Part 3 – The new career (from 2001 )
Pros Roosen has always liked making bold remarks. If you don’t know him, he could give the impression that he is saying things without really knowing what he is talking about. But Pros is no boaster, he is just unusually ambitious and he makes these remarks to show his determination …
So bear in mind that he plans to go for it again next season. “I have never had so many good ones in one team …” Pros declares. The competition is warned.
You can only do one thing well
Pros, who is nearly 69, has won almost everything there is to win. But he has also made mistakes. “For a time I have not been involved much with the pigeon sport,” Pros tells us, “My son, Stefan, had become a cycle-racer and I was his coach, supervisor and manager.” Pros laughs, “Inevitably, that had its consequences for the pigeon sport. I still raced more than well, but I had to devide my attention and you can’t do that. When you have three hobbies, you can’t do a single one well. You can’t be the best with the pigeons, and with the computer, and also play in an orchestra …”
But now he is back with the pigeons and totally focused. Whoever thought that Pros was finished after his operation with the handicap of being in a wheelchair, would do better to revise that notion. Pros has never been more motivated, as he says himself.
Where there is a will…
“It’s not easy to become a champion from a wheelchair on the sidelines,” Pros explains. “But I have no choice other than to adapt. I am now very much dependent on my loft helper, and I can only hope that he will do everything as meticulous as I would have done myself. I’m now the coach, who gives the instructions from the dug-out … feeding was my specialty, and I have to try getting my ideas across … not easy.”
One thing is certain: Pros wants to keep holding his racers in his hands once every day. On days that he can’t make it to the lofts, the caretaker will have to put them in a basket and bring them to him. With that in mind, Pros wants to build a large balcony alongside his house. From there he can oversee the pigeons exercising, because here too nothing has changed. He still doesn’t want to miss a wing-beat.
“Motivating the pigeons I will also have to direct like a producer,” Pros says. “Last season, that already worked reasonably well. And I have to make sure that I stay healthy myself. But I am positive about that, I live much more healthy and with more regularity than earlier …”
What has changed?
Pros Roosen is clearly determined to keep racing pigeons at a high level, purely on will-power and positive thinking. And he knows better than anyone else, that high-level pigeon racing these days is very different from that of 20 years ago. Everything in life changes very quickly, and the pigeon sport is no different.
“Just have a look at the range of products in a specialist pet-shop. Years ago you saw grit, vitamineral, a few vitamins and in some stores a bottle of wheat germ oil. Now there are shelves full of by-products. Not that you need all those things, but there is certainly a market for them, and when you don’t give your pigeons something, you miss the boat.
Or take the racing results. Everything goes quicker. Pigeons don’t really fly faster, but the average quality of the pigeons and the average condition is much greater. Races that used to be open for an hour, are now over after only 10 minutes. There is also more specialism. For every discipline or period of the year there are specialists. For an all-rounder that is very difficult to compete against.”
But there are also down-sides, according to Pros: “In the old times, top pigeons could go on racing for five years. Now, with luck, they just last three seasons, despite all the specialist management.”
It is with the pigeon sport as with all sports; everything has to go faster, intenser, all records have to be broken … “Look at football,” Pros compares, “because of all the specialist care, all these players are in physical top condition. Earlier they “strolled” over the pitch at the end stages of a game, now they keep on running as if the game had just started … It’s the same with the pigeons; pigeons have to race at the top of their might every week. Long-distance races are won by middle-distance racers. Nothing is still as it has been. And the fancier who doesn’t evolve, loses the game without doubt…”
We ask Pros what ‘evolving’ means for himself. Does that also include searching for a different kind of pigeon?
The base stock
“The Soontjens pigeons were actually too good in their specialism,” Pros says, looking back on two decades of dominating the speed races, “they were so good that I let the other disciplines slip a little. Maybe I am exaggerating, because there was of course the ‘Nationaal’, the ‘Olympiade’ and the ‘Asduif’, who all won prizes from Orleans and Bourges. But now I want to go on where I left off, and concentrate also on the races from Limoges and Brive and so on. But I didn’t really have the pigeons for these races anymore.”
