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Ray Crawford in one of his breeding sectionsRay Crawford: Young Man with a Passion

by Silvio Mattacchione

It seems odd that the very first time I should have heard Ray Crawford's name was out of the mouth of die-hard soccer player and soccer coach, my cousin Julio Mattacchione. Julio had for years worked at the Ontario Food Terminal on the Queensway in downtown Toronto. The Ontario Food Terminal is a gigantic facility that houses hundreds of companies, all of which import fruit and vegetables from all over the world. Not really a venue to be hearing about a fellow who, it turns out, is possibly one of the best racing pigeon fanciers in all of Canada, and possibly one of the finest in North America.

The year was 1993 when Julio made the following remarks: He said, "Silvio, I have three fellows who work with me that are absolutely driving me mad. All they ever talk about is pigeons and racing pigeons to boot. They talk about these birds throughout an entire twelve-hour shift, non-stop! They become animated, they raise their voices. You would think that they were talking about really important matters of state or politics or religion. There's a real passion with these young men!" Then he concluded, "Silvio, this goes on all day, day in, day out, summer and winter, season after season."

I laughed and told my cousin that it seemed that these were real racing pigeon enthusiasts and, to them, pigeons are more important than politics and matters of state. He insisted they were driving him crazy and that he never imagined there could possibly be so much to say about such a lowly bird. I reminded Julio that he and his son Joey (who just signed with Toronto for the 1999 professional soccer season) constantly talked and lived soccer and that racing pigeons, to racing enthusiasts, were infinitely more enjoyable and interesting than any other sport.

I finally asked the name of this young racing pigeon fanatic. This young man's name was Ray Crawford. I cannot really say that it rang a bell. I had no idea who this young man was. Many years would pass before I had occasion to finally meet the young clean-shaven man who said very little and observed very much. Ray was a hard worker, holding down two jobs and somehow finding the time to fly and care for his birds.

Since I really do not take in many pigeon events, I would not have occasion to see Ray until 1996, when Jim McLean and I attended the AU Convention in Florida. Believe it or not, we saw Ray and Dave Ottaway at the Tampa airport, where we spoke for a short period of time before returning to Canada.

I would again see Ray Crawford on a few occasions in 1998. This is when I really got to know a little bit about Ray, his birds, and the fact that he was a force to be reckoned with in Canada's largest combine (and arguably one of the largest in North America) the powerful Up North Racing Pigeon Combines, with a total of some 200 members. From firsthand knowledge, you can bet that these fanciers are serious and do not take this pursuit lightly. Flyers like John Marles, Claude Rothgiesser, Dave Booth, Dave Ottaway, Jim McLean, and others will certainly get the fires burning under your chariots!

Getting Started

Ray Crawford has had pigeons most of his life, starting at the age of twelve. Like many young fanciers, Ray's dad got him interested. Ray's dad had a fascination (some would say compulsion) for pigeons, any type of pigeon-as long as it was white. So, true to form, Ray's first birds were a menagerie of-you guessed it-white fancy pigeons.

However, this bliss was not to be long-lived. One day a pair of blue racing homers, complete with bands, made their way to Ray's all-white loft. Ray's dad laid down the law, and there was no place to hide blue pigeons in an all-white loft. Father took them to work and knew that they surely would not return. To their chagrin, low and behold, there they were back at the all-white loft! Dad continued to try to lose them, but to no avail. Ray was later to find out that these birds belonged to Peter Trezzi, a local neighborhood fancier. They got to know each other and became good friends. Ray, being the observant lad he was, quickly asked Peter why his birds flew around his loft and Ray's only sat on his loft. The inevitable answer, racing homers. Well, Ray was hooked. Adjustments were made to his loft and three youngsters bred from the original stray pair became Ray's team. Results were not immediate. He flew his first race that same year (1974) at age twelve in the Canadian Racing Pigeon Club (coincidentally, the same club where I had started out in 1967). and clocked one bird from 90 miles, second from the bottom. The next week this sole survivor raced again but never returned. A short end to Ray's first season, and it was years before he flew in another race.

Rediscovering the Spark

To be exact, thirteen years later at age 25, having a brew in a local bar, a fancier named Harry Clark asked if he still had the passion for birds. No need to ask, of course he did.

