Exceptional Young Bird Futurity Racing


By Ezra Lee Kohli Email Lee


26 Essentials of a Great Race


What makes a futurity race great?  Good men, first and foremost, with an appreciation for the uniqueness of the great bird, and a sense of longing for the sport’s great traditions.  From there, (1) it needs to have an impressive number of birds competing.  (2) It needs to be a great social occasion, and (3) be known and respected nationally. (4) It needs to be noteworthy relative to prizes, and have a payout that spreads the wealth generously down the sheet.  (5) It needs to be able to be won by any prepared participant, and unable to be dominated from one year to the next by any one player.  (6) Its victory needs to be awesome so that a winner might say, “I can’t believe I actually won that race!”  (7) The race needs to be affordable to the normal Joe who pays for the race, and who struggles to stay within a working family’s weekly budget. (8)  It needs to have a reputation for honesty and timeliness, tempered with boldness when firmness is necessary.  (9) The race must thrive because of exceptional accounting and money handling procedures while (10) being governed by widely available race rules.  (11) It needs to draw in the best genetics from across the country making its competitiveness meaningful.  (12) It needs to generate a sense of excitement among the participants that make it possible, (13) and to be championed by those that steer it because they love doing it, not because they intend to profit from it.  (14) It needs to be implemented by an enthusiastic and experienced group of volunteers.  (15) It needs to be managed by a technologically astute race committee, and open to the wide range of clocking systems used throughout the sport. (16) It needs a comfortable, central location for shipping, supported by a volunteer staff that makes race-entry and race-closing bird-safe, mistake free, timely and welcoming.  (17) It needs good shipping equipment that is in keeping with its other qualities.  (18) It needs honest, nonparticipating drivers that are ‘pigeon men’ buying into the idea that the race is special, and that integrity and bird care and is front and center.  (19) It needs to be relevant to the sport’s improvement, (20) supported by superior auctions so participants can improve genetics, and (21) by seminars, and other learning opportunities that improve race preparation and loft management techniques for those willing to struggle in the pursuit of victory.  (22) The race needs to have a long track record of success and satisfaction, and (23) needs to be flown on an off-racing day so unexpected influences and intersections with neighboring combines and their own flocks of racing pigeons can be eliminated.  (24) A well run race needs to encourage public critique, and to be massaged constantly between seasons by race managers, adjusting for little things that make the race more competitive and fun for everybody.  (25) Then, finally, when they really know what they’re doing, and they’re really high and mighty, they need to do something about that dreadful wind!!   


The Breeder’s Cup


One of the best kept secrets in pigeon racing is that there actually is a race in Ohio that measures up to many of these suggestions, and it is championed by a great club that seems always to be at the center of things positive in Ohio pigeon racing circles.  The men of the Greater Akron Racing Club, (G.A.R. Club), with Jim Bedell as President, and Pat Quilter as ABC Concourse Race Secretary, have been nudging and motivating improvement into the hobby, regionally, for years.  “Improvement doesn’t just happen.  It requires generous contributions of your personal time, occasionally your personal funds, and sometimes it gets done without much appreciation from your friends. But, you do it anyway, knowing it is necessary, and the right thing to do”, said the 66 year old Bedell.  The GAR club has always been noted by neighboring clubs for its leadership and originality.  Debate is sometimes fast and furious in the Akron Club, but from this intense discussion comes great direction and strategy.  Under their guardianship, the GNEO Futurity Race is run like a sound business progressing with an understanding that profit and innovation are both necessary, and not menacing.  For example, in 2010, the new Breeder’s Cup format was started by the club as a way to redefine and support ‘managed’ increases in out-of-area participation, leading to 32% growth in the size of the race compared to the previous year.  Growth in the race is planned and measured, while individual racing participants continue to be respected and appreciated. Determination, knowledge and hard work characterize these men.  All in northeastern Ohio benefit, and very few in Ohio think about where regional pigeon racing would be without the exceptional efforts of this great group of earnest men.


(You can learn more about the GNEO Breeders Cup Classic program for OOA flyers, or other important details about the race at www.gneorace.com.)







By Ezra Lee Kohli (auacedq@yahoo.com)




(Following 3 Futurity Wins in 2009)


Tony, the Exterminator.


In 2010, the carefully crafted G.N.E.O. race, sponsored by Akron, Ohio’s G.A.R. Club, was overwhelmingly won by a very logical, compassionate pigeon racing enthusiast and bug exterminator, Mr. Tony Zatta, of Bergholz, Ohio.  Encouraged by a very helpful wife, Mary, and a budding grandson, Cashton, Zatta’s story is quite the different from what you might expect, so stick with me here through some messy, necessary details, and we’ll come back to the more interesting stuff to discover how he won three other futurity races this past fall: the (2) 2010 Ohio Valley Futurity Race (300 birds), (3) the 2010 Harmony Bond Race (300 birds), and (4) the 2010 Washington, Pa Futurity Race (600 birds). 


The well bred GNEO Futurity winner.


Bred from a Super 73 racing stud cock purchased in 2006, from the widely admired Wally Tienprasid of Westerville, Ohio, at a Southern Flying Club fundraiser in Wally’s club, and a Super 73 stock hen purchased at the dispersal auction of the Akron great, Jack Yohe, the pretty 970 GNEO AU 2010, blue check hen was one of only two babies bred from the pair that year, and was clocked at 16:02 hours, flying 335 miles, at 1220 ypm, into north-northeast winds at 5-plus mph, to win the tough race by over 7 minutes.  Competing against 1265 birds from 85 lofts, and a member of the competitive Penn-Ohio combine, Mr. Zatta took the first 3 positions in the race, and 9 of the first 14 positions, (and might we add, a hurtful portion of the money).  The futurity birds were up at 08:00 hours, into partly cloudy skies, with winds at 3 mph out of the north. In Cleveland, and other areas north, everyone was worried about the negative effect of the wind, while in the southern half of the circle, everyone was giddy, sitting on pins and needles and glad to see the wind.


