Mark Gilbert Triple International winner.
The success story continues.
Winner of 18x1st National [ 4 x 1sts National in 2016].
1st International Dax 17,400 birds
1st International [ yearlings] Agen 11,000 birds 1st,2nd and 3rd International [hens] Agen
3rd International [old bird] Agen. 3rd International Pau.
The amazing success story of possibly Britain’s finest fancier continues unabated for this quiet, unassuming yet outstandingly successful fancier. As many will no doubt be aware, Mark won his first
International race in 2004 from Dax, against a field of more than 17,000 pigeons.
In the 2011 Agen/ Bordeaux International race Mark clocked three yearling hens to win 1st,2nd,& 3rd International[Hens]3,200 birds, as well as 1st ,2nd, 9th& 30th International [Yearlings]11,444 birds, plus 3rd Open [Old Birds]10,400 birds, and 2nd ,4th & 5th Open Overall from 22,029 birds. A brilliant team performance competing against Europe’s finest.
In addition to these outstanding International performances, there have been many other top positions in National and Classic races including in 2012 1st Marseille and 1st Barcelona with the BICC. This success
was repeated again in 2013 when Mark won 1st Open BICC Agen and came so close to winning another International race when in the Pau International, his pigeon finished at 3rd Open BICC and 3rd Open International only beaten by pigeons racing to the lofts of his good friends Geoff and Catherine Cooper who won 1st Open International and Darren McFadden whose bird took 2nd Open International.
The results for the 2014/ 2015 / 2016 seasons are added at the end of this report and are nothing short of amazing.
The Langstone Gold Cup, one of the most prestigious trophies on the British pigeon racing scene has also been won on at least four occasions in recent years whilst competing with the NFC.
The Gold Cup is awarded to the fancier with the best overall average in all National Flying Club races each season.
Put simply, Mark Gilbert wins races with monotonous regularity whether they be club races from 60 miles or National races at 700 miles – he is quite simply, the man with the “Midas Touch”.
I first visited Mark’s set up in 2009 and since I became Press Officer for the BICC in 2012, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Winkfield on a number of subsequent occasions to report on the man’s outstanding wins. One of Mark’s most successful seasons was the 2012 campaign and I think that’s where I’ll take up the story of his success.
The 2012 racing season saw the Gilbert race team winning consistently at the highest level culminating in the great performance of “Southfield Tiger” in winning the BICC Barcelona race at 707 miles. Mark’s timer in this race was bred from all the very best of the old Deweerdts that have stood the test of time both here in the UK and on the continent at
the lofts of the originator of the strain Emiel Deweerdt & sons of Kortemark in Belgium. The sire of Mark’s Barcelona winner was bred by Emiel Deweerdt and is a son of the Deweerdt’s Bordeaux International winner “ Emiel”. The dam is also a direct Deweerdt being a daughter of “Champion Magnus”. Who said blood will tell? It’s never been more appropriate than in the breeding of this, one of the latest champions at Southfield Lofts . The five year old was lightly raced in preparation for his trip from Barcelona receiving just two inland races and two channel races from Messac and Tours before going south of the Pyrenees. He is a previous winner of 10th Open BICC Pau International in 2010, 33rd Open BICC Agen International; 10th Open LSECC Tarbes and 303rd Open NFC Tarbes, so is certainly no stranger to success.
In the 2012 BICC Marseille race Mark was at it again with his sole entry taking 1st Open. We have all heard about “super form” when a fancier seems capable of sending the nest pans in the loft and still get them to win!! In Mark Gilbert’s case it seems that he has the ability to put his race team into “hyperdrive” when the National races come around as he also clocked the winner of the NFC Saintes race on the same weekend in 2012.
In the Marseille race he clocked a Deweerdt x Rutz cock that had been 10th Open NFC Tarbes just a couple of weeks earlier. The Deweerdts are world renowned as top class performers at all levels of competition up to International level. You can rely on them to give you their "best shot" whatever the distance and type of race undertaken.
However the Rutz family of long distance pigeons are as yet relatively unknown outside Germany where they have developed a formidable reputation as hard day long distance pigeons.
