Mark Evans holds GHC 6067 at the loft in Brooksville, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.
12 GHC 13003 BC hen, now at the loft of Don Campbell, bred and flown by John Marles.
By David Stephenson Kastle Loft
Nearly a year had passed when a pledge made in Florida in 2013 came true. As I stitch together the pieces of this story, it is only two days after the Ohio Classic Race (OCR), one of the biggest futurity races in Northern Ohio. The story begins, however, 11 months prior and nearly 700 miles further south in Brooksville Florida. It was at the 2014 AU Convention held in conjunction with the Gulfcoast Homing Club that I had the good fortune of spending the day at the partner lofts of John Marles and Mark Evans. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly been transitioning my loft to the Gaby Vandenabeele birds of M&D Evans of the UK. My goal at the AU convention was simply to meet John Marles and listen to a panel discussion that included Mark Evans. There was also to be an auction of birds that included the best of what Myrtle Lofts had to offer. It was all too much to resist. For a little more than a year, I had also been getting to know Don Campbell, of Cleveland, who was handling birds for me in his races with the Independent Homing Club and their featured race, the Ohio Classic Race (OCR). We fly with the same family of birds and have shared great conversations over the phone but had never met until our trip to Florida. On the Friday of the convention, I was invited to tag along with Don to visit John Marles’ loft in Brooksville. Not only did I get to meet Don and John and listen to Mark speak, now I was spending the day with them and other fine flyers. We toured the beautiful lofts, we talked birds, held some beautiful specimens, and had the pleasure to preview the auction birds - under lock and key - that were to be sold the next day. For weeks I had been researching the list and setting my limits and now I had a chance to look at them in person prior to the auction. I came with the intention of buying one of Mark Evans’ birds at the auction, which was also being broadcast via iPigeon. The pre-bidding on iPigeon and the hype at the convention made it clear to me that this set of birds would quickly extend beyond my financial reach. Standing there among some of the most beautiful and experienced racing pigeons I had ever personally seen, I quickly changed my plan and asked John and Mark if they would pick out a hen for me to purchase that day.
Anyone would be more than happy to have any bird on that property. But I quietly told myself I wasn’t going to take the first bird they picked out. Instead, I picked the second.
John brought to me a blue bar hen, AU 13 GHC 6067. She was a medium sized bird with the softest of feathers and would look at you through incredibly piercing eyes. She had spirit. What was equally perfect was her breeding. Her four grand parents are world-class flyers and breeders who have made an impact for many lofts over many countries for many generations. On the top side, 6067’s grandparents are Pre-Olympic and Lady of the Rings. On the dam’s side, her grand parents are Lord of the Rings and Davina. With that combination, we have some of the most exceptional racing and breeding that Europe has seen in recent years, coupled with line breeding to some of the blood I already carry in my loft (Shadow).
John Marles holds GHC 6067 at his loft with Joe Ferreira in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013. Photo by David Stephenson
On this day, too, Don Campbell was on the hunt for a hen to add to his loft. When he saw what John Marles was holding and showing me, he asked who this hen was. When I glanced at him I thought for a moment I saw him salivating. I jokingly told him the hen was “need to know” information and that this hen was coming home with me. (She has since been referred to as the “Need to Know Hen”). We took some photos of her, passed her around, and struck the deal. Don and John quickly settled on another hen that Don could add to his stock loft. Also carrying the Shadow blood, Don’s hen is AU 12 GHC 13003. She is a product of two of John’s best sets of birds known as the Emerald Pair and the Pyramid Pair. Her ancestors include the greats such as Westkapelle, Eisenhower, Joint Venture, and more. Both pairs are responsible for win after win for John Marles in the competitive Gulfcoast Homing Club. At the end of the day, as we sat around a table snacking and grilling John and Mark about their birds and methods, I remember leaning over to Don and telling him that he needed to win us the OCR race to help pay for these birds we just bought. I was joking, of course. But Don’s response was quite serious. “Don’t you worry,” he said, reflecting both confidence and a personal challenge. “Consider it done.” This, coming from a 4-time winner in the past 6 OCR’s he has flown.
Kastle 1424 as a weanling just before heading north to Cleveland where he would race for Don Campbell.