Exterminate Overly Complicated Management


Our man Zatta is a young bird flyer exclusively, working a team of about 80 birds.  The nature of his extermination work makes old bird racing impossible, so knowing his limitations, he does only what he can do well.  In fact, compared to what we read and hear about the standard champion flyer, you might find Zatta’s management program more unusual for what he doesn’t do, than for what he does do.  For example, he doesn’t breed early.  The wining 970 hen was bred late by normal standards, hatching the first of April, pretty certainly eliminating any sexual motivation.  Zatta’s pairings are normally made on Valentine’s Day.  He doesn’t worry about motivation. He doesn’t worry about the moult, or play around with fancy lighting programs.  It is typical for Zatta is to cut the 9th and 10th flights in July, but only after the birds are routing well, and never both flights at the same time.  “Their wings really whistle”, but he thinks the laboring helps the birds build muscle.   


He doesn’t restrict feed, or worry about weight.  He buys a local commercial mix called ‘Birds Love Em’ that is 14% protein with no corn, to which he then adds large kernel corn from a tractor supply store, and 2 pounds of rice to about 100 pounds of feed. He likes the rice because it helps to firm up the droppings, and he feeds it all year.  Zatta does not like sized, kernel corn, thinking it to be rejects, and especially makes sure the corn he feeds has no black ends, an indication, he says, of poor quality. He doesn’t change his feeding program seasonally except that in winter the birds are given more corn. 


He doesn’t ever let birds bathe, but instead, because he is an exterminator, dips his birds in a five gallon bucket, into a 3.5 gallon solution of Ivomec (5-10 drops) and Dawn dish detergent (7 drops). The dip is quick, completely submerging the bird to the count of three.  No massaging of the feathers is necessary.  Ivomec is an oil, he says, and Dawn detergent is an emulsifier, helping the wormer/insecticide to penetrate the down on the feathers.  His feather condition is outstanding, and you never see lice, mites or pigeon flies on his birds.  That also means the birds sleep well at night, and foot stamping in the dark is unheard of, and may be a significant contribution to the futurity performance.  This procedure is done to every bird every two weeks throughout the season. 


He never uses antibiotics in the water.  If antibiotics are ever used, it is leftover Baytril, provided in tablet form cut into quarters, given manually.  Birds are vaccinated for pmv and pox, but never paratyphoid.  He never treats for canker, and hasn’t had it in years.  He doesn’t clean his loft out regularly, believing that deep dry litter provides superior natural immunity. 


He never single tosses, but believes that youngsters need to start training at 90 days of age, which for him is by the second week of June, or they lose something mentally.  He has four training crates holding about 20 birds each. One basket goes up at a time. Birds are trained out to 60 miles, starting at 5, 10, 15, 25, 35, 45, 60, then to the first race.  Early tosses are repeated before moving on if birds don’t respond well.  He doesn’t care if he trains in the morning or in the afternoon, but notices that birds return more quickly from morning tosses, while thinking they learn more from slower afternoon tosses.  He never worries about heat.  His losses are minimal. 


He never slaps his hands, or scares his birds, or throws anything at them to get them in the air.  He never flag flies his birds.  “Always treat your birds like small children.”  His birds are “super tame”, and don’t hesitate to land beside him when he is standing next to the landing board.  He never worries about winning regular season races.  “I’d rather have my club members win those races.  I don’t want to hurt the club.”  Instead, he focuses on the futurities, but he never holds birds back for the futurities in young bird racing for fear of losing them.  Everybody goes to the early races, and most through the 200 mile station before backing off to rest up for the big events.


According to Zatta, “the birds race well because “they are healthy, terrifically healthy”, and the single most important indicator regarding bird health and race readiness is how much they route.  “That’s what I watch for.  If they feel good, they are going to fly. Then I feel good.  If they aren’t routing, something is wrong.  There’s a reason.  You have to find out what it is.  Nothing else you do is more important.”  Most of the manipulations we read about regarding medications and feeding are just needless pampering to Tony.  Naturally occurring health is everything.  The key, he has discovered, is to stay simple in management, and to provide lots of care, understanding that lots of tenderness also goes a long way.


The Houbens are the silver bullets.


It is important to note for those of you always looking for silver bullets, that three of the four futurities Tony Zatta won in the summer of 2010 were won with Houbens.  The family originated from Dave Clausing, from whom thirty stock birds were purchased, a good while before, Zatta suggests, David Clausing sold off his best stuff.  Zatta’s Houbens are the basis for his winning.  The bird is medium to small, and the hens are the better than the cocks.  He simply knows he will win a targeted futurity race on a good weather day.  For all other weather, he depends on his Van Loon family to do the winning.


Although he is not in the business of selling breeding stock, it would be good for the reader to remember that the man does not race his old birds. And keep in mind that he loves them dearly, so he is likely to have some extra stock sitting around, waiting to be pried loose.  I have his number.  Tony can be reached at 740- 543-4163, or at zattlink@hotmail.com. Good luck in your purchase of some of these “franchise pigeons”.  This man’s approach to winning is humble and compassionate, and a refreshing change from many of the complicated menus for winning we frequently listen to as gospel. His genetics are tested and proven. The fact that he wins futurities repeatedly seals the case for his management techniques.  If you understand that winning in this sport is about tilting elusive odds in your favor, calling Tony Zatta is but the first, small step one must take in the long, journey to the winners circle.  So, get it done.  He’ll be waiting for you there.