The Marseille winner has been a good bird being 10th Open NFC Tarbes this year, he was also 40th Open Saintes NFC last year and as a youngster was in the top 100 Open with the NFC twice in both young bird Nationals. Mark rates him as one of the best birds he has ever raced and only a two year old now. He was sent on widowhood and shown his hen for two minutes before basketting. In 2013 the cock was sent to Barcelona and clocked to take 5th Open BICC.
He’s bred from a Rutz & Son Cock from Germany. Rutz won the 2008 German National from Barcelona and the father of the Marseille winner is a direct son of this Barcelona National winner, The mother is a grand daughter of Deweerdt’s Ted and Magnus.”
As if this was not enough, the Perpignan International race in early August 2012 proved to be a “tour de force” for this amazing fancier. A total of 27 pigeons were entered in this 619 mile race. The team was made up from pigeons that had previously flown Tarbes NFC or Barcelona International earlier in the season and the result was 22 from 27 on the second day with 17 pigeons making the BICC Open result!!!! This guy should have been competing for team GB in the Olympics in the “50 impossible things to achieve before breakfast” event.
IN THE BEGINNING.
So when did it all start and what makes this remarkable man “tick”? It could be said that it all began when a fifteen year old boy witnessed his single entry in the Pau National race dropping towards its home loft, after completing its 570 mile journey from Southern France, to eventually finish 233rd Open NFC.
In the 30 or so years that have passed since that memorable Pau race, Mark’s passion for long distance pigeon racing has, if anything, grown rather than diminished.
Until the year 2003 many great British fanciers had attempted to win an International race competing against the cream of European fanciers, but to no avail. The "mould was broken" so to speak in that year when the great West Country fancier Brian Sheppard won 1st Open International Dax against a field of more than 19,000 pigeons with his great racer "Legend".
However, since 2003, the UK has produced no less than TEN International winners – fanciers whose birds have competed against and beaten the best in Europe and the Gilbert pigeons have now achieved this remarkable feat on three occasions!
As I mentioned earlier, Mark Gilbert has been fortunate enough to win many races since his initial success and amongst these classic wins are 1st NFC plus 1st International Dax against more than 17,000 pigeons;1st International Yearlings; 1st ,2nd, 3rd International Hens ;1st NFC Pau / Saintes; 2 x 1st NFC Saintes;1st BICC Pau on three occasions; 1st BBC Messac; 1st London & South East Classic Bergerac and 1st Classic Guernsey. Add to these outright wins, a number of R/U finishes in National races, plus scores of club, Federation and Open race wins, and you have the CV of one of the most successful fanciers in England at the present time. Most of the aforementioned performances have been achieved in the years that Mark and his family have been at their present address in Winkfield, a village a few miles to the south west of the royal town of Windsor.
The grass is certainly not allowed to grow under the feet of this man as the range of lofts that have developed in this short time are nothing short of spectacular. Facing south east and measuring in total 140ft in length, with a 33ft brick built stock loft and a newly erected
second stock loft, they are a far cry from Mark’s original boyhood loft which was a 6ft x 6ft builder’s shed. The photographs that accompany this article will, I hope show, how impressive these Petron built lofts are. Each loft is 10 ft wide and has a 4ft wide corridor along
the front allowing access to each section. The 72ft widowhood loft has eight sections that house the 86 strong team of widowers in six sections with a further two sections to house the widowers’ hens. The hens sections have grid floors to which a large number of small plastic balls have been added. These balls discourage the hens from going down onto the floor where they may start to form amorous relationships with other hens! The perches in the hens sections are also designed to discourage lesbian matings between the hens.
The young bird loft, which stands immediately adjacent to the widowhood loft, measures 40 ft x 10 ft and has four sections which houses the 160 strong young bird team. The 2010 season saw the first attempt at racing a team of 32 hens on the roundabout system and these
are housed in a 27ft loft with two sections plus a central corn store. All lofts have grid flooring and automatically cleaned nest boxes so the time spent on day to day loft management is reduced considerably, which must be a godsend to Mark’s father Geoff, who comes around daily to see that the birds’ every needs are catered for.
