The husband and wife partnership of Brian and Christine Guilford equalled a long-standing record when they won the North Road Championship Club’s Racing Pigeon-sponsored race from Perth on Saturday.
They became the first loft to win this race in successive years since Geoff and Bridget Clare (then living at Old Leake, near Boston, but now based in Australia) set the record way back in 1981 and 1982, when their Champion Lucky also became the first bird to win any NRCC race twice in successive seasons.
Last year we reported that it was an afternoon of agony and ecstasy for Brian and Christine before it was confirmed that their dream of winning an open race with the NRCC had become a reality.
First they were in the lead, and then it seemed they had been relegated to second place before it was revealed that the “overtaking” fancier had verified the wrong time.
Again, however, the leaderboard changed, and the Guilfords were back in second place by .6 of a yard. But once more it was a false alarm; another fancier had also verified the wrong time – and Brian and Christine were back in front – this time to stay. This year, on a difficult day for many, it was also close – but without the agony of last year’s drama which led Brian to quip: “We must be the only fanciers to win the NRCC three times in one day.”
Ironically, and no doubt cursing his luck, the same fancier is provisionally in runners-up spot. Kevin Lawson, the Ollerton multiple winner, was denied yet another NRCC success by the Guilfords, while Riggott and Richardson were a whisker away in third place. The respective provisional velocities are 1252.5, 1250.1 and 1249.9 ypm. The quality of the opposition is emphasised by the fact that John Richardson was key to the success of past winners, the Porter and Richardson partnership.
Last year’s win was the culmination of 60 years of trying, and heralded the day this husband and wife partnership had so longed for. The second win was a welcome bonus and, because the whole team came well, was greeted by 73-year-old Brian as “our most enjoyable day in pigeon racing.” Don’t forget that they have twice been open runners-up in the Fraserburgh race – in successive years.
The winner of Perth 2017 is a product of the now famous Guilford NRCC-winning family. It is a three-year-old blue widowhood cock bird (the partners race only cocks) whose sire is nestmate to Magic, last year’s Perth winner. The mother, bred by Brian and Sue Stone, is a Wildermeersch x Gus Christians. Nowadays, because he firmly believes that to succeed in the NRCC you have to breed from birds that have been successful in this kind of racing, Brian has a stock loft housing 13 pairs with the right pedigrees.
Illy, for that is the name given to the new champion, will join them for next season. Why Illy? “Because he is as nasty as tennis player, Illy Nastase,” said Brian. “He is a brute in the nest box, and these days I have to wear a glove to pick him out of the box.”
The bird has won in every season he has been in the race team, right from being a youngster and, last November, Brian predicted to NRCC convoyer, Darren Shepherd, that “if I ever win another NRCC race it will be with this bird.”
The Guilfords sent ten birds, and had nine home on Sunday when we spoke, and will fill other prominent positions when the complete result is finalised.
Despite starting the season with only 13 cock birds, two of which were hawked at the very first race, results so far flying in the Nottinghamshire Federation, have included: Wetherby – 3rd club, 9th section, 27th open (1, 277 birds); Ripon – 1st club, 6th section, 7th open (1, 098 birds); Aycliffe – 2nd club, 2nd section, 2nd open (1, 485 birds). From NRCC Dunbar they were 2nd section, 135th open. On Saturday it was very windy at Sandiacre, with the east in the wind favouring the Nottinghamshire fanciers who took full advantage.
The winner trapped beautifully, and without circling the loft. Alongside his loftmates he had been prepared for the season by being paired, and ten parted from his hen after they had been sitting ten days towards the end of March.
Bowls were removed, and the birds were given six or seven training tosses up to 30-35 miles, always returning to their hens. They are fed a widowhood mixture in troughs, and never left short of food (“They need plenty of petrol in the tank”, says Brian). Honey is placed in the water when they come home from a race, and they are fed sunflower hearts in the build-up to races. They rest a week between NRCC races.
The Guilfords, steadfast supporters of north road racing, have been a name to look out for in NRCC racing in recent years and, for a long time, have been outstanding competitors at club, federation and amalgamation level. Over the years they have registered 89 Federation wins. “We only fly widowhood cocks because that is the easiest for us. They always come back to the hens, even for every training toss. We feed a mixture of widowhood mixes. We also feed some seeds,” said Brian.
Both Mr and Mrs Guilford have had health problems over the years, Christine having to endure courses of chemotherapy in her battle against cancer, and Brian needing daily doses of morphine to help him through the pain barrier which followed complications after a double hernia operation when he was 50. He has been unable to work since, having previously run a green grocery business.
He recently underwent another hernia operation and Christine tended to the birds while he was recovering.
A total of 181 members sent 1694 birds to Perth and race secretary Ian Bellamy described it as “Another tricky NRCC race with the west side of the organisation coming out on top. “It was a very close thing at the top with the eventual provisional winners being Mr & Mrs B Guilford doing 1252.5 ypm closely followed by K Lawson on 1250.1 ypm and third Riggott & Richardson on 1249.9
“The verifications seemed slow all afternoon but again birds got to all parts of the NRCC by around tea time.”
Provisional section winners are:
Sec A = Mr & Mrs B Guilford.
Sec B = K Lawson .
Sec C = V Martins .
Sec E = M Smith.
Sec F = D Hicks.
Sec H = K Surrey.
Sec I = J Boyd.
The next NRCC race is from Fraserburgh, sponsored by Bamford’s Top Flight, on Saturday June 10th, marking on Thursday June 8th.