued regardless of the trials and tribulations along the way. It is the pinnacle of achievement, competing in the premier long distance racing club in the country and one such fancier, who has had to resign himself to one last race before ceasing in the sport due to health issues, dared to dream when he entered his pigeons for the last time, after years of building a team to achieve his one true ambition, to win the Tarbes Grand National. In 2012, Darran McFadden timed a good pigeon from Tarbes Grand National and for a while he was top of the leader board. Calls began coming in from friends to congratulate him, but he remained pragmatic as he knew there were other great pigeons racing further north and sure enough three pigeons recorded a faster velocity, with him being 4th Open. This year, when he timed his first arrival, he was surprised by the silence in the background when he called Sid Barkel to verify. He thought lots of birds would be being verified at the same time and although he went top of the leader board, he was fully expecting to be beaten by northern flyers again. His kept his calm all through the day and it was not until the next morning, when he called to verify his sixth pigeon that Sid confirmed he had achieved his dream of winning the Grand National. “You could not ask for a better ending” he said, as due to health problems he had decided this season would be his last, and arrangements had been made for all his pigeons to be sold by auction on Elimar in August. His winning hen “Queen Mary” is from a long line of distance birds he has developed over the years which originated from two main sources, Kirkpatrick and Eric Cannon. Eric had left behind a legacy of long distance pigeons when he passed away and Darran was lucky enough to be given a young bird by Les Swan which did very well, so when Les went to live in Spain, he gave him the parents. Malcolm Parker also bred him “Megans Lad” and Ray Hammond won the L&SECC with “Simply the Best” out of which he gave Darran a young bird with the promise that it wouldl also win the Classic from Tarbes and two years later she did, so called her “Razor’s Girl” and put her to stock. He went to Louella in 2001 and purchased three Kirkpartick grizzle hens down from “Stan the Man”. One of them bred a very good white hen “Camron Snow Queen” which flew Pau, Tarbes and won a Merit Award in the Classic. She was paired to an Eric Cannon cock that also raced well from the distance and after their final Tarbes race, they were put to stock and bred “Snow Prince” “Dark Prince” 14th Open Tarbes, 11th International Pau and many other proven pigeons have come through this pair. Over the years, Darran has developed a system he uses to race his hens at the long distance. They begin the season being raced on widowhood, with the cocks always at home waiting for them. They are given very little training before the first race and go on to have five channel races back to back, which builds their fitness before being left with their cocks to go to nest, after the Messac race with the National Flying Club. Then they have three peaceful weeks off to go to nest and be prepared for the Tarbes Grand National. Each evening they are turned out for two hours with the widowhood cocks from another section and as expected, they chase them around the sky. Being already paired they show no interest and the widowhood cocks keep them flying for the full two hours. This system obviously works well as the last two years have been very tough and difficult races with his first three timers in 2018 also being his first three birds home this year, and of course with plenty of pools on them. His second pigeon in the clock is now called “Triple Crown” because with this performance added to her previous Grand National results, wins her the NFC Merit Award. “Queen Mary” was paired early season with a selected partner and her eggs were given to feeders before being returned to the race loft and the love of her life, a seventeen year old cock that has bred “all the Dukes” as Darran calls them. He is a quiet, unassuming cock which does not chase her around the loft and “she’s all over him” he said so she was sent to the race sitting 14 day old eggs. Her feeding for the race began months ago said Darran, with Van Robaeys number 39 being used as a base mixture with fats added in the form of Peanuts and Sunflower Hearts. He uses all Dr Brockamp products and says that they are used the whole year round to keep his birds in the best of condition. “you can not expect to win the Premier race in the country if you neglect the birds during the off season” he said, “and the most important time for the preparation is the moult”. Darran got quite emotional when he tried to explain how proud his parents would have been with him winning the Tarbes Grand National. It is a hugely emotional race to win Darran and a fantastic achievement, you should be proud of yourself as I am sure they are too!
On Sunday the 30th of June the 2019 Tarbes Grand National got underway at 2pm UK time after a two day holdover. Record high temperatures in France prevented an early morning liberation but the cooler weather which had been forecast to arrive later in the day, gave rise to the decision to liberate at 3pm local time, which would give the birds a few hours flying in lowering evening temperatures, without the chance of reaching the French coast by nightfall. We were all expecting another great race and the excitement began building early Monday morning with the first arrival being on the Isle of Wight around midday local time.
First section A and overall race winner was Darran McFadden with “Queen Mary” She had previously won 2nd sect 26th Open NFC Tarbes in 2018, 9th Sect 82nd Open NFC Messac, 2nd Club Carentan, 139th Open BICC Falaise, 30th Sect NFC Fougeres and 4th club Coutnaces. Second section and fourth Open was Alan Holdaway, who wrote; “firstly a very big well done to Darran McFadden, a very fitting end for him and this super result has been coming.
My first bird in the clock is a chq cock called “Saxon” which was also first bird in last year Tarbes National being 82nd open 8th section. My second bird is “Viking” which has been 1st section, 34th open Ancencis National. From Tarbes in 2016 he was 262nd open, Tarbes 2017 he was 247th open and from Tarbes in 2019 he was 6th section, 15th open.
My 3rd bird is dtr of pearl. This was her 1st go at tarbes as she was badly hawked last year ,just before basketing. Tarbes 2019 8th section 28th open.she is very well bred for the job aas her sire is the father to my tarbes classic winner, and her dam is pearl my tarbes bicc winner. My 4th bird “Roman” has been 8th section 128th open Ancencis. Tarbes 2016 he was 20th section 197th open, but in 2018 he returned without his chip ring on his leg, when he would of been in the top 100. Now in 2019 Tarbes he was 14th section 70th open. The birds returned in very good condition despite the very hot weather and finally well done
to Bill Edwards and his team at the Southampton marking station which are very efficient and all the section winners on another very difficult Tarbes race”. Third was Darran McFadden again with “Triple Crown” who will now win a NFC Merit Award for three times in the top 100 from Tarbes being 3rd Sect 7th Open 2019, 1st Sect 24th Open 2018 and 11th Sect 56th Open Tarbes 2017. He also came in fourth Section 11th Open with his third pigeon “Royal Blue” to add to her 6th Sect 42nd Open Tarbes 2018, 4th Sect 12th Open BBC Bordeaux in 2017 and 71st Sect 125th Open BICC Falaise. Fifth Section 14th Open was Davind Bacon from Tunbridge Wells.