Management at the Southfield lofts is kept as simple as possible with very little frills attached. Once the moult is completed the birds are gradually brought up in readiness for mating. This takes place in early December for the stock birds with the widowhood cocks mated in early February. All the racers, whether they are sprint, middle distance or long distance are mated at the same time. Once their domestic duties have been completed the widowers are gradually eased into their daily home exercise regime and when Mark thinks that they are ready they are then given just two 15 mile training tosses prior to the first race which is usually at 60 – 100 miles. On each of these training tosses, the hens are in the boxes awaiting the returning widowers. The training basket is rarely used thereafter as the widowers are kept up to the mark with two one hour exercise sessions each day. The cocks are locked out of the loft during these periods and exercise freely as Mark rarely has to resort to the flag. In early March, the roundabout team can usually be seen putting in more than an hour’s voluntary exercise and certainly go with a swing. Nothing much changes for the remainder of the old bird programme, except that Mark likes the widowers destined for the long distance classics to have two to three weeks rest from racing in the build up to their target race. Once the channel races arrive the birds are raced on alternate weeks.
At the time of one of my visits in early March, the old bird race team was being fed on a mixture of 50% Barley and 50% Versele Laga Gerry Plus. Once racing gets underway, the widowers and young birds are fed the same mixture and this is Versele Laga Superstar Plus with 10% barley added. They are communally fed to appetite after each exercise period and the feeding stops once the birds start to leave the barley. The widowers are fed individually in their nest boxes on peanuts and seeds, in addition to their normal mixture, in the final days of preparation for the long distance races. Mark firmly believes that for these “long haul flights” the birds must have sufficient fuel in the tank to complete the job.
The young bird team is raced on the darkness system and is extensively trained in preparation for the young bird programme. Once racing begins they usually get two tosses each week from 35 – 40 miles in addition to their twice daily exercise. On talking to Mark I had the impression that he is hard but fair with his youngsters and if fit and well they are expected to complete the programme including a number of sorties across the channel from Northern France. As an example of this no holds barred attitude I give you the case of the 2011 Saintes National winner- a yearling that also competed in the High Littleton Tours race at more than 300 miles as a young bird.
The medication programme employed here is minimal. Stock birds and racers are treated for canker before mating and the racers get a further three day treatment for canker before going to their designated long distance race. Mark does favour the use of supplements to help keep the birds in top racing condition and has in the past used multivitamins and various natural products to this ends. However he believes that if the corn fed is of top quality it should contain sufficient vitamins to satisfy the birds’ needs and the Versele Laga Plus mixtures have proved to be very successful for the racers at Southfield Lofts to say the least!
This pragmatic approach is mirrored in Mark’s attitude to the handling characteristics of pigeons. As he said, he would rather have a winner that handled badly than a bad pigeon that handled like a dream. The cock birds in the Deweerdts family tended to be generally on the large side, mostly chequers, dark chequers with a few reds. They had excellent feather quality and good strong eye colouration. Mark went direct to the fountainhead to purchase the Deweerdts and has had at one time or other, children of all the family’s best performers in International races through to 650 miles. These include children of Emiel, Ted, Iban etc and all have produced the goods at Southfield.
A second family was introduced by Mark in the late 1990’s with a view to competing at sprint /middle distance racing. These were the Van Elsakers and they certainly repaid Mark’s confidence in them as it was this family that produced Mark’s first International winner “Southfield Supreme”, in 2004 from Dax plus scores of club and Federation winners. They are mainly blues and beautifully balanced pigeons with pronounced pectoral muscles and predominantly pearl eyes. “Southfield Supreme” has now become the mainstay of the stock loft as he is responsible, directly and indirectly through his children, for scores of pigeons that win at club, Federation, National and International level at all distances out to 600 miles.
At the time of my initial visit to Southfield in 2009 the above two families made up the bulk of the Gilbert stock with a number of additions, such as some terrific descendents of “ Invincible Spirit” and the Smaraagd lines, which produced excellent all round racers when crossed with the Deweerdts .