In part 2 you have read how well Pros Roosen succeeded in breeding from the ‘327’. How he upgraded the old Grondelaers and Vansweefelt lines by adding the fast pigeons from Soontjens. And how that whole generation, the ‘Computer II junior’, himself a racing champion, promised to become the best breeder of all times …
This ‘Computer II junior’, a son of the ‘Computer II’ x the ‘Meauxduivin’ – inbred to the ‘327’, forms the guide-line in the present plans of Pros. And Pros wants more, after all, standing still is going backwards. Other blood had to be brought in to fulfill his ambitions: to bring more stability in his team and especially, more long-distance qualities. He wants pigeons that are able to race in all types of weather and from all distances.
Don’t wait for the big one
Pigeon magazines and books often suggest that it is above all a question of luck to find a good pigeon. You breed thousands of pigeons and suddenly, there is a super crack in among them. A lucky combination of genes, that can not be planned and can not be forced. “That is not how it works,” thinks Pros, who regularly breeds good pigeons. “The real champions are those fanciers who can influence these coincidences, not for 100 per cent, but certainly not for 0 per cent. Pigeon sport is not like the Lottery. For that matter, I never play in the Lottery, because that really is betting on coincidence. I like to keep the reigns in my own hands. And the same applies to buying and the breeding of pigeons. A lot of studying goes on beforehand. Before I bought a pigeon from Soontjens, I had been scouting round several times. I had been to Soontjens himself, to his competitors, to the club house from where he raced. Only after this study I was convinced that those were the pigeons I needed. When I go to a pigeon sale, I do a thorough study first. And I will never buy a pigeon from a fancier, whose progress I haven’t been following for a couple of years. I know what I want, and when a specific pigeon meets with my approval and I have enough money with me, then she will come back to Kermt. But that is only half of it, a ‘foreign’ pigeon that is expected to do great deeds, has to be put immediately in with your best pigeons. Otherwise it’s just all wishful thinking and nothing will come of it. It hasn’t worked out, people will then say.”
And this is exactly what Pros had done with the acquisition of the ‘Antwerpenaar’ from Romain Schots, and later with the purchase of the ‘Freddy’ from De Rauw-Sablon …
The ‘Chateauroux Schots’, a.k.a. the ‘Antwerpenaar’
In the autumn of 2001, Romain Schots from Halen sold his surplus pigeons. Paul Huls bought the super breeder ‘De Rijck’ and Pros Roosen beat everyone to the ‘Antwerpenaar’ (6451510-92), then 9 years old. “The best purchase of my life,” Pros says without hesitation. And that says something for a man like Pros Roosen.
Pros knew Schots as a modest fancier with only two dozen racers, but who could hold his own against the best on the provincial races. And Pros has a lot of respect for fanciers like that.
Pros didn’t like the name ‘Antwerpenaar’, and renamed this pigeon the ‘Chateauroux’. He added to the Roosen stock what the Soontjens pigeons lacked: stamina (resilience and endurance) to race from a distance, like for instance Limoges.
Before the sale, Pros had been doing his research at the lofts of Schots. “At a sale I can never inspect the pigeons properly,” Pros complains. “Everyone wants to talk to me, and worse even, I often arrive at the last minute and don’t see any pigeons at all. But that pigeon of Schots interested me and therefore I inspected him and his offspring beforehand.” Evidently, Pros liked what he saw and bought the pigeon. And he hadn’t bought a pig in a poke, because the ‘Antwerpenaar’ (as he was still called then) hadn’t only been a magnificent racer, he had already proved himself as a breeder too. He was the father of among others:
– The ‘Super’ (5067101-96), good for 12/1,492 Bourges, 25/2,936 Bourges and 27/3850 Chateauroux. And these are just a few of his prizes.
– The inbred ‘Antwerpenaar’ (5082412-95), who was even better with 2/4,080 Provincial Chateauroux (he came second behind his own father), 8th Semi-national against 12,914 pigeons, 8/1,628 Montargis, and several other top prizes against a smaller number of pigeons in races from Orleans, La Souterraine and Bourges. The ‘Inteelt Antwerpenaar’ was a good breeder too, like his father.