Fast-forward to the spring when the breeding season is well underway. Decisions have to be made about which birds will be sent out. Of the four birds that I wanted to send Don to race for me, I sent a set of nest mates, Kastle 1423 and Kastle 1424. They were both dark checks, and as it turns out, both cocks. They were children of GHC 6067 - now known as Sylvan Danica Need to Know. Her mate is Wicked Strong who is, well, wicked strong. This dark check cock, 12 IHC 5776 gets his color from his grandfather, Shadow, who appears in his pedigree two other times as well. This cock was bred by John Froelich of Cleveland and from a full brother to the well-known Perfect Cock. It was the first year breeding for both of these birds. Almost exactly 7 months from the day they were hatched, these nest mates were sent 337 miles to the south west of Cleveland along with 537 other birds for the 31st Ohio Classic Race. Don had them prepared. They had already seen the race basket a number of times and had finished well. In fact, Kastle 1423 outright won a 1st place in a club 200 miles race a few weeks earlier. The nest mates earned equal firsts in another races, too.
Hen 13003 perches on the shoulder of John Marles as he looks over the hens in the stock loft with Mark Evans. The hen would soon be shipped to her new home in Cleveland at the loft of Don Campbell.
The babies from Don’s hen, who was mated to a grandson of Rolls Royce, were also showing their promise. He described these young birds as strong, intelligent and very alert. Don was racing three babies from this pair. Prior to the OCR race, they had already racked up 2 or 3 equal firsts EACH. They only got better as the distances increased. Hopes were high, and the east wind was on the birds’ noses for the lofts in Cleveland. While some flyers groaned at the headwind conditions, Don could only smile, knowing that these Gaby’s would shine. Late on Thursday afternoon of the race, Don called and left a message saying “you need to call me”. Under a crystal blue sky at 4:40 p.m. and after more than 7 and a half hours on the wing, two birds folded their wings and dropped from the sky to land on their loft. The first bird to trap was AU 14 OCR 11, a blue check cock. Three seconds later, a dark check cock AU 14 Kastle 1424 entered the loft. And at that moment, Don’s prophetic promise from nearly a year prior had come true. The two hens purchased that sunny Florida day in November had bred themselves the first two winners of the Ohio Classic Race.
GHC 6067, aka Sylvan Danica Need to Know, keeps a close eye on me from her nest.
In 2014, her first year breeding, Don’s GHC 13003 hen’s babies earned the following:• AU 14 OCR 11 BCC: 1st place Ohio Classic Race (OCR), 338 miles, 537b. Eq. 1st, 100 miles Eq. 1st, 100 miles • AU 14 OCR 19 BCH: Eq. 1st, 100 miles Eq. 1st, 100 miles Eq. 1st, 200 miles • AU 14 OCR 25 BBC: Eq. 1st, 173 miles Eq. 1st, 200 miles
In 2014, her first year breeding, my GHC 6067 hen’s babies earned the following:
• AU 14 Kastle 1421 DCH: Eq. 1st at 200 miles 9th at 150 miles • AU 14 Kastle 1423 DCC (flown by Don Campbell): 1st place at 200 miles 14th place Ohio Classic Race (OCR) AU Ace Pigeon 9th Ohio Eq. 1st at 100 miles Eq. 1st at 100 miles • AU 14 Kastle 1424 DCC (flown by Don Campbell): 2nd place (Eq. 1st) Ohio Classic Race (OCR) 338 miles, 537b. Eq. 1st at 100 miles Eq. 1st at 100 miles • AU 14 Kastle 1425 BBH: 8th at 150 miles Eq. 1 at 200 miles 9th at 100 miles • AU 14 Kastle 1426 BBH: 7th at 150 miles Eq. 1st at 200 miles • AU 14 Kastle 1427 DCH: Eq. 1st at 200 miles 7th at 100 miles • AU 14 Kastle 1428 BBC: 1st at 85 miles Eq. 1st at 200 miles 4th at 100 miles 11th at 150 miles [caption id="attachment_801" align="aligncenter" width="897"] The 2014 Ohio Classic Race Results top 14 positions.
John Marles, Don Campbell, Mark Evans, Joe Ferreira and David Stephenson in Spring Hill, Fl., on Friday, November 22, 2013.