Nevertheless, Mark is always on the look out for something exceptional that will give his racing performances an extra boost, and with his growing interest in International racing in mind, he imported a number of late breds from the German multi International winner Hans Peter Brockamp. These were all direct children of the Brockamp International winners. At the time of my first visit in late 2009 I wrote the following “the Brockamps were very young but still old enough to show their class. I believe that they will be a useful addition to the Gilbert team both pure and when crossed with the ever dependable Deweerdts.” Well I did not have a “crystal ball” with me at the time but those words have proved to be prophetic, as the results achieved by
these Brockamps at National and International level over the past few seasons have been nothing short of phenomenal.
Since that initial draft of birds were introduced from the German ace, many more birds have been purchased at great expense and Mark now has six direct children of Euro Diamond plus children of “George” the sire of Euro Diamond as well as offspring from Mistral and most of the other Brockamp International winners. They are a lovely type of bird as they are just on medium sized ,shallow keeled and give the impression that they would be very easy to condition as they do not carry any excess weight but are nevertheless, well muscled.
The first cross of these Brockamps with the children of Southfield Supreme has produced a “golden seam” of winning pigeons. It is this line of breeding that Mark has chosen to follow as he has concentrated his pairings around sons and daughters of Southfield Supreme with sons and daughters of the various children of Brockamp’s International winners thus strengthening the gene pool to the nth degree.
Further introductions have been made from some of the best sprint /middle distance lofts in Europe such as Koopman, Van denabeele, and the German sprint/middle distance sensation Andreas Drapa. Mark has also gone to Syndicate lofts based in North Wales and has bought pigeons direct from their top breeders such as “Drum” and “Gerrie” etc.
With his eyes set on winning the Barcelona race at close on 700 miles, a draft of pigeons was brought in from the Barcelona National winning loft of Rutz and son of Germany plus some birds from the excellent Belgian long distance fancier Etienne Meirlaen . The Rutz pigeons were extremely small dark chequers with some of the hens being no bigger than starlings, yet they compete successfully from Barcelona into Germany and reminded me very much of the old Southwells.
Direct children of all the top pigeons from the loft of Brian Denney have also found their way into the stock loft at Southfield and these include a number of children of “Tuff Nut” and “Dark Dancer”. Time will tell if these introductions will make the grade at Southfield, but one thing is for sure, Mark Gilbert will give them every opportunity to prove their ability.
All of the above introductions are, as you would expect given Mark’s ability as a fancier, exceptional specimens bred direct from the champion pigeons in each of these fancier’s lofts. No expense has been spared in acquiring these birds and I can tell you that many thousands of pounds have been spent to ensure that only the very best bred from the very best have come to Southfield. Once at Southfield, Mark wastes
no time in putting them to the test – they have to perform on the road or in the stock loft or out they go, no matter how well bred they are or how much they have cost.
Mark’s breeding policy is to outcross for racing and inbreed to strengthen the family bloodlines for the stock loft. This breeding plan is based on the fact that only birds from proven National or International performers have been introduced over the past years irrespective of their family or loft of origin. The only thing that counts at Southfield lofts is PERFORMANCE.
To illustrate this point I give you the case of one of Mark’s best Deweerdt stock cocks, bought from the Deweerdt family as a six year old. In two season’s breeding at Southfield he sired the Red Cock “Southfield Pau” 1st BICC Pau; “Southfield Nightflight”1st NFC Pau/ Saintes and “Southfield Darkie” 1st BBC Messac and as Mark said he was one of the most non descript weedy little things you could imagine. He was however, apart from being a super stud cock, a full brother to the Deweerdt’s “Raldo” winner of 4th International Perpignan. He was mated to an Eric Cannon hen, a daughter of “Culmer Bess” to breed Southfield Pau and Southfield Nightflight. When mated to a daughter of “Emiel”, a winner of 1st International for the Deweerdts he sired Southfield Darkie.
SOME OF THE WINNING PIGEONS.
The major winners from the 2011 National and International winning season were quickly moved to the stock loft to hopefully breed the next generation of National and International winners.
The blue pied hen that won 1st section 2nd Open NFC Tarbes in 2011 is a fairly long cast hen bred from a double grandson of Invincible Spirit when mated to a daughter of Southfield Supreme the Dax International winner.