Bill Edwards is off on a well-deserved holiday but before he left he put together this report on section B; Tarbes National again proved to be a very testing affair due to the weather as much as the mileage. Some lofts adapted to the conditions and that proved to be the case with the leading lofts in section B that had really good team performances. Leading the way in section B and 2nd Open, is Graham Rann on the Isle of Wight also 4th Section and 32nd Open. Details from Guy Reed ““What a Joy it is to be able to write about a friend and fellow competitor, who has had a great track record in distance racing. A stable and dedicated Isle of Wight fancier, who has in this year’s 2019 Tarbes Grand National, achieved an all time personal best, and done it with classic style. Once again this race has been fraught with weather conditions, and with a holdover, the race was inevitably going to be very tough indeed. Despite the challenge Graham Rann & Daughters timed three of their eight entries on the winning day. Grahams old school approach to the distance paid off when he looked up to discover his first arrival had landed after 15hrs 21m 14 s of flying time to take (prov) 1st Section B - 2nd Open NFC. This Dark hen GB16N51757 had been lightly raced north as a y/b, and again as a yearling. As a two year old she was tried at Sigogne 342ml with the NFC. Finally in 2019 to prepare for Tarbes, she had Carentan with the Solent Fed, Fougeres and Cholet with the NFC. Her Sire is a stock bird from Brokamps "George" X Dt "Armstrong", her Dam is from Grahams "Faithful", a Dark Shuman X DeWeerdt cock who scored 7th International Agen when paired to T J Hazel's "Jackies Pride" 6th Open NFC Tarbes and Daughter of TJ Hazel's "Olivia Rose" 1st Open NFC Tarbes." Faithful" and the two TJ Hazel hens feature in all three of Grahams arrivals in this race. Grahams second arrival taking 4th Section B 32nd Open is Dark W/F hen GB17N43248. Her Sire is a Son of "Faithful" when paired to "Jackie's Pride" 6th NFC Tarbes, and the Dam is an Andy Gregson bred DeWeerdt. The third arrival Dark Cock GB17N43201 achieved 7th Section B. 43rd Open His sire is "Faithful" 7th International Agen when paired to "Olivia Rose" 1st National Tarbes. The second and third arrivals also had only been raced north as young birds and as yearlings. This year was their first races across the Chanel, where they each were sent to Carentan, Fougeres and Cholet. Only having my loft a few hundred yards from Graham, I excitedly went over to congratulate Graham and look at the arrivals. They were in superb condition, and typical of the type that Graham has bred to achieve this much deserved and creditable performance. Grahams achievements may be uplifting to any distance enthusiasts, who aspire to achieve at over 500 miles, and to a small loft set up, with no fancy methods, just very good pigeons”. Second and third section was won by Andy Parsons who wrote “I would like to congratulate Darren McFadden on his great win and team performance, also Graham Rann on being 2nd Open and 1st Section B, a fine team performance and everybody who clocked a pigeon in this very testing race. My 2nd Section B 8th Open is a Blue Chequer Hen raced celibate to increase fitness, then paired up before being sent on 5 day eggs at marking. This was her third Tarbes winning a position in the first hundred on her first attempt and arriving late on her second. She is half-sister to my “Five Times Cock”, a sister was 53rd open Tarbes and 6th CSCFC Tarbes. Another sister was 34th Open Tarbes and also half-sister to “Proud Mary”, my good Merit Award Winner of 2018. Her Sire is the “Bush Cock” my top breeder, the Dam was 15th Open Tarbes in 2010 flying 15 hours on the wing. My 3rd Section, 19th Open Tarbes is a two year old Hen sent on 10 day eggs paired to another Hen. Her Sire is a half-brother to my good stock cock “The Dancer” and also half-brother to “Proud Mary” my good Merit Award winner mentioned above, the Dam is a direct daughter of Mark Bulled's “Legacy”. This was a very testing Tarbes race once again with many pigeons yet to come home, which is due of course to the heat and wind direction which made it difficult for all the birds, especially those of the Northern Flyers but I would like to congratulate my good friend Keith Bush for taking the first three in his section”. It gives me great pleasure to report that my good friend and club mate John Ayling recorded 5th Section B with another 3 arrivals the next morning. John is a publicity shy and dedicated long distance specialist who has enjoyed some outstanding performances from his small back garden loft, which have included 1st Open NFC Pau, only bird on the day, 1st Open Central Southern Classic Pau and 1st Narbonne Open, only bird on the day plus a suitcase full of other top positions at the distance. John has not enjoyed the best of health for some time and wife Jackie performs most of the loft duties including the scraping out and training. This performance is just the tonic that John needed. John races totally natural with an open loft and just occasional training flights when required and he clocked a three year old blue hen of his own basket tested family, where the yearlings go to Bergerac 420 miles and two year olds or older go to Tarbes. She was sitting 10 day eggs when basketed and flew Tarbes last year just out of race time. John would like to congratulate all the section and prize winners.
