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Unfailing success in national and international races - Mark Gilbert (Windsor, UK)

Many fanciers within our sport are content by achieving success in club and federation races. However some have aims beyond this. Mark Gilbert is one such fancier; his ambition at the beginning of every season is to win on the national and international stage.


Mark and Geoff Gilbert (photograph courtesy of Chris Sutton)

The 2015 season began with a team of 200 old bird racers. Such a team is necessary when considering that Mark is a member of four national/classic organisations plus his commitment to domestic club and federation racing. The team is raced on roundabout (double widowhood) where both the cock and hen are raced. The team were paired in the middle of February and reared two youngsters however were not allowed to re-sit in order to delay the moult. Following an intense home exercise period, the team were trained by road before club racing commenced on the 11th of April. Mark’s aim was to give his team three inland races in preparation for the national and international events and thus although the results were not important, they demonstrated that the team was in good form:

11.04   Yeovil (92 miles)      2656 birds       2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 24, 26, 27, 29
18.04   Honiton (114 miles)    2968 birds       6, 7, 28
25.04   Exeter (137miles)      2930 birds       13, 25, 26

The team were able to continue their form throughout the season in the British International Championship Club races. Mark’s performances were:

17.05   Alencon (210 miles)       open (4657 birds)  18, 23, 28, 29, 30, 31, 49, 52
                                  section            1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 15
30.05   Tours (288 miles)         open (4315 birds)  53, 54, 99, 122, 127, 138, 152
                                  section            10, 11, 14, 21, 23, 27, 31, 35
13.06   Poitiers (350 miles)      open (2701 birds)  13, 28, 29, 38, 39, 46, 79
                                  section            4, 8, 9, 14, 15, 20, 35
19.06   Pau (562 miles)           open (538 birds)   31
                                  section            8
26.06   Agen (505 miles)          open (1000 birds)  3, 4, 5, 15, 16, 20, 21, 23
                                  section            2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13
03.07   Barcelona (707 miles)     open (331 birds)   5, 7
                                  section            3, 4
10.07   St Vincent (537 miles)    open (299 birds)   13, 16, 18
                                  section            3, 4, 5
18.07   Le Mans (240 miles)       open (3000 birds)  25, 26, 27, 54
                                  section            5, 6, 7, 16

In addition to the above, Mark won 1st, 2nd 4th and 5th British Barcelona Club national Messac. This was his 14th UK national win. The stand-out performance in the international results would be Mark’s 2nd and 3rd international Hens, 5th international Yearlings Agen. Southfield Supreme was the grandfather of the 2nd and 5th international winners. Southfield Supreme, Mark’s 2004 Dax international winner, remains the most important line in the Gilbert loft. This golden breeder of van Elsacker origin has left a golden seam of top quality racers. In 2015 alone he has been responsible for 2nd, 8th, 15th, 17th and 21st open in the National Flying Club races with entries of between 5800 to 8000 birds. He is also the grandsire to the aforementioned pigeons that scored in the Agen international result. One direct daughter, 79333, has bred pigeons to win 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 12th and 20th Tarbes Grand National as well as two other 6th NFC prize winners in middle distance races with between 6000 to 8000 birds. Add to this the fact that Mark’s good friend Roger Lowe raced a grandchild to be 1st Central Southern Classic Guernsey and another grandchild was 1st Welsh South Road National Tarbes for Mark Sparey and we can begin to imagine how effective these bloodlines are in middle to long distance national races.


(photograph courtesy of Chris Sutton)

2015 saw Mark once again win the National Flying Club average trophy for the best average all races. This was the 6th time in the last 7 years that this trophy has found its way to Winkfield and Mark was runner up in the year on the other occasion. This is from a total of 3000 members in the NFC, the largest UK national club. We cannot write about Mark’s exploits in the National Flying Club without mentioning the incredible race put up by his team from the Tarbes Grand National Event. The convoy were liberated in Tarbes at 2:20pm to begin their 550+ mile journey home. At nightfall on the second day an incredible 27 pigeons had returned to their Windsor home when many well-established lofts were still awaiting their first arrival. The final open result showed that Mark placed 9 pigeons in the first 30 positions. Quite simply astonishing!


(photograph courtesy of Chris Sutton)

His record over the course of the National Flying Club races was:

23.05   Fougeres (216 miles)   open (8000 birds)  12, 62, 81, 116, 155, 171
                               section            1, 4, 5, 7, 14, 20
06.06   Messac (255 miles)     open (5000 birds)  24, 25, 234, 245, 280
                               section            6, 7, 21, 25, 28
20.06   Ancenis (283 miles)    open (5000 birds)  2, 8, 16, 17, 18, 38, 39, 40
                               section            1, 4, 9, 10, 11, 21, 22, 23
04.07   Saintes (394 miles)    open (3000 birds)  5, 9, 11, 13, 15, 20, 21, 22, 28
                               section            3, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18
24.07   Tarbes (568 miles)     open (3000 birds)  2, 3, 4, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26
                               section            1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
06.09   Guernsey (159 miles)   open (5000 birds)  43, 54, 65, 101, 103, 104
                               section            15, 23, 28, 45, 46, 47

It seemed that week after week in 2015, success found its way to Winkfield. Another of the UK’s best international lofts that of Geoff and Catherine Cooper, benefitted from Mark’s bloodlines in the past season. Mark;s Starlight, a winner of 2nd international Tarbes and twice in the first 25 of the Belgium national was the great-grandfather on both sides of the Coopers 1st international St Vincent. He was also the great grandfather of Mark’s 5th international Yearlings Agen showing that in the short time he has been breeding at Winkfield, he going to be another excellent breeder. Preparations are already underway for 2016 to be even better. It will be a challenge indeed for another loft in the UK to match the annoying consistency of the Winkfield Wizard!