Race Directors Report

Race Directors Report 2018 SAMDPR

Growing up in a household where pigeon and pigeon racing was a huge part of life, one of the most valuable lessons I learnt is to always walk into the pigeon club with your clock in your left hand; the reason being your right hand is free to shake the hand of the winner. This simple phrase embodies pigeon racing to me; always be humble and realize that not every day is your day, and this past season has put that to the test.

Very few people out there know the logistics of hosting a one loft pigeon race and if they did I suspect that most would look at it and give up. We are at the mercy of political bureaucracy, hysteria towards diseases, climate changes and many other external forces we have no control over; yet we plough forward facing one challenge at a time until a solution is found and then take on the next challenge.

Pre-Season Preparations

This year we welcomed Dr Piet van Zyl to our team as our consulting veterinarian with a huge pool of knowledge he brings to the team. The new pigeon lofts, although used as a racing loft the year before, also had to be approved as a new quarantine facility and armed with Dr van Zyl’s guidance as well as experience we have gained over the years the approval of the facility went smoothly, all be it a little longer than we had planned.

The 2016/2017 winter season in the northern hemisphere and then in South Africa as well, saw more reported outbreaks of Avian Influenza than we have seen in many years and basically shut down pigeon shipments worldwide. Added to this the red tape imposed by governments also increased and after many months of negotiations, we were finally granted our import permits with a special dispensation.

Race Weekend

After an intense training program that had to be shortened, all systems were go for the main race on 3 February 2018.

Basketing of the pigeons went smoothly other than a slight delay in getting started, but once going it went well and in the end 2627 pigeons were basketed to carry the hopes of their entrants in the race.

Fridays planned activities at Emerald Resort and Casino and Heron Banks were cut short by a heavy downpour and hail storm, but this did little to dampen the spirits of those taking part in tour, golfing and fishing competitions and a great time was had by all.

Early Friday morning the transporter departed for the liberation point and good time was made, giving the pigeons a few rest stops to be given water and by late afternoon the pigeons arrived safely at liberation point and settled down for the night.

At 6:00 am Saturday morning the pigeons were liberated to start their journey home to the lofts at Heron Banks. After the heavy rains of the day before there was some concern over the weather but thankfully this played along giving the pigeons a variety of winds along the route.

Back at Emerald Resort fanciers from across the globe gathered to await the arrival of the pigeons with speculation of the arrival time ranging from 7 hours to a 11 hour flight.

Just after 14:15 all the preparations in the months before, from selecting the perfect breeding pair, getting the pigeons to the race lofts and the training, paid off at as small blue cheque hen appeared, circled a few times and walked in the lofts. What feels like hours passed as the electronic ring number was scanned, the clocking system verified the electronic ring was basketed for the race and finally the name of the winner appeared on screen.

The first wave of excitement was that it was a South African pigeon, the next wave was that Mix, bred by Gaddin Brothers and Charl Stander had won the 22nd South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race! Gigi Gaddin has been a supporter of the SAMDPR almost since its inception and has in previous years won the SA Challenge and achieved a few top 100 positions. Gigi once said that his life dream was, after winning most other competitions was to win the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race. This was his year. Sadly Gigi was very ill and could not attend the event but send his loft team to represent him and the scenes of their joy touched everyone present.

Sadly a few weeks after his win Gigi passed away. It’s a small consolation that he did in the end achieve his goal as we will miss his generosity and enthusiasm for the sport.

What made Mix’s achievement even more spectacular was that the next pigeon was a full 18 minutes later.

By the end of day 87 prize winning pigeons were home along with a further 6 pigeons that had not been activated to take part in the main race.

Sunday saw the skies above Vaalpark filled with a constant stream of pigeons and by sunset a total of 1302 pigeons had returned. Over the next few days they continued to return.

Its always sad to wish our visitors to the race farewell on Sunday, but we always look forward to welcoming them back the following year.

The 23rd South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race

As always we appreciate any and all constructive criticism of our race; it’s by listening to this that we evaluate ourselves and implement practical solutions to address these criticisms.

To this end we are looking at replacing our clocking system. Although there is nothing wrong with the current timing system, technology has moved forward and a new timing system will allow us to make some exciting improvements to the way in which our results are published. This is a huge undertaking and we are planning to have everything in place by mid to end June to allow us time to test and iron out any bugs before the end of quarantine.

We are also looking at expanding the nominations races and will publish details of these on the web site.

Recently a thunderstorm in the area resulted in no electricity at the loft complex for more than 48 hours. Our backup systems currently in place are designed to keep the timing system running for approximately eight hours and this incident brought the short fall in the system to light. We are in the process of installing a solar driven UPS in the loft office that will ensure that while the sun shines the office will have electricity to run the new timing system, internet and computers.

This year also highlighted a change needs to be made in some of the functions we host over the race weekend and as such we are working on ways to improve the experience of the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race.

Avian Influenza and the way governments handle restrictions on pigeons is becoming a huge problem for us and besides working directly with local government, ASI is closely working with a team of expert veterinarians to try and remove the obstacles placed in front of us.


As always we would like to thank all that are involved in the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race. From technical staff, loft staff, administration, entrants and fanciers across the globe. To all of you a huge thank you and we look forward to the next edition of the SAMDPR!

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