The victory list of the ‘Chateauroux’ (‘Antwerpenaar’) includes among others:
– 1/4,080 Provincial Chateauroux, 4th Semi-national against 12,914 pigeons
– 14/18,657 National Bourges (2nd Provincial, 3/6,317 CFW)
– 6/3,733 Provincial Vierzon
– 9/1,221 Orleans
Schots wasn’t a fancier who had an extensive administration and he almost never noted down the results of his pigeons. The pedigree of the ‘Antwerpenaar’ was not entirely documented, but that didn’t matter much for Pros. He liked the pigeon, it had proved its worth and had won a few impressive prizes.
Where did the ‘Antwerpenaar’ come from? In 1992 Romain Schots returned a lost pigeon to Marcel Kerschot and was rewarded with a couple of young pigeons. One of these youngsters would later become the provincial winner from Chateauroux. He didn’t have a real pedigree. Pros thinks that he is strongly inbred. Certain is that he has got Janssen blood through his mother. Marcel Kerschot has even less of an administration than Schots. He keeps his ‘nature’ pigeons on a Spartan regime, in the winter they usually have to search for their food themselves …
When Pros came home with his renamed ‘Antwerpenaar’, he didn’t hesitate and paired him with his three best Soontjens hens, a daughter and two granddaughters of his favorite new stock breeder, the ‘Computer II junior’, and with immediate success.
The ‘Klein Aske’ produced first the ‘Joker’, and two years later the ‘Flits’. The ‘Flits’, is already almost as good as the ‘327’. He already has top results against thousands.
Who has better ?
The ‘Flits’ (5065636-04), won six weeks in a row a 1st or a 2nd prize …
Some of his victories were:
– 4 times a 1st prize
– 1/694 Provincial Melun
– 2/4,103 Melun
– 2/2,334 Nanteuil
– 2/1,607 Vervins
– 11/4,035 Nanteuil
– 5/2,175 Melun
– 4/910 Nanteuil
– 8/10,759 National Bourges
– 1/117 La Ferté
– 1/365 Melun
The victory list of his brother, the ‘Joker’ (5065076-02), was equally impressive:
– 8/1,793 Melun
– 13/1,204 melun
– 3/887 Melun
– 23/7,272 Orleans
– 78/16,500 National Bourges
– 19/260 Nanteuil
– 11/719 Melun
– 96/10,182 National Bourges
With the ‘Nest sister’ of his ‘Bourgesman’ the ‘Chateauroux’ – a.k.a the ‘Antwerpenaar’ – produced the ‘Tarzan’, ring number 5115302-03. A pigeon that sometimes has trouble returning home, but who won two years in a row the 9th and the 14th National Bourges, with five pure first prizes, despite his lingering.
A few of his victories are:
– 5 times a 1st prize
– 1/511 Nanteuil
– 14/1,4207 National Bourges 2004
– 1/237 Melun
– 2/2,270 Nanteuil
– 9/9,893 National Bourges 2005
A brother of the ‘Tarzan’ won 1st Provincial Melun and was the fastest against 3,400 pigeons.
Breeding with descendants of the ‘Chateauroux’ certainly seems promising. One of his daughters has already produced a super champion, the ‘Blauwe Prins’ (5065642-04), good for:
– 2/6,928 Provincial Vierzon
– 4/12,754 National Bourges
– 11/10,759 National Bourges
To recap: three children or grandchildren of the ‘Chateauroux’ have in a few years time won: 4th, 8th, 9th, 11th and 14th National Bourges against an average of 10,000 pigeons.
The father of the ‘Blauwe Prins’ leads us nicely into the next chapter. We are talking about the world famous ‘Freddy’.
At the end of 2003 the pigeon world was in upheaval. There was a total sale of the almost invincible tandem De Rauw-Sablon from Ophasselt and the quality of their pigeons caused a massive turnout. Who wouldn’t want them, pigeons that fly provincial victories without effort … and that are also good breeders.
Pros had marked two pigeons on the program. The first became too expensive for him, because another fancier kept on raising the bid. But then it was the turn of the ‘Freddy’: “I immediately bid a substantial, but reasonable, amount,” Pros recounts, “and everybody was still. “I thought that there had to be a mistake. Although the ‘Freddy’ was nine years old, he wasn’t yet worn out … But I had him, and I was very happy with him, and with the price too. A great success.”