First section C was Peter Doble who would like to congratulate the winner and all who timed their birds in a very testing race. The bird he clocked was a two year old cock which was not raced as a young bird but trained out to 30 miles before being raced from Messac as a yearling. This season he had three inland races and three channel races to Cholet with the BBC where he had four nights out. His sire is a son of “Padfields Invincible” from House of Aarden and the dam is daughter of “Corey Boy” 1st Open Palomas B.B.C for Corey and Roger Owers. The bird was sent to the race sitting 8 days on eggs, been fed on beans, peas and tares with a high fat mix added four days before Tarbes. He would like to thank Mike Staddon for taking birds to marking station for him. In second place was Neville & Diana Spracklen who clocked their chequer Mark Gilbert hen which is a granddaughter of “Southfield Darkie” and “Southfield Treble”. This is her third trip to Tarbes and has now been 1st, 2nd & 3rd Sect Tarbes and 10th Sect Sigone. They would like to congratulate Darran McFadden and all who clocked on another hard Tarbes National. Third and fourth section was Mr & Mrs Hodges who said the two hens in question are a nest pair from 2015. They are breed from Mark Dorrington pigeons which he gave them before retiring from the sport and they have won many club, federation and national positions. They have been raced on a jealousy system with two hens to one cock all season. They changed the food for Tarbes
after the birds came home from Cholet to Garvo Marathon Mixture plus hemp and sunflower seed after the main feed. They would like to congratulate Darran McFadded and all the section winners.In the photo is Gary Hodges and hopefully the 3rd generation of pigeon fancier, Mathew and Ronnie Hodges holding 3rd &4th sec with Frankie hodges
Underhill & Prettejohn have set their sights on winning Tarbes and for the past few years they have been in the process of building a top quality team, such quality that they have won the National twice from the shorter race points although gaining 1st Sect D and 6th Open Tarbes against the best in the country will surely confirm they are on the right track for an outright victory in the near future. Their first timer is a dark chequer cock
“Inthegenes” which has has been to every NFC Race, consistently winning the Clock Station and Plymouth Classic Club pools and noms. In the four NFC Races he has been first pigeon to the loft other than when they were 1st and 2nd Messac with “Grace” and “Rose”. Sire of “Inthegenes” was bred by Alwyn Hill and purchased at the Blackpool Show in 2015 out of “Champion Barcelona 4” NL08-1987320. His dam GB13J21138 is a Dark Chequer Hen sired by DV100, Dam B-06-3000883 “De vos Hen” mother of “Wingdown” making her a half sister to “Wingdown” Dam of “Inthegenes” was bred by Louella Pigeon World. Her sire being “Incredible” and dam nest sister to “Heleene” 1st Open Narbonne International 666 miles. They were also delighted to have timed “Grace” 1st NFC Messac 2019, to win 3rd Section D 75th Open Tarbes. Second and fourth section was Graham Buck who said “First of all I would like to congratulate all the section winners with a special congratulations to Mike and Robbie for their exceptional pigeon in section D. My first pigeon, being second section, is a two year old late bred hen. She had previously raced from two inland and all four NFC channel races this season, and has been my first pigeon each time. She is a spare hen that is living with the young birds but paired to me. My second bird home taking fourth is a six year old barren hen, sent sitting 10 day old eggs. She has previously been 9th sect in 2016 and 2nd section in 2018 from Tarbes NFC. Both hens are bred from stock I had from Bryan Maude of Redcar. For many years now I have not been able to train my birds due to hawk attacks, so are semi open hole with forced exercise. Fifth were Mr & Mrs John Westacott with their chequer cock “42” which is line bred from their Red Hen “Sybil” which one 1st Open NFC Saintes in 2008. Preparation was three times 100 miles with Kingsteighhton Abbrook PIFC and Devon SR Fed, Cholet with NFC (21st Sect) then to Tarbes. Sixth Section was John and Gill McClements with a two year old hen sent sitting 6 days. Leading up to this she was on roundabout and sent to one inland race of 88 miles before Carentan as a trainer with the Premier 100 Club, the following week Alencon with the BICC, Cholet BICC two weeks later then singled up at 65 miles before Cholet NFC. She was then paired up for Tarbes. Their hen was bought at a BBC YB sale, bred by Gosling & Jarvis of Mount Nessing.
G Inkley waited a long time then had two hens within five minutes of each other to win 1st and 2nd section E being 20th and 23rd Open. The section winner is a seven year old which had previously been 30th open NFC Tarbes amongst other channel positions. She was sent on a five day old youngster ,in fact she was mated with another hen in the widow hood hens aviary and both had laid. This hen took the hens role and sat during the night and after they had been sitting 12 days, on the previous Friday he slipped them a newly hatched young bird together with its shell. They both sat the young bird day and night. The youngster had to be swapped with it’s nest mate in the stock loft twice a day to ensure he was fully fed as the two lesbians couldn’t feed. Their preparation races were Alencon, two Cholets and Messac preceded by two inland races. Her sire was bred by my good friend Ko Van Dommelen from “The Parrsborst” a double national winner, her dam being a daughter of his best ever pigeon “Enigma” 1st classic Dax, 11th open NFC PAU on the day, 17th open NFC Tarbes on the day. Second section was a three year old blue hen which was repaired after being on widowhood and sitting seven days, she has channel form including 11th BBC Bordeaux. Her sire is another from Ko being a son of “Zwarte Pau” when mated to a daughter of “De Cas” Dam of second section is a half sister of “Wing Down” from Alwyn Hill.
“Many congratulations to Darren McFadden on not only winning the Kings Cup but also a great team performance. Also, to all section winners and all those that timed in what was a very difficult race”. Third section was Ray Hammond with a hen bred out of his 5th Open BICC Barcelona winner which, along with the Grandfather won the two bird average award from Barcelona. The sire had flown Tarbes four times and with this family Ray has won Merit Awards in the L&SE Classic from Pau for three times in the first fifty of the open result. Fourth section was Mr & Mrs Peter Wells with a Dave Impett crossed Mark Gilbert two year old hen raced on widowhood with her cock at home waiting. They are not shown to the cocks before the race but spend a little time after the race together. Pete sent two with one all pooled but it was beaten by the one he fancied least, “it was just her day” Pete said. Fifth was Mr & Mrs Fear from Hayes in Middlesex.
