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National Ace pigeons and National Champions

Every autumn I am visited by importers of pigeons to accompany them and assist them. They are mainly Japanese.
Last fall one of those importers asked me to make some phone calls to fanciers who race long-distance as he wanted to buy birds from them.
Some pigeons he wanted were sold already, some fanciers would not sell the birds he wanted but we were also succesful: the Japanese could buy good birds at reasonable price.
One phone-call was real interesting. That was to a man who won 2nd National from Pau, a 2-day race from about 900 kilometers.
The fact that the pigeon was not sold yet was a surprise but an even greater surprise was the price he charges for his bird: 5,000 USD.
In the past such a price was paid for a bird that won 5th or even 10th National in such a race.
'Great news' I said to the Japanese importer. 'The bird that won 2nd National Pau is not sold and the owner only charges 5,000 USD'.
He was very happy with it. We visited the fancier, the bird looked okay and so was the pedigree. The Japanese said he was almost sure he had a client for this 3-year old hen.
Then he made phone-calls to his home country, one after the other. However, no one was interested in the bird. So there was no deal.
How come?
Because the hen had only won one prize.
I thought by myself: 'Finally also Japanese have become smarter.' For that reason the bird was not sold yet it seemed.

In the past the buying attitude of the Japanese was different from now. For a National winner of a 2-day race such as Sint Vincent, Dax, Pau and especially Barcelona fortunes were paid.
In a 2nd prize winner or a 3rd prize winner they were hardly interested.
Fortunes which were paid for pigeons that had won just one prize in their whole flying career, let it be a first National?
It was something we in Holland and Belgium never understood.
Are such winners the better birds?
Of course they are not.
Birds which are consistent and won many good prizes are in our opinion the better birds.
But in such birds the Japanese were not interested. At least not in the past.
Now they also want consistent birds that won more than just one prize. Right they are!
They changed their mind because many of the winners they bought in the past turned out to be poor breeders in the land of the rising sun.
'Aces' or multiple winners are far better than incidental winners.
In this article I am going to explain the criteria which are handled (or the limits) to have a chance to have the best pigeon in Belgium or to be the best fancier of Belgium.
Be prepaired for very boring stuff to read but as Belgium is still pigeon-country number one serious pigeon-people from all over the world should know what a Belgian fancier must achieve to be the Champion of his country.
And one should know as well how good a pigeon must be to be the Ace of the country.
Let's start with the loft championships.

Prizes should be won from the following stations:
Barcelona, Dax, Marseille, Narbonne, Perpignan.
These are races from about 800 kilometers or further. The fancier may pick out the 3 best.
Points are to be won with the first 2 nominated birds (or pick-birds as they say in America).
These are the birds which are on top of the pooling sheet, so the birds which the fancier expects to get home first.
The birds must have won a prize 1 in 5, (in the first 20 procent). So if there were 4.000 birds in a race a prize in the first 800.
So 3 races count, 2 points can be won in one race which means 6 points total.
Mostly there are more fanciers with 6 points, in that case it will be calculated who won the earliest prizes.

The same rules as for the championship mentioned under '1'.
3 Races, the fancier decides which and again in each race the first 2 pick-birds can win a point. Prizes must have been won in first 20 procent again. (1 in 5).
The release stations however are different:
Brive, Cahors, Montauban, Limoges, Souillac which are less far.

Same criteria: Prizes 1 in 5, first 2 pick birds and the fancier may choose his best races.
But in this case it is youngbird races of course.
The stations are:
Bourges (29 July) Argenton, La Souterraine, Gueret. The fancier may pick out his 3 best results, so 6 points can be won. Gueret is a new station since 2.000.
The distances are from about 400 to 600 kilometers.

Again the prizes must be won 1 in 5 and only the first 2 pickbirds can win a point.
Six races to be chosen by the fancier between May 6th and August 19th.
Minimum distance of each race 250 kilometers, furthest race from Poitiers, La Souterraine or Clermont Ferrand.
On July 29th only from National Bourges points can be won. The reason is of course to promote Bourges.
There must be a minimum amount of 150 birds in a race and minimum 10 fanciers must have participated. The six races must have a total distance of at least 1,500 kilometers.
So 12 points (6 x 2) can be won. In case more fanciers get 12 points the earliest prizes count.