That the ‘Freddy’ hadn’t been worn out yet, has been amply proved. It is now several years later, and he still fertilizes 95 per cent of his eggs. Pros couldn’t ask for more. Meanwhile, the ‘Freddy’ is the most sought after and famous breeder of the present time. “I can sell every one of his descendants for a good price,” explains Pros, “but I didn’t buy him for that. I want to make my own position in the races stronger through him.” And Pros being Pros, throws the offspring from ‘Freddy’ in the deep end without pardon. Every time a small fortune rises in the air … but that is pigeon sport of the highest order.
Why is the ‘Freddy’ suddenly so much in demand?
Several fanciers are evidence of his quality. First there is Gerard and Corneel Koopman from Ermerveen, Holland. In that sale of De Rauw-Sablon in 2003, they acquired five pigeons for a total amount of 41,000 Euro. Two of these pigeons were youngsters from the ‘Freddy’, the ‘Dromer’ and his brother the ‘Mister Expensive’, who was later sold to a Japanese fancier. But now comes the rub:
– Out of a son of the ‘Dromer’, the Koopman’s bred ‘Miss Maniwan’ (NL 1936562-05). She won the 1st National NPO from Saint-Vincent against no less than 26,018 pigeons.
– And if that isn’t enough, the ‘Doran’ (5533117-05), a son of ‘Mister Expensive’, won the 1st National from Orleans against some 9,670 pigeons. And before that, the ‘Doran’ had already won 21st from Chantilly against 13,008 pigeons.
The breeding qualities of the ‘Freddy’ were now amply justified. And his market value made a meteoric rise.
Also Erik Limbourg has success with the ‘Dromer’ line out of the ‘Freddy’. Out of a full brother of the ‘Dromer’ (a son of the ‘Freddy’), he has his ‘Lucky 77’ (4290077-03), who won the 1st National Ace K.B.D.B. Long-distance with the following results:
– 2/5,663 National Souillac
– 21/20,310 National Brive
– 31/6,751 National Orange
And already in 2004, Pros himself bred a super pigeon out of the ‘Freddy’: the above mentioned ‘Blauwe Prins’. To spare you having to look back for it, a few of the most important achievements of the ‘Blauwe Prins’ were:
– 2/6,928 Provincial Vierzon
– 4/12,754 National Bourges
– 11/10,759 National Bourges.
So now we understand why Pros is quietly confident to shatter his competitors in Vlaanderen with the descendants of the ‘Freddy’, combined with his own breed from the ‘327’-Soontjens, with as extra the line ‘Chateauroux’ from Schots.
For those who have become lost along the lines, we recap the origin of the ‘Freddy’:
Pros (justly) calls him De Rauw-Sablon, but in fact the ‘Freddy’ is a direct from Freddy Vandenheede from Zingem, Belgium. To be precise, out of his famous stock couple ‘Antigoon’ x ‘Het Krijt’. Two brothers of the ‘Freddy’ won for Vandenheede a 1st provincial; 1/9,503 from Bourges (also 9th National with the ‘Kanselier’) and 1/2,354 from La Souterraine with 10 minutes in the lead by the ‘FloeFloe’.
Other descendants of this top couple have won: 1st National La Souterraine, 1st National Narbonne, 1st National Ace middle-distance … Which shows where the ‘Freddy’ gets his talents from.
The new formula
It is clear that Pros has even higher standards for breeding. “Actually, I only have space for 4 or 5 breeding couples,” Pros says. “In order of importance, these get a series of rings on their nestbox. Every second breeding round I risk moving the eggs, to be a bit faster with breeding more youngsters out of the cracks, without the danger of burning them up. But 12 to 14 young in a year out of a topper like the ‘Freddy’ I think is the minimum.”
We already mentioned the new breeding formula Pros has adopted: first the best hens of the old breed against the Chateauroux Schots pigeons, and afterwards the offspring of these against the ‘Freddy’ and his children. All of this in varying combinations of course. Can that go wrong ? I doubt it. The recent success with the ‘Blauwe Prins’, the ‘Tarzan’, the ‘Flits’ and others, shows great potential. Therefore we may expect even more stunts from Pros Roosen on the long middle-distance. Because that is still his most cherished discipline, with the race from Bourges as his absolute favorite.
The Queens race
“My whole life I’ve had a preference for Bourges. And if you have success on a race, you will concentrate on it even more.”