First section was J & P Parker with a hen that had also won the section from Tarbes the previous year. They had a very good race, also winning third section with their second bird home and they are bred for the long distance races being a mixture of distance bloodlines like Battenburg, Pennine Heights etc. They are now being prepared for Bordeaux with the BBC as their first five birds came home fresh and they thought the convoyer did a great job considering the weather. They had flown the whole race program with the NFC on widowhood and apart from the first race which was difficult, they have come back in brilliant condition each time. Second was M Gaiter with a two year old dark pied which was 114th Open NFC Tarbes in 2018, 58th Open NFC Tarbes in 2019 and 2nd Greater Distance Club Tarbes. The sire was bred by Wally Turner of Dover and the dam is a Blue Bar bred from his own line of pigeons which was timed in from Perpignan three times. Fourth was Mr & Mrs Newman and Fifth was F J Quinn, who would like to congratulate all those who timed in but especially J & P Parker for winning the section two years on the trot with the same hen. His first timer flew Tarbes last season but came just outside of race time, being the third bird to his loft and is the last one to be bred out of his old number one stock pair. These have bred many winners and are Jim Biss crossed Jan Aarden lines.
Winning 1st Section G 17th Open is Mr & Mrs Kerr of Gloucester with “Champion Izzy” flying 604 miles. This marvellous five year old blue hen which was bred by club-mate Alen Gibb from his Cooper bloodlines, has now completed four journeys from the Pyrenees, twice from Pau and now twice from Tarbes. Her first three visits were in the Central Southern Classic’s Blue Riband event when she recorded brilliant results. Firstly, as a two year-old she was 1st NW Section 4th Open from Pau beaten by pigeons on or near the south coast. She was the longest flying bird on the winning day. As a three year-old she improved by winning 1st NW Section 1st Open from Pau, again being the longest flying bird on the winning day As a four year-old she came so close to an incredible double by achieving 2nd NW Section 2nd Open from Tarbes beaten by a few minutes by a pigeon flying 35 miles less. She completed a hat-trick of being the furthest flying bird on the winning day. All of these races were flown in difficult conditions, NE winds and very hot in France. On each occasion she homed in brilliant condition with hardly any weight loss and always on the second day. Her exploits during that three year period earned her a number of RPRA Region Awards. This year “Izzy”, racing as a widowhood hen as usual, had only four short inland races out to 101 miles and then competed in the NFC Messac race before being entered in the big one. She was left alone with her cock for the 24 hours before basketing with plenty of straw for nest building and as much food as she wanted. She was the partnership’s only entry and was confidently expected to do well, the only disappointment following the holdover was the change in wind direction from easterly to west. It was a long wait on Monday but at last she was home, unlike her previous trips when she homed as fresh as a daisy, she was totally knackered, falling over on the landing board and falling again when going through the sputnik. She was a bit down for a few hours but was back to her best by the next morning looking to get in with her cock. It was then we decided to retire her as she had nothing more to prove and had seemed to be telling us she’d had enough. It has been a tremendous privilege to own and race such a pigeon. Not only has she more than proved herself as a long distance hen she is also the dam and grand-dam of winners. We would like to congratulate all of those who have timed in this very hard race and thank the staff and other fanciers at the Bridgwater marking station for their help and interest shown in ‘Izzy’. Last but not least, thank you to the officials of the NFC for the regular updating of information on conditions in France and the welfare of the birds in very trying conditions”. Second was Stuart Wilcox who said “Firstly I would like to congratulate Darren McFadden on a much deserved win, and congratulate Rob Kerr on winning Section G with “Champion Izzy”, a once in a lifetime pigeon. My second section G was a two year cock on his first ever NFC race and for his preparation he flew Alencon, Cholet and Cholet but he returned late on all three of these races, although he always seemed fresh and full of life. His sire is bred by Mark Bulled and was purchased out of the Champions Auction in Blackpool being a direct son of “Old 60”, the g-sire of Legacy 1st Open NFC Tarbes for Mark. His dam is bred by Robert Brooks direct from “Chuckles” 9th Open NFC Pau, when paired to the mother of “Mendip Magic” 1st Sect 2nd Open BICC Pau. Robert has been a great help to me and a couple of years ago we decided to form a partnership at High Littleton to compete in the International Races. I only speak to Rob about four times a day and his advice has helped our distance performances improve. Some years ago, Robert presented High Littleton FC with a trophy for 1st Tarbes, called the Trosky Trophy. Trosky and Harry Brooks were brilliant National flyers for years so we have teamed up to try and keep the tradition going. I’m thrilled that I have managed to win this trophy and even more thrilled that it is with a grandson of “Chuckles” who contained all of the old Brooks Brothers blood which goes back to Fear Brothers and Vic Priddy. We managed to time 3 of our 9 entries with a further 3 arriving on Thursday and Friday”. Third was A Smith & Son “I would like to start with my congratulations to the race winner and all the section winners on what turned out to be quite a tough race. The bird I timed is a Matt Rakes Indy Lines bird on the sire's side, gifted to me by my good friend Robbie Hooper of Poole, Dorset. On the dam's side, is a hen having flown Tarbes\Pau five times from my Jan Aarden family. All birds are flown on a roundabout system but allowed together two days prior to marking for Tarbes. I would like to finish by thanking Phil and Steve Walker for taking me to the Marking Station at Bridgwater. Fourth was Daniel Hocking who said “Firstly I’d like to congratulate Darren McFadden on a first class performance, definitely what dreams are made of to win NFC Tarbes. My first bird to win 4th section 53rd open was “Westerly Warrior”, last year he was also my first bird and won 1st section,11th open. He was sent on the roundabout and left with his hen the night before basketing , he had two channel races to prepare him for tarbes which is exactly the same as 2018 . His parents were from my friend Sheldon Horn, the sire being Jan Aarden crossed Buggerman lines and the dam being bred by Mark Gilbert “Emile” and “Supreme” lines . “Warrior” will be left till next year now and prepared in the same way. Fifth section was Barrie Simmons who has named his hen “Belle” after their now departed Cocker Spaniel and is bred down from J & D Staddon's “Sumo” lines x Crowley & Green “Gopher” lines. She was trained to the coast before going to NFC Fougeres, Cholet and then she was ready for Tarbes. He is very grateful to those who have helped him this year “you know who you are”