The winner of the Yearling International from Bordeaux was a lovely blue hen bred from a son of Brockamp’s Mistral
when paired to a direct daughter of Brockamp’s Euro Diamond. Second International Yearlings was a dark chequer hen bred from a son of Geoff Cooper’s Champion George when mated to a niece of Champion Best.
The winner of 3rd International Old birds had previously finished at 8th Open National Saintes in 2010 and is bred from a son of Drum and Gerrie when paired to a direct daughter of Southfield Supreme.
The 2011 NFC Saintes winner proved to be a small to medium sized light chequer cock and is bred in the purple as his father is a son of Syndicate Loft’s “Drum” and “Gerrie”. The dam of the Saintes National winner is a direct daughter of Marcel Sangers’ “Laser Gun”. In marked contrast to the National winner, the second in the clock taking 2nd Open National in the 2011 Saintes race was a much bigger pigeon with a magnificent bold head even though he too was only a yearling. This cock, which actually arrived with the National winner, is also bred from a son of Dutch Master when mated to a direct Gaby Vandenabeele hen bred from “Golden Gaby” and Band of Gold”. Third bird in the clock from the Saintes National winning 4th Open National was yet another Vandenabeele bred from a son of “Golden Gaby” with a daughter of Vandenabeele’s “Lover Boy”. In this NFC Saintes race, Mark clocked thirteen birds to finish in the first twenty six of the Open National result and that is some flying at a distance of 400 miles.
RESULTS for 2011.
1st,2nd,9th & 30th Open Yearlings International Bordeaux 11,444
1st, 2nd &3rd Hens International Bordeaux 3,200 birds. 3rd Open International Old Birds Bordeaux 10,400 birds.
2nd,4th & 5th Open International overall 22,029 birds.
Messac: 15th Open 5,766 birds.
Nantes: 1st &4th section 15th & 21st Open 8,745 birds.
Tarbes: 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th & 11th section; 2nd, 14th, 20th, 38th,
44th, 56th & 57th Open 3,290 birds.
Saintes: 1st , 2nd, 4th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th &
26th Open 4,128 birds.
Fougeres YB’s : 3rd &4th Open 4,776 birds.
Fougeres Old Hens: 1st section 4th Open 984 birds.
In the six races organised by the National Flying Club in 2011
the Gilbert loft finished in pole position i.e. 1st section on four occasions and this in the largest section in the organisation with birdages of between 800 – 2,000 birds. This is yet another record achieved by Mark Gilbert and his pigeons.
You can also add to the above, numerous club and Federation wins plus wins in local Open races to make up an incredible season’s racing from 60 to 570 miles.
Nothing much changed in the 2012 season either as can be seen from the BICC results highlighted earlier in this article.
Coming up to date now and the results for the 2013 OLD BIRD season are as follows:-
5th,10th, 35th,37th, 67th. 75th, 82nd, 84th, 91st.
Tours[2,453 birds]. 71st,72nd,83rd.
3rd[3rd Open International],8th, 12th, 38th, 72nd, 83rd, 89th,
95th, 97th,102nd, 113th.Eleven birds on the result from a 15 bird entry.
AGEN[International] 509 miles:-
1st,13th, 21st,30th, 36th, 47th, 58th, 70th, 74th, 94th, 109th.
St Vincent[International]. 12th, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 31st.
12th, 13th, 30th, 45th, 48th, 53rd, 76th, 91st.
2nd, 11th, 16th, 24th, 25th, 27th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 34th, 35th, 36th, 37th, 422nd, 48th, 49th.
Guernsey 1 YB/OH.
2nd, 3rd, 5th, 9th, 12th, 16th, 44th, 45th, 54th, 67th[YB's] 14th,36th,50th.[Old Hens]
In addition to these results at domestic level Mark's pigeons have
won 3 x 1st BBO Fed competing against 2,500 - 3,300 pigeons. His 2013 NFC results include:-
4th and 5th Open Cholet NFC National 6,500 birds
10th and 11th Open Messac NFC 5,000 birds 2nd,7th,11th,32nd,40th,49th,80th,87th,96th Open NFC Tarbes 2,800birds.