The prize list of Pros from this Queens’ Race is not insignificant, especially when you realize that almost all of these prizes are won with his first or second nominated entries.
Since 1993 Pros Roosen has won the following top prizes without doubles:
– 1/9,759 National Bourges with the ‘Nationaal’; 1/1,210 Provincial
– 4/23,957 National Bourges with the ‘Bourgeske’
– 4/12,754 National Bourges with the ‘Blauwe Prins’
– 6/6,024 National Bourges with the ‘Blitz’; 1/1,007 Provincial
– 8/10,759 National Bourges with the ‘Flits’
– 9/9,893 National Bourges 2005 with the ‘Tarzan’
– 11/10,759 National Bourges with the ‘Blauwe Prins’
– 12/11,933 National Bourges with the ‘Jonge Joker’
– 14/14,207 National Bourges 2004 with again the ‘Tarzan’
– 18/14,873 National Bourges yearlings with the ‘Olympiade’; 1/1,426 Provincial
– 25/10,182 National Bourges with the ‘Witpen’
– 70/15,171 National Bourges with the ‘Bourgesman’; 1/2,167 Provincial
– 71/9,893 National Bourges with ‘Zoon uit Chateauroux’
– 75/10,182 National Bourges with the ‘Mooie Chateauroux’
– 83/16,119 National Bourges with agains the ‘Bourgeske’
– 87/14,207 National Bourges with the ‘5115401-03’
New ambition for the long distance
Without wanting to contradict himself, Pros admits that he still has ambitions for the long-distance. Barcelona shall never become his first objective. And if he should have to choose, the races from 500 to 700 km will always come first. But to stand on the rostrum in the Barcelona Club in Brugge (four times already) also has its charm.
Therefore he can’t resist breeding for the long-distance with the best blood lines. He specifically uses pigeons from Wijnands and son, and from Cor de Heijde, and of course from some others too. But he always wants to keep it limited. “I race the long-distance my own way,” says Pros with a smile, “with a few pigeons I gamble on Barcelona.” Because the man from Kermt can’t resist gambling. But it is always calculated gambling.
Pros will not enter the race from Barcelona with second grade pigeons, and he showed that by buying several champions at the sale of Wijnands and son. He bought lot 1, the ‘Gimondi’ (1222077-96), 14th National Barcelona. Also lot 100, the ‘Cipollini’. And lot 14 and 163, two daughters out of the ‘Olano’ (NL 2015266-94), a grandson of the ‘Blauwe Vanoppen’ with 1/4,449 National Marseille in 1997; and also 9/3,689 Provincial Bourges.
“That result from Bourges as well, that is what I like,” says Pros. For that matter, the ‘Olano’ has still a bit of Wijnacker in him, by way of Bricoux x Vander Espt, long-distance pigeons that start to accelerate from 500 km.”
That the ‘Gimondi’ was 12 years old, didn’t worry Pros. That was also a calculated gamble, he thinks (like he did with the ‘Antwerpenaar’ from Schots, and with the ‘Freddy’ from De Rauw-Sablon …).
“When they produce youngsters for one more year, you have earned your money back already,” Pros explains. “His father, the ‘Blauwe Vanoppen’, still fertilized eggs when he was 17 years old, so I have a good chance. By way of the mother he has Kuijpers blood, Braakhuis and even 10 per cent Carlens. And that I like too.”
The ‘Cipollini’, also a son of the ‘Blauwe Vanoppen’, is some three years younger than the ‘Gimondi’, so he should be good for a few breeding years yet.
Meanwhile, Pros is busy bringing the best of Cor de Heijde from Made to his lofts in Kermt. Not many, but the best …
And he is still breeding with the line of his own ‘Interpares’, with a few promising youngsters …
In 1998, out of the mother of the ‘Primus Inter Pares’, Pros bred a hen, that would be as good as her renowned half-brother. Her father came from Wyffels Gerard.
Her first races from Barcelona were highly successful, 23/13,161 National Barcelona in 2001 and 157/13,021 National Barcelona in 2002. With these results she won the two-years classification of the BBC.
Regrettably, she was lost during an easy race from Perpignan, together with the ‘Zilveren Brive’, another promising pigeon from her loft. The ‘Zilveren Brive’ (5204570-97), a grandson of the ‘Rooie Interpares’, won among others the 1st from Brive against 980 pigeons, 18/1,225 Provincial Jarnac and 24/1,248 National Souillac.