Kelvin Sharman was first section H with a widowhood cock whos sire is from the “Poco” lines of Jos Thorne via Brian Long. The dam is from “Southfield Supreme” when paired to a double granddaughter of “Champion George” 1st NFC Grand National for G & C Cooper. Kelvin races his birds on a loose roundabout system with all going to the races together and his section winner was sent to Alencon with the BICC winning 3rd sect then on to BICC Cholet before being rested around the loft in preparation for Tarbes. 2nd, 4th, 5th and 8th section was Mike Turner from Alconbury who wrote; “Tarbes has always been the race point I wanted to do well at so when I moved to Alconbury Village in 2014 I began building a team that I believed would fly the distance of 632 miles. My initial aim was to have a decent sized team ready by 2017 but things started badly as the youngsters I bred in 2014 were a poor bunch of specimens and only a couple showed any promise. New loft, new stock, new location – I rushed things and it back fired. So back to the drawing board and my hopes were raised with some of the 2015 and 2016 youngsters showing potential and my new Tarbes race date was set for 2018 with everything going very well. With the 2018 race date rapidly approaching I was confident that my pigeons would put in a good performance. Then disaster struck. Two weeks before the race they all went off form. They didn’t want to exercise and there was no noise in the loft. All tests came back negative except for a slightly raised yeast count. I had no option but to withdraw from the race. Gutted! So, yet another new Tarbes date was set, this time 2019. Fortunately, nothing went wrong in the build up this time, so the pigeons were entered with confidence for a good result in section H. All the pigeons sent to Tarbes have been very lightly raced but have had many training tosses from 35 to 50 miles. A strict feeding regime was followed with a gradual increase of fats and oils as the season progressed. My 2nd section pigeon was sent on chipping eggs, my next pigeon was sitting 10 day eggs, my third pigeon was feeding a 7 day youngster and my fourth pigeon was sent unpaired but trying to attract the attention of all the cock birds in the loft.” Third sect was T E & J Stygall from Norwich from a double grandson of a Brian Denny pigeon that also bred 1st Sect Tarbes in 2016. The dam’s side is from their old family lines originating from George Brownley Van Hee bloodlines. Their pigeon is raced on widowhood and he had flown four inland races and Messac with the NFC and then just flown out before going to Tarbes.
First, second and third Section I was the distance legend Keith Bush from Cossall, who said “My first bird home was a two year old hen sitting approximately 14 days, she was gifted to me as a baby by a friend and he said he wanted them tried out, I told him they have come to the right place. She was with a few that was purchased as babies from Menne and Dochters and was my 3rd bird as a yearling from Messac. She like my other timers had no training prior to racing and went to the club race on the first Saturday in May, then three more inland races followed by Fougeres on the 1st June. She was sent as a spare hen to Fougeres then allowed to go down on her third nest for Tarbes not having reared a youngster this season. Second was a three year old hen of my own bloodlines also sitting her first youngster of the year. My third bird came badly smashed up I guess he had hit the wires on the previous day as it had dried up, and I have been told he now qualifies for a Certificate Of Merit, the last two were all the old family that I've had for years, congratulations to all who got birds, it sure was tough” Fourth was G Duggan with his little dark pied cock which was making his first attempt at Tarbes. He had a preparation race with the BICC from Poitiers and the time on the wing seems to have benefited him in a testing race, although some seem to make it look easy. A big well done to all, especially the winner. Fifth section was Alwyn Hill with a mealy son of “Wingdown” which was 1st section 16th Open two years ago. His dam, “Antonides” is from “The Condor” and is also mother to 4th sect NFC Tarbes two years ago. When the mealy cock won 1st section he was sent sitting eggs but raced on total widowhood for 2019.
First section once again was Booth & Roper who said; “What a weekend we have had in National racing when we timed our four year old blue chequer hen from Tarbes, flown on our Widowhood system. She is a hen in a million having battled to fly against the wind and have nearly 19 hours on the wing. We had some young birds out and Trevor saw her come on line only to join in with them for two laps of honour before seeing Trevor by the loft and dropped into the open doors. It’s a dream come true, and one we will remember for a very long time. We had two outstanding performances this weekend from two hens who we have named after our two mums. The Tarbes hen is “Sportsview Amy-Doreen”, and the MNFC hen is “Sportsview Joyce”. “Amy-Doreen” was sent to the first two National races but not the third and had a couple of inland races before going to Tarbes. She has a very good C.V. having been 2nd sect, 4th open Falaise BICC 2016, 17th sect, 35th open Vire MNFC 2017, 1st sect, 4th open Poitiers BICC 2018, 10th sect, 82nd open Bordeaux MNFC 2018 and now an incredible achievement to take provisionally 1st section J, 5th Open NFC Tarbes. She returned to the lofts bouncing and ready to go again. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the open winner Darran McFadden and all section winners, especially Mr. and Mrs. Kerr’s “Izzy” taking 1st section G, an incredible hen. Also, a huge thank you for all the wonderful calls and messages from all our friends and acquaintances”. T & J Davies came second section and as we all know Jeremy does a stirling job with the RPRA One Loft race as well as racing his own birds at National level. Third was Mr & Mrs Gwyn Lloyd, who clocked a four year old blue cock Jan Aarden x Gaby, not raced as young bird as it was bred in August. Unfortunately, on his return they found that he had been hawked quite badly under his wing & back, what a brave pigeon to continue home. They think that hawk attacks are one of the main reasons for poor returns in some inland & channel races these days. He has proved a very good channel pigeon this year being 1st NW section 25th open from BICC Cholet & last year in the NFC Tarbes, 5th section J, which was another difficult race. They believe that the convoyer made the right decision letting the birds go in the afternoon. “Congratulations to everyone who clocked birds & fingers crossed hope more pigeons return very soon”. Fourth was Paul Millward with a four year old blue hen which is a previous winner of 2nd Section 20th Open BBC Coutances 2017 and she had only been raced inland for 2018. Her sire was bred by J & T Barnett & Dtr. Telford, being a son of "The Palamos" cock, himself a winner of 65th Open BBC Barcelona, 36th Open BBC Palamos and 398th Open NFC Tarbes. Her dam is a Louella pigeon world Aarden, a granddaughter of "Incredible".