Again first 2 pickbirds can win a point if they won a prize in first 20 procent.
Minimum distance of a race 50 kilometers, maximum distance 249 kilometers.
8 races (between April 1st and August 6th) with a total distance of 1,000 kilometers minimum. So 16 points can be won.
At least 10 fanciers must have entered at least 100 pigeons together.

Only for one year old birds, again first 2 pickbirds, prizes in first 20 procent and 7 races total.
Minimum distance per race 50 kilometers. Minimum distance of all 7 races total 2,000 kilometers ( between April 1st and August 6th).

First 2 pick-birds can win a point, prizes 1 in 5 in races from June 3rd till August 27th.
6 races from 50 kilometers or further but there is one condition.
2 of them must be from a distance of between 240 to 500 kilometers.
Minimum entry 200 birds, minimum 10 fanciers must have participated.
September 21st is the last date to send in results to KBDB. The organisation is very strict with this date. Once it happened that a fancier was one day late, he would have been National champion but one day late is one day late.
And he could forget it!

Those were the norms for the National Championships per loft.
Belgians think the competition for National Ace bird (the prizes won by one pigeon) is more attractive though! Is this because such a bird is worth a lot of money?

NATIONAL ACE PIGEONS (individual birds).
There are 3 categories:
- National Ace pigeon short distance (15 best birds of the nation classified).
- National Ace pigeon Middle distance (10 best birds of the nation classified).
- National Ace pigeon Long Distance (10 best birds of the nation classified).

The 8 best results of one bird. The prizes must have been won 1 in 10. So 600 birds in a race? If a bird won prize 61 that is not good enough.
The fancier is free to choose the races. Minimum distance of a race 50 kilometers, maximum 249 kilometers.
At least 10 fanciers should have entered at least 100 birds together between April 1st and August 6th.
Of course 8 prizes in the first 10 procent is no big deal. Very many fanciers do have such birds. In this case the lowest so-called coefficient is decisive (best prizes).
A 'coefficient' of 2 is the same as winning the 2nd prize of 100 birds. Or the 20th prize against 1,000 birds.
A 'coefficient' of 3 is the same as winning the 3rd prize against 100 birds, the 30th prize against 1,000 birds, or the 18th prize against 600 birds.

The 5 best results of one bird. Prizes must have been won in the first 10 procent of the total entry. Minimum distance of the races together 1,500 kilometers.
Minimum distance of each race 250 kilometers. 10 Fanciers or more must have entered 150 birds or more.
Old birds or yearlings makes no difference. Races should be held between May 6th and August 20th. From July 27th only Bourges will count and no other race on that day. (Again to promote Bourges National).

As for the National long distance races Belgium has been divided into 3 sections (West, Middle and East) since the year 2000. They followed the example of Holland.
Dividing the country into sections means a more fair competition because the influence of the wind is more neutralised. When the wind is East fanciers who live in the East are in a chanceless position: all the early birds will be in the west.
It often happened that the velocity of a 1st prizewinner in the East (in the province of Limburg) was not good enough to win a decent prize in Flanders (in the west).
Of course the opposite happened too:
Due to a western wind the winners were to be found in the East (the province of Limburg) and those who lived in Flanders were beaten already at the moment the birds were released.
As for the title 'National Ace long distance' the fancier who has a candidate is free to choose: the prize won in his section or the prize which was won national. So the one which was most favourable to his bird.
In case of an International race he is not allowed to send in the result of that.

The following races count for the title 'National Ace pigeon Long Distance':
- Brive June 6th
- Cahors June 17th
- Pau June 24th
- Montauban July 7th
- Barcelona July 7th
- Limoges July 7th
- Dax July 15th
- Souillac July 22nd
- Marseille July 22nd
- Narbonne July 29th
- Perpignan August 5th.

The fancier can pick out 3 races provided the minimum distance of those races is 2,000 kilometers total. It looks like there are more possibilites to choose but this is not the case. You can see that more long-distance races are held in the same weekend.