Pros still can’t understand why his two most promising long-distance pigeons should have gone astray together during such an easy race …
Luckily, he had already paired them with each other, and they had produced three good children. Pros expects a lot of these descendants and is already testing them against the offspring of the ‘Freddy’. In truth, from them he hopes to breed the ideal long-distance pigeon, for races of some 800 km and more. Because he has a score to settle there …
The greatest disappointment
Happiness and sorrow can sometimes follow each other quickly. What should have been one of Pros’ greatest achievements from the long-distance, ended in one of his biggest disappointments. Decide for yourself.
In 2001 Pros won with the same two pigeons as 1st and 2nd nominated:
– 2 June, Provincial Brive, 15th and 38th against 3,604 pigeons
– 16 June, Provincial Cahors, 37th and 45th against 1,442 pigeons
– 27 July, Provincial Souillac, 68th and 253rd against 1,261 pigeons.
You would expect a national or at least a provincial championship long-distance. But no: they didn’t classify because the lowest prize wasn’t in the top 20% … for that it would of had to be a 252nd place. Is that galling or what? But rules are rules. And Pros, always the optimist, didn’t dwell on it too long.
Patience or just wishful thinking
“Actually, I’m not a long-distance racer, and certainly not a great long-distance racer,” Pros knows himself. “I don’t have the patience to become one.” And who knows Pros, has to agree with him. Pros Roosen indeed does not have much patience, not with his pigeons, and not with waiting for their return. Pros doesn’t even see his long-distance racers return home if they don’t fly in the lead. After a time he just finds them sitting on the roof or in front of the window. “If there are pigeons returning from the race, they have to start coming home here too … that’s my feeling.”
The general experience is, that it takes about three years before you really know if a pigeon is a good long-distance racer. But not for Pros. By that time he has already disposed of some 90 per cent. Not healthy enough, not athletic enough, not recuperated well enough after a hard middle-distance race, not soft enough and so on, and so on. Pros only keeps the pigeons that show immediate promise. And then it is immaterial what the pedigree is, Hausoul, Beulens, Cor de Heijde or Wijnands …
“I only want those absolute toppers, and they all have something special. It doesn’t take five years for me to recognize that … The rest is wishful thinking,” Pros says. Can it be that Pros is right, and that we keep these pigeons, just in the hope that they will amount to something in the end?
Ambitions for today and tomorrow
We have said it before, despite his handicap, Pros is once more raring to go with his favorite pigeons. For a while he thought about building a completely new loft. But that is not necessary, because he can cope with the old one. There are a few places in the loft where he can’t go himself anymore, but for that he counts on other people. “That is my destiny now,” Pros says shrugging his shoulders … “but they haven’t seen the last of me yet… I have never been so eager to start racing. I’m going to turn-over the whole field! I’ve never been more motivated.”
Pros is motivating himself, the same way that he motivates his pigeons. And to end this interview, he states again: “I am determined for next season. I want and I will finish at the top. I have never had a stronger team than today. With a little bit of luck, nobody will be able to beat me. I’m convinced of that.”
But the ‘angel on his other shoulder’ corrects him in that and Pros adds: “Now, now, don’t write all that down, you hear. What if it doesn’t work out that way? I don’t want to count my chickens before … you know …” And that too is really Pros, very ambitious and sure of himself, but at the same time realistic and discreet. A man after my own heart.
As an encore, Pros gives us his 10 Commandments for the pigeon fancier. Whoever pays attention to these rules , will certainly become a champion.
– Believe above all in the good quality of pigeons, but don’t believe everything you hear.
– Always couple good with good, the basket will show you how.
– Pigeons with dry or hard feathers have to be removed unconditionally.
– Only a few pigeons in a loft gives them a good form without effort.
– Always feed lightly and when basketing, use a small basket ( Few entries).
– Don’t use medication too often, otherwise your pigeons will suffer more ailments.
– Always be strict and consistent, a pigeon is easily spoiled.
– Always watch your pigeons, you can learn a lot from them.
– If they exercise with pleasure, they are certainly healthy.
– And when they are in top form, spent a little money on pooling.