Graham Clift came in fifth section and said “The Tarbes race once again proved to be tough particularly for pigeons flying over 600 miles well done all those who managed to clock in.
Congratulations in particular to Booth & Roper who race locally in winning Section J by a clear margin and 5th Open a great performance. Of the six I entered I only had one pigeon home at the close of the race, a two year old cock from a son of “Forest Gump” the father of the Freiaidenhofen loft, when paired to a sister of Mark Gilbert's 1st BICC Marseille. He was trained but not raced as a youngbird, flew Fougeres as a yearling and this year Coutances, Fougeres and Cholet with the NFC, although my experienced pigeons that flew this race last year are still missing. I race my birds on the roundabout/chaos system and never pair them, this year they have been fed on Vanrobaeys Super Sport Bordeaux once across the channel and added fats seven feeds before the race.
First section K was 81 year old Eric Higginbottom with a four year old blue hen to also be 3rd Open overall flying 694 miles. Her sire is a son of “New Remy” 1st National Barcelona 2014 when paired to a daughter of “New Laureaat” 1st International Barcelona 2013. The dam is a daughter of “Golden Barcelona” 1st Nat Ace all International races in 2010 for Dr Brokamp, when paired to a daughter of “Euro Diamond” which is considered the best ever long distance pigeon. As Eric now suffers with his breathing there is no private training given to his pigeons and they go directly into the club races. She was given three inland races and one channel race before being sent to Tarbes on widowhood. In 2018 she was 3rd sect K from Tarbes when only three were timed in race time and she will now be rested before being prepared for the Tarbes Grand National in 2020. Eric had entered ten of his pigeons in to the race but as the high temperatures were forecast to reach forty degrees in France he actually only sent three, of which all were home in good time.
Second was L & S Gash with their red hen which was also 2nd section K last year in the Tarbes race. So not bad going, two 2nd sections in two years for this four year old pigeon. As a young bird she lost her way home but was reported with a broken leg and because Luke had only just started racing and only had a few birds at the time they sent for her to come home to nurse her back to health, I bet they are pleased they did. She was bred by R & N Dennett but its breeding line is a R&N Dennett × Pearson & Dransfield. This then also won 3rd in the Mark Gilbert Hall of Fame last year also 19th section Messac and 13th section Cholet this year. So, this hen has placed 3 times in the top 20 section so far this year which they think is amazing for such a good hen. Fourth section was K G. Oliver & Son. Mark Oliver said their hen was a generation down from their Menne & Daughter x Brian Denny family, this Hen has been a very consistent Channel bird. As a yearling she flew 4 Channel races, 3 with the National Flying Club & came on the day at every race. He prepared her for Tarbes with 2 Channel races then paired her up & sent her sitting a small youngster. Fifth was Walther Smith from Messingham, North Lincolnshire.
First section L was Brian Lee with “Zlatan” a slatey pied widowhood cock. He has flown all the club inland races with Carentan and Fougeres prior to Tarbes. As a youngster he was 8th NW Section Chale with MNFC, and second North Staffs 4 bird Carentan open winning £840 and last year he was 10th section 25th open MNFC Tours. The sire is from Roger Suttons channel family, and the dam is a Florizone bred for him by Stockport's Brian Littlewood. In second is Ronnie Dodd who only sent one pigeon which had previously flown Tarbes four times and been on the result in three of those races. He is called “BBB” and raced on natural being of Jan Asrden crossed Van Wanroy bloodlines. His preparation was just two inland races and one Carentan with a few training tosses. Third section is Frankland & Dalby and their bird is a 2014 Bruggerman cock bred from stock obtained from good friend Dave Impett from Blackpool. He was sent feeding a 10 day youngster and has previously won 1st club, 3rd Fed Fougeres, 1st club, 3rd Fed Carentan and 17th section, 198th open MNFC Poitiers. Fourth was Lee Davison & Sons, with a three year old chequer hen of Marcelis crossed Nico Volken bloodlines. She is bred from a daughter of the old Marcelis mealy cock bred by Lee’s Dad in 2004, which was a winner of six times 1st club and also sire to 1st section L Cholet 448 miles NFC 2012 with a pigeon called “Miss Jubilee Bling”. The sire is a chequer Nico Volken cock was a 2012 late bred bought from Mark Dorrington, but bred by Nick Adshead, unfortunately the pigeon died at a young age a couple of years ago. Fifth was Brian Littlewood from Stockport with a four year old hen that also won fourth section in 2018. He said” My first pigeon this year is a son of “Moonlight Gambler” which won me the section and is from the best of Roger Flores. He was my second pigeon last year being fourth section and this year my first pigeon to take fifth section. My second pigeon is of 1RY breeding from Ponderosa UK. He won the section last year at two years of age and this year he came through to take ninth section. I'm immensely proud of them because these last two races were very difficult. Malcolm Treece of Congleton took third section last year with a Flores, related to “Moonlight Gambler” which gives me great satisfaction. I think the Ponderosa pigeons will be a great introduction, I just wish I add more years to cultivate them”
First was M Anderson & Sons flying 810 miles with a four year old Oswald Schneider cock which is based on the Sam de Jong “Barca 1” and “Barca 2” bloodlines. He has flown every NFC race this season and although he “nighted out” from Messac he has flown consistent. Paired to a white tippler hen, he built himself a nest “like a Pelican’s” before being sent to Tarbes. Ray said he will only pair to a white hen, which is one of the quirks of pigeon racing, and is an out and out Marathon pigeon. The day after he returned he was flying out and chasing his hen around so the race had not taken too much out of him and due to the weather forecast he decided to only send two four year old birds. His brother was 2nd in the North East Greater Distance Club flying 593 miles so a great bloodline for the future.