Ray Crawford and Angelo Benedetti by the yearling loftThat is how Ray was to meet Angelo Benedetti, who would become his partner to this day. Angelo had been seriously ill and had just returned from a hospital stay. He needed help with the birds and Ray, now on his own and working, needed birds to care for. It was the makings of an ideal partnership. Ray cared for the birds until Angelo recovered, at which time he asked Ray if he wanted to fly the young bird season. Ray jumped at the opportunity and the Crawford & Benedetti Loft partnership was born in 1988. Benedetti was a well-known, successful flyer in the Toronto area, who due to circumstance had not flown birds for some years. Benedetti, during his last five years of competition, had won all the 500 mile races, as well as average speeds, and had the only bird on the day at the 400. It seems that Angelo Benedetti was a natural at conditioning for distance races. At age nineteen, on his first race, he was 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and he repeated the following weeks with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th! Angelo's birds, which he has now had for 39 years, are a mixture of Sion, Van Braune, Delbar, Von Spital, and Janssen.

The young bird season of 1988 was the first year that Crawford and Benedetti flew young birds as partners. Again in 1989, and finally in 1990, they flew both old and young birds together. That first year, 1988, Ray won 1st Average Speed in the club and topped the trailer in the first race. He flew that year in the West York Racing Pigeon Club. He won 1st Average Speed again in 1989. In 1990, Ray flew old birds for the first time, and true to form, won 1st Average Speed in the West York Club and was 1st Longlac 550 miles. Ray Crawford had learned his lessons well; he knew intuitively that success comes with hard work, and he was no stranger to that concept. During the race season Ray spends about 6-7 hours per day with his birds!

Introducing the Spanjaards/Janssen Line

In 1994, Ray was given six Janssens as a gift by a friend, Dave Ottaway. Dave is quite a flyer in his own right. That same year Ray met Gus Tzotzos and purchased four birds from him. One of these birds, a Spanjaards/Janssen blue checker cock, was to eventually turn out to be a proverbial mother lode. This bird's number was CU-92-1689, and he was a son of a bird owned by Jim McLean and myself called "Spanjaards" (NL-84-1092058), or "058", who in turn was a son of NL-74-813969, known as the "969". This "969" (NL-74-813969), bred by Gerrit Spanjaards, was a grandson of the world famous "Oude Merckx". He had been a Provincial Ace Pigeon twice, as well as being the sire to the 1977 National Orleans winner, and had bred some eighty exceptional pigeons. His son "Spanjaards" (NL-84-1092058), was kept by Mr. Gerrit Spanjaards when he finally decided to sell his sire, "969" (NL-74-813969), to America. "Spanjaards" (NL-84-1092058) was chosen to perpetuate the line for Spanjaards in Holland!

Life is full of coincidence. My entire line is that of Mr. Gerrit Spanjaards, and my partner and I owned the sire "Spanjaards" (NL-84-1092058) to Ray's newly acquired superstar "1689" (CU-92-1689). But more on this later.

With the introduction of these new Janssens crossed into Angelo's old blood they had a winning combination. Flying as R. Crawford and Ryding View Loft, here is how they did:

Old Bird Season

.  4 x 1st in old birds flying in the Canadian Racing Pigeon Club

.  1st Average Speed in the Canadian Racing Pigeon Club

Young Bird Season

.  1st in one young bird race

Old Bird Season

.  6 x 1st in the Canadian Racing Pigeon Club

.  2nd Average Speed Overall plus 1st Average Speed for the Long Distance

Young Bird Season

.  5 x 1st in the Canadian Racing Pigeon Club

.  5 x 1st in the West York Racing Pigeon Club

Old Bird Season

.  5 x 1st in the Canadian Racing Pigeon Club

.  1st Overall Average Speed

Young Bird Season

.  3 x 1st in the Canadian Racing Pigeon Club

.  3 x 1st in the West York Racing Pigeon Club

.  1st and 3rd Champion Young Bird in the Up North Combine

Young Bird Season

.  3 x 1st in the Canadian Racing Pigeon Club

.  4 x 1st in the West York Racing Pigeon Club

Old Bird Season

.  3 x 1st in the Metro Racing Pigeon Club

.  5 x 1st in the West York Racing Pigeon Club

.  1st Average Speed in the West York Racing Pigeon Club

Young Bird Season

.  1 x 1st in the Metro Racing Pigeon Club

.  4 x 1st in the West York Racing Pigeon Club

.  2nd Average Speed and 6th Average Speed in the Up North Combine

It is important to note that these results do not include any results from the short program that is run in conjunction with the regular race program.