Moreover it would be suicide to enter a bird for two 1000-kilometer races in 8 days time.
Most champions think that between two 1,000 kilometer races birds need 3 weeks to recover.

One may wonder if a Provincial Ace pigeon is also the best bird of a province?
Or if a National Ace is the best pigeon of the country?
This need not be the case.
There is a saying 'You are as good as your opponents allow you to be'.
The late Mr Carlens once said:
'Tell me who your competitors are and I will tell you how good your birds are.'
What he means is this:
In one competition it is easier to win than elsewhere as the average quality of the birds is poorer. In other areas it is harder to win because of better birds in that area.
It stands to reason that it often happens that a National Ace belongs to a fancier who lives In an area which is known for poor quality birds.
In Holland there is the great National race from Orleans for youngsters (distance from 420 to 650 kilometers). Recently we had races with equal chances for every bird. 'Equal chances' because of a cloudless sky everywhere with no wind at all, so no excuses for no one.
When you compare the results in one area with another the differences are enormous. When in one combine the race was finished (25 procent of the birds home) in another combine just a handful of birds were clocked.
But in every combine is a winner. That such a winner would not even have won a decent prize in another combine (according to the speed) is often ignored.
That a bird that won 50th prize in his combine would have won the 1st prize in another combine (according to the speed) is often ignored too.
Everybody is intererested in winners. Not only in pigeonsport:
The winner takes it all: Publicity, potential buyers and so on.
Fellow-fanciers often wonder why I was often so succesful when importing birds in my loft. They wonder if I am able to see if a bird is good or bad.
Well, I cannot!!! If I could I would be a multi-multi-miljonair in USD.
Being a multi-multi miljonair would not make me a happier man but you know what I mean.
I was often succesful when importing birds in the past as I did not go to just a champion to buy a bird, I went to a champion who races in an area which is known for its strong competition! Because, as I said a 1st prize does not mean much to me. I want to know against whom this prize was won. In other words: The strength of the competition.

Again this need not be the case and I will explain why.
Suppose there is a race with an entry of 1,000 birds.
And suppose a fancier entered 25 pigeons and 20 of them won a prize. That is a super result.
But.. if his first 2 pickbirds (nominated) were not among the prize winners he has no points at all despite his fantastic results.
If another fancier entered 25 birds and he won 4 prizes this result is horrible! But.. if his first 2 pick birds were among the prize winners he has 2 points despite his horrible result.

A weak point in the rules for the title 'National Ace pigeon' in Belgium is that only 10 fanciers have to participate and 100 birds in the race will do.
The examples are known of 'Aces' which were no more than paper tigers.
What some fanciers did when they had a candidate to be an Ace?
They entered many birds, sometimes breeders included, and asked friends to do the same.
So eveything was according to the rules:
10 Or more fanciers entered 100 or more birds together.
When the birds came from the race and that good bird was not among them the birds were not clocked. The fancier waited till his potential Ace was home. After this bird was clocked he clocked the others (which arrived earlier!) and his friends did the same.
So the title of 'National Ace' was kind of stolen whereas nothing illegal happened.

Another example of a 'paper tiger':
There was this man who won 1st prize from Barcelona. He lived in the province of Antwerp. This bird was in the spotlight of the press. However.. if this fancier would have lived 25 kilometers more north (in Holland) he would have won no prize at all!
Also in the International result it was not to be found in the first 1000 prizes.
But he was a winner!
Mostly the Barcelona race in Holland is finished on Sunday (25 procent of the birds are home then) whereas in some Belgian areas prizes still can be won days later!

As mentioned before fanciers in Holland and Belgium prefer Ace-birds to winners, even National winners as Ace-birds are consistent birds which are supposed to be better.
But even consistent birds may not be good enough for the ambitious pigeon-man.
Such a man wants to know the strength of the competition.
For many fanciers in Belgium or Holland it is hardly possible ever to have a 'National Ace' for the simple reason that competiton is too strong in the area in which they race.
Many world famous names live near the French border.
Good old Louis van Loon always says:
'These names were unheard of if they would have lived near the Dutch border, so in the North. And Louis may be old, he is far from stupid and knows what he is talking about.