Another testing race following on from last year with section P leaders giving an excellent account of themselves and in top spot is Paul Walder of Sheerness, being 10th Open overall. Paul has set his stall out for this race in recent years and can be regularly found among the leaders and he said “Our first bird was a mealy widowhood cock having his second race from Tarbes. Then it took him five days which was another hard race and when I watched him come in this year's Tarbes race he was racing right to the loft. His sire was 21st and 38th Open Tarbes and his breeding is Kenny Hine and Eric Cannon cross Fear Bros and Mr and Mrs Bates “Silver Jay” lines, so you can see he is bred for the distance. Our preparation for this year's national was three local club races and the two BICC Cholet races. Our second bird was the same hen we timed in last year Tarbes race when she also was 10th open. This year she was going for her certificate of merit but being provisionally 147th Open, she has missed it this time by 47 positions. I would like to congratulate D & D McFadden on winning the Tarbes Grand National”. At 2nd section 12th Open with his single entry is Alan Annis of Wingham flying as A Annis & son. He clocked his ultra-reliable schaile chequer hen flying, 558 miles which means that she is due for a NFC Certificate of Merit for three times in the first 100 open NFC Tarbes after last year’s 12th section, 96th open and, in the 2017 event, 18th section, 65th open. A fantastic set of performances by a fantastic pigeon in a series of races that could be described, in the least, as ‘very trying’. Unsurprisingly, this year Alan had so much confidence in her that she was pooled and nominated in everything, so should pick up a tidy sum in the bargain. Everyone who has met Alan will know he adopts quite a laid-back approach to pigeons; they are kept on open hole, hopper fed and are trained regularly, midweek from Staplefields around 50 miles and Saturday Bedhamptons at 100 miles with the Wingham FC. NFC Messac was the four-year-old hen’s first competitive race this year before Tarbes. For this year’s Tarbes event, she was sent sitting 10-12 days although last year she was sent covering a small baby. “Flying natural and sending both cocks and hens means sometimes that things don’t always work out as planned, a cock may go missing for example, which upsets the nesting cycle. You have to play it by ear,” says Alan. She was bred from a cock gifted by fellow club member Simon Knowles, F. Knowles and son, containing Simon’s Barcelona lines and including Cyril Wells’ “Corn Bin Cock”. The sire was the winner of 9th BBC, 14th BICC Barcelona and 58th Open Pau, and he was paired to a Dutch Meulemans hen purchased by Alan at the Blackpool show. The Tarbes hen showed her potential early, being Alan’s first pigeon in the young bird national, and while her sister subsequently went on to win the Bromley Continental from Poitiers, she began her illustrious NFC Tarbes career. Alan is adamant that she will continue in the race team which, he adds: “Do their thing, despite me!” Thanks to Colin Hoskins in helping to compile this report on Alan. Third section 17th Open is John Underdown from Basildon, who said “I bought some Nico Volkens young birds from Louella in 2013 and from those I bred this 2015 chequer cock. Although he was not raced as a young bird, he was trained down to south coast every weekend and looking back he's had approximately eight races in his life, then lightly raced up to 300 miles. He has been to Falaise and Cholet this year, then straight in to Tarbes, sitting 14 days. They are hopper fed and have the freedom of an open loft. Well done John and doubly so, as a few days later John clocked one from Barcelona to be well up in that result, distance racing at its best. Fourth Section 18th Open is Norman Flint of Billericay in Essex. Norman clocked a three year old chequer cock sired by a bird from Ron Olive which is a son of his 12th and 13th NRCC Lerwick. The dam is from Geoff Cooper a granddaughter of “George”. It had previously scored in the section from Messac and last year from Tarbes it took around a week to get home, a reoccurring theme here so look after those that come back out of race time, you never know if they will make amends the following year. Fifth section is Mark Bulled of Harlow and a previous Kings Cup winner who said “Firstly my congratulations to all that timed in another difficult Tarbes race, especially my good friend Darran Mcfadden on a much deserved Kings Cup victory. Also, the convoyer team in extreme conditions. I timed a four year old widowhood cock that has previously scored 32nd NFC Tarbes, so all being well he will be going for a certificate of merit next year. He is a grandson of “Legacy” as were my other two timers. He homed in good condition apart from half his tail missing and my second timer was also missing half her primaries. I was pleased to hear “Legacy” pigeons timed for friends Robbie Wilton, Andy Parsons and Stuart Wilcox in the first 100”. Sixth section is Kevin Foster of Longfield Hill with a three year old widow hen, her 3rd consecutive top ten section win in National racing having been 9th section 24th Open from Agen last year, then 6th section Signone NFC and now 24th Open Tarbes. Bred from a direct daughter of “The Wriggler” from Geoff Cooper x a double grandson of “Kannibal”, she is a sister to the hen that was the first pigeon from Tarbes in the NFC result two consecutive years. The picture was taken 10 mins after arrival playing up to me and plenty left in the tank!
