Ton de Kovel & Henk Jurriens (NL) winners of Million Dollar Race 2013

Two Dutchmen (Jan Hooymans and the Landewe brothers) had already won two car races at the 17th edition of the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race. Thanks to the achievements of the occasional partnership of Ton de Kovel and Henk Jurriëns this Million Dollar Pigeon Race has been a complete success for The Netherlands. Their top class Untamed Desert, which stems from the renowned Eijerkamp breeding lofts, managed to outclass a field of 2,793 pigeons in the final race of 553 km from Douglas to Johannesburg.

Turning from a pigeon that was given away with a piece of furniture into a Million Dollar winner: that is the short story of the blue coloured NL12-1231153 Untamed Desert. In the furniture company of Eijerkamp it has been a tradition for over 50 years to offer pigeons to their clients. It was one of these pigeons that was successful in the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race. Ton De Kovel took a trip to Zuthpen to buy some furniture for his mother and he made a special deal with Henk Jurriëns, the general manager of the gigantic breeding family of Hans & Evert-Jan Eijerkamp. “I would like to take part in a Million Dollar Race one day”, said Ton, “but I think I do not have the right pigeon for that. Do you think Eijerkamp can help me out?”

Ton De Kovel (right)

Henk Jurriëns immediately proposed to send a trio of pigeons from their special One Loft Race loft to Africa for Ton. This is a collection of pigeons that Eijerkamp uses for a select number of one loft races with birds that are trusted and fully reliable. Over the last ten years Henk Jurriëns has had a special connection with the Million Dollar Race. “When we visited the Olympiad In Kaapstad in 2001 together with Eijerkamp, I had the chance to attend the Million Dollar Race, which was still in Sun City at that time. I was really impressed with the high degree of professionalism and also the fact that you could follow every race live through the internet. This was very appealing and when they asked me if I wanted to become a contact person for The Netherlands I immediately agreed.” Since that moment, which is now ten years ago, Henk has been taking care of all the entries and the transport of Dutch pigeons to the most prestigious pigeon race worldwide.

Ton de Kovel had learned and read a lot about this Million Dollar Race as well and he was also interested in joining. His trio of Eijerkamp pigeons soon proved to be accustomed to their new loft and when the first car race was about to start the three pigeons were still present. Henk explained: “You send in teams of three pigeons and you basically pay for one of the pigeons; the other two will act as substitutes. If you want to win prizes you will also need to use the two substitute pigeons. This would cost him 1,000 dollars per pigeon and Ton was hesitant about racing the two substitutes as well.” Henk proposed to take things differently and eventually the two decided to pay one half of the sum each and to participate in the race as a partnership.

It seemed that two of the three Jurriëns-De Kovel pigeons were not up for the demanding challenge. The NL12-1231153 Untamed Desert however felt at home in South Africa. She was particularly successful in the last two car races, which are usually considered the decisive races. She showed her quality with an 89th and a 57th place. She was released on Saturday 2 February at 6 o’clock in the morning for the final race; the weather was bright and sunny. At first there was a slight headwind and some crosswind later that day. In these circumstances she proved the fastest pigeon of the entire group, which was quite an impressive feat.

Henk Jurriëns receives the cheque

As we said earlier, Untamed Desert was bred by Hans & Evert-Jan Eijerkamp. Her sire is Achilles, three times top ten ace pigeon with different top prizes and the sire of the 5th NPO Bourges against 3,405 pigeons. He is in turn the son of the top couple Chicago’(Van Loon) x Miss Saigon (2nd Nat. Ace Pigeon Sprint WHZB, a grandchild of Flits). This amazing breeding pair has also bred the top class twins Kain and Abel, as well as a whole lot of other excellent racing and breeding hens (for instance the dam Ché). The dam of this Million Dollar Race winner is Schouder Duif, a direct Heremans-Ceusters that belonged to a round of youngsters that Eijerkamp purchased in 2006 to basket for races. Schouder duif proved a great racer and won 16 prizes in 16 one day long distance flights, as well as a 16th Nat. Ace Pigeon One Day Long Distance 2007-2009. She had already bred the winner of a 22nd Int. Gondomar Derby in 2009.

The success of Ton de Kovel and Henk Jurriëns is also a new highlight for Hans & Evert-Jan Eijerkamp, who already have an impressive list of achievements. Hans Eijerkamp is very enthusiastic about this: “I have experienced quite a lot but this is new. Just like many other fanciers I think it’s great to follow the performance of your pigeons in South Africa after the racing season. I follow nearly every training flight and car race live on my iPad; which is great. It is of course fantastic to be able to win the final race! It is great that Ton trusted us to breed pigeons for him especially for this race and we are very proud to have bred this year’s winner; it’s a dream come true!”

The key to success? ”Breeding pigeons with a strong homing ability”, says Henk Jurriëns. He uses the German fanciers as an example, because they dominate the Million Dollar Race quite often. “The German system is based on ace pigeons; pigeons that will not win many prizes but that are always motivated. The dam of the winner (Schouderduifje) is such a pigeon: she does not win that often but she is always in the top of the results. For the Dutch competition I would opt for ace pigeons for the one day long distance. The Van Loon pigeons play an important role in the Eijerkamp pigeon breed and a lot of the pigeons that are sent to South Africa have Van Loon origins as well. The unique quality of these pigeons becomes clear in these one loft races, where every pigeon lives under the same circumstances. This makes it a very fair competition. The Million Dollar Race has something extra because it takes place outside the racing season; it adds some excitement to the winter months. The growing number of Dutch fanciers and their successes in the one loft races has made this competition quite popular among fanciers from The Netherlands.”