Mark also won the prestigious Langstone Gold Cup for the fifth time. As mentioned earlier in this article, the Gold Cup is awarded to the fancier with the best series of performances in all NFC races each season.
2014 BICC Results.
Alencon [6,823 birds]: 7th, 30th, 41st, 42nd, 59th Open. Tours [3,655 birds]: 7th, 44th, 49th, 50th Open. Poitiers [1,938 birds]: 14th & 15th Open.
Pau: 12th, 13th, 21st, 41st & 49th Open.
Agen : 1st, 2nd, 4th, 20th, 30th, 41st, 50th, 54th Open.
St Vincent : 1st, 3rd, 14th, 25th, 37th, 45th, 56th, 57th Open. Perpignan : 12th & 24th Open.
Guernsey OH: 13th Open.
2015 BICC Results.
Alencon [4,634 birds] : 19th, 24th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 50th, 53rd, 54th Open.
Tours [4,315 birds]: 53rd & 54th Open.
Poitiers[2,701 birds] : 13th, 28th, 29th, 34th, 38th, 39th & 46th Open.
Pau : 31st Open.
Agen[997 birds]: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 15th, 16th, 20th, 21st, 23rd, 26th, 32nd, 41st, 43rd, etc Open with a total of 22 birds in the result.
Barcelona: 5th & 7th Open.
St Vincent: 13th, 16th & 18th Open.
Le Mans [3,044 birds] : 25th, 26th, 27th, 54th Open.
NFC Results 2015:.
First race Fougeres NFC.
1st Section E 12th open
24th and 25th open
1st,4th,9th,10,11th Section E
2nd,8th,16th,17th,18th open NFC
1st,2nd,3rd,7th,8th,9th,13th,18th Sect E 2nd,3rd,4th,14th,22nd,23rd,26th,27th,30th Open.
Saintes 5th,9th,11th,13th.15th,20,th,21st,22nd,28th,35th,39th,40h,41st Open.
Now we come to a “blockbuster” old bird season!! 2016 Old Birds Results.
BB &O Fed.
1st & 10th Yeovil 2,400 birds.
1st, 2nd, 10th etc Honiton 2,816 birds.
1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th Exeter 2,583 birds. 1st, 2nd, 3rd Portland 3,223 birds.
BICC Results Old Birds 2016.
Falaise [3,695 birds] : 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 14th, 33rd, 34th, 36th, 44th Open.
Alencon 1 [ 4,759 birds] : 10th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 18th, 19th, 22nd, 23rd, plus a further 8 pigeons in the first 52 Open .
Alencon 2 [4,326 birds] ; 1st, 2nd, 3rd section plus 6th, 7th, 8th, 19th, 39th, 43rd, 57th, 60th, 72nd Open.
Pau 1st, 2nd & 3rd section plus 1st, 3rd, 6th, 14th, 15th, 20th, 24th, 27th, 34th Open.
Agen : 1st, 28th, 33rd, 41st, 46th, 60th Open.
Barcelona : 20th, 23rd Open.
St Vincent : 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Section plus 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 36th Open.
Le Mans [3,944 birds] : 20th Open. Perpignan : 1st section 8th Open.
One pigeon stands out in the above list of prize winners and that is a three year old chequer cock now named “Southfield Sebastian” which won 1st Open BICC Falaise and then went on to win 1st Open BICC Agen International a month later.
NFC Results OB 2016:
Tarbes: 15th,19th, 21st etc.
Saintes:2nd, 3rd, 7th, 11th, 13th, 14th etc.
A truly outstanding record of success at the highest level.
For those fanciers out there who believe that Mark Gilbert only wins because he enters fairly big teams of pigeons in these races then I would say to them – think again. Having visited Southfield lofts on a number of occasions, I know from the experience of visiting many of the top lofts in the UK and Europe over the past forty or so years that this man is “the real deal” and would win wherever he went, even if racing a modest team to a modest set up.
On reading the above list of results you have to ask yourself – “What more is there left for this man to win?” One thing is certain, Mark Gilbert will be out there at the loft at the crack of dawn each day, trying his best to improve on his past outstanding results.