As always, Perry Liddle working hard for the Cornish fanciers wrote; “1st Section Q, Provisional 137th Open was Lee Luscombe and Mr and Mrs Steve Wright, flying to Lee’s address in Roche. They timed their good 3yo blue chequer, celibate hen known as “Q Queen”, at 18:47 on Tuesday to record 410ypm. Although flying as a celibate hen, she had her cock bird in her box the night before basketing to give her a little extra incentive and it certainly seemed to do the trick. I handled “Q Queen” a week before the race and I must say that she was in fabulous condition. Leading up to the race “Q Queen” was literally all Lee and Steve could talk about and Lee’s excitement when she was clocked was summed up in a simple text message “Boom Baby”. “Q Queen” was timed from Tarbes last year to win 1st Section Q, 99th Open when she received her name for her efforts and obviously the Partnership are delighted to have a Double Tarbes Section Winner. She is absolutely bred for the job, being a granddaughter of the fabulous “Cracker” winner of 1st and 3rd Open BICC for the Luscombe’s, when crossed to a hen of De Rauw Sablon lines obtained from Roger Phillips of Guernsey. This hen has always been brilliantly consistent, having previously scored 5th Section Fougeres, 6th Section Messac as well as 2nd Section 12th Open Messac earlier this year. I had the pleasure of handling “Q Queen” the day after her return and she was in lovely condition, testament to the condition of her when she was sent. She is now off for a well-earned “Stud Break” at the House of Aarden, where I understand she will be paired to the magnificent De Cas. Considering that De Cas was 1st International Barcelona Ace Pigeon 2009 – 2010 and also considering Q Queen’s efforts from Tarbes, we would describe this in Cornwall as a pairing of two proper pigeons. Congratulations to Lee, Steve and Lesley on yet another sterling effort. We Cornish might be accused of doing it “drekly” or using a calendar rather than ETS, but I always think that any bird that makes it home from Tarbes is worth a mention and desperately unlucky not to time in race time was Chris Cleave of Liskeard, who got his two year old blue chequer hen flying to two day old chicks on Friday, just outside of race time. This hen is a Jan Aarden x Janssen, being bred from a granddaughter of the House of Aarden’s “De Cas” when paired to a Janssen purchased from Jeff Clare shortly before he emigrated to Australia. Chris described his hen as truly amazing because in mid-May she was ripped to pieces by one of the local falcons. Nursed back to full fitness she won 2nd Club 10th Combine Bovingdon two weeks before Tarbes. She’s one to watch for the future and proof of what a little TLC can do! Finally, I have to add that I have just had a discussion with a delighted John Angwin, who has just got his good four year old blue pied Busschaert x Hofkins hen that flew BICC Poitiers and NFC Tarbes last year. This gorgeous hen has been really consistent for John and she was having her eight trip across the water and therefore John was over the moon that she had made it home.”
On the day some fantastic performances were put up by the Welsh fancers in section W. John and his wife Pat timed a hen to win 1st section 13th Open which was sent on a two day old chick. They usually prefer eggs however last year she was sent on eggs and took 5 days to return so they hoped she would respond better this way. She has been steady racing up to now and seems to turn up in slower race conditions. She flew Ancenis as a yearling as do most of their birds she also flew Saints as a two year old but returned next day. She has in the past however been 5th & 14th WSRNFC from 250mls and 15th west sec Messac with the NFC. Her father is a full brother to their 2016 Bergerac Welsh national winner “Cuzzo” and the dam was a gift from their good friends David and Robert Pugh of Maerdy, sadly David has passed but he would have been delighted that his gift pigeon bred a good winner for his mates in the east section. She was purchased from Robert Venus by them and is the best of Brugermann blood down from “Mini” & “Nikita”. They would like to congratulate Darran McFadden on his outstanding performance and everyone else who clocked from this as ever demanding race point. They would also like to thank all the people who bombarded them with congratulations, the whole experience was quite humbling they said “thank you one and all last but not least the convoy team stuck in sweltering heat trying to keep our feathered friends from dehydrating well done lads”. Second, Third and fourth section was Mark Sparey and his first pigeon, being 21st Open is a three year old blue cock now named “Rhiw Parc Reliable” is down from “Southfield Supreme” x Brian Denny lines. In third section 25th Open is “Rhiw Parc Liam” which is “Forrest Gump” x “Southfield Supreme” and has had a few results well up in the Welsh section of the NFC in the past. Fourth section 30th open. For Mark was in last year's Tarbes race finishing 121st open and was completely flown out and he thought he would ever race again. Mark commented on the negative Social Media and he for one does not know what else the convoyer could have done and would like to convey his congratulations to Darran McFadden, he will be a sad loss to the sport. “See you in the Algarve Darren, the drinks are on you” Fifth section was A. Frampton & N. Price with a four year old hen bred from their old distance family, when crossed with J&D Staddon pigeon. Racing to a seven day old youngster, the hen had previously won 8th open welsh national Bergerac.
That concludes my report on the Tarbes Grand National for the 2019 season. It would seem that the weather patterns are changing and we are experiencing much hotter summers, especially in France. Racing in high temperatures, with our birds not being acclimatised, is going to lead to difficult racing whichever organisation liberates, as has been demonstrated over the previous few weeks. Blaming the Race Controllers and Committee members who are willing to give up their time to agonise over these decisions is unfair, unnecessary and could lead to the resignations of some of the very best organisers in our sport. No one deserves to be vilified on public platforms by fanciers unwilling to take the same post themselves, and we should remember that these Committee members give up their own aspirations in order to help others achieve theirs.
Any news or views to me Chris Sutton on 01530 242548 or 07792 356330.