Therefore, since 1994, Ray Crawford has won 59 firsts (no doubles), that is, 30 x 1st in old birds and 29 x 1st in young bird races-all of this in only four short years. If we were to consider total wins from 1988 to 1998, Ray has 119 1st place wins to date. It is a shame that Ray has never considered submitting results for National awards in either Canada or the USA When I asked Ray why he had never submitted his records for awards, his comment to me was, "Silvio, I am only interested in flying my birds and I have only compiled these stats because you asked me to!" Yes, I can certainly understand this sentiment in not wanting to become a bookkeeper, however I also hope that the C.R.P.U. will soon adopt a program that will automatically calculate everyone's results so that awards will reflect all performances worthy of note regardless of whether a person does or does not choose to submit his performances.

Ray's Way

There is no doubt that Ray has a way with the birds. You can see it in the way his birds calmly react to him in the loft-no nervous or frightened birds here. The birds are at total ease with him. This same way of relating to the birds I saw at the home of Marinka Vink, an exceptional woman fancier in Holland, in 1996. She has decimated one of the largest combines in Holland with her ability to relate to her birds.

Ray Crawford's youngbird racing loftRay has four lofts situated in the small backyard of Angelo Beneditti's home. Most of the lofts were either built by Ray or renovated by him. The lofts are exceedingly clean-I would think scraped at least three times per day. Most people underestimate just how important cleanliness truly is. The Janssen Brothers intuitively understood this fact.

Ray practices a pretty much standard preventative medication program. His birds are usually slowly trained up to 85 miles. Once the races begin, the birds are expected to do just that-race week after week. His old birds are flown from 130-600 miles. The old birds are flown double widowhood.

Ray Crawford's yearling loftRays lofts back onto a rail yard-not a great place to be on race day. Clanging of railcars and engines would have most birds in a panic, however, under his care they seem oblivious to the constant hubbub. Apart from the noise, I have never seen as many "plugs" that live and fly around that particular rail yard. These are the obstacles that temper true champions. Ray and his birds rise to the occasion, with never a complaint. His motto is, "Just let me fly my birds." Remember how I said that Ray had a special way with birds? Well, I have heard how with great patience he was able to get one of the "feral pigeons" from the rail yards to fly to him on command. It actually became so tame that he became a nuisance on race day-constantly after the widow hens.

The Exceptional "1689"

I couldn't resist eventually asking Ray what his most prepotent sire was. Without wasting a second, his answer was "1689" (CU-92-1689), the checker Spanjaards cock. Prepotent was definitely the correct description for this son of "Spanjaards" (NL-84-1092058), also called "058". Just how good was he? "The best I have ever owned!" Not just that, his children are all doing the job both racing and breeding. The future, as Ray sees it, is crossing this Spanjaards/Janssen blood into their own old line. The results are there for all to see.

So just how good is "1689" (CU-92-1689)? Again, the answer without hesitation, "Since I began breeding him in 1994, in only four years he has produced twenty direct children, each of which has won 1st place". Twenty separate sons or daughters to win 1st! Regardless of records or amounts paid, this makes "1689" (CU-92-1689) one of the finest proven and documented sires in North America today. More important, he also has the proven genetic heritage descending in a direct male line from the "Oude Merckx" of Janssen Brothers fame, to the "969" (NL-74-813969) bred and raced by Gerrit Spanjaards, producer of the 1977 National Orleans Winner, to his sire, "Spanjaards" (NL-84-1092058), the sire of three ace pigeons. This exceptional "1689" (CU-92-1689) continues this phenomenal lineage and no doubt will, before his breeding days are over, surpass them all!

I was intrigued by this claim and set about with assistance to methodically document it. How many times have I heard, "Yes, he has bred a ton of winners," yet the ton is never quantified or qualified. Well, to my delight here is what we found.

The following twenty 1st place winners are all direct children of "1689" (CU-92-1689):

CU-95-MISS-0937

.  Station: Gravenhurst; Distance: 139.033 km; Result: 1st Club, 3rd Association

CU-95-BARR-6400

.  Station: Burks Falls; Distance: 217.056 km; Result: 1st Club, 3rd Association

CU-95-24947

.  Station: New Liskeard; Distance: 428.251 km; Results: 1st Club, 7th Association

CU-95-BARR-7394

.  Station: Temagami; Distance: 378.057 km; Results: 1st Club, 1st Association

CU-95-BARR-7382

.  Station: Gravenhurst; Distance: 139.033 km; Results: 1st Club, 2nd Association

CU-94-FN-2995

.  Station: Gogama; Distance: 478.214 km; Results: 3rd Club, 1st Gold Band Race

CU-95-BARR-6381

.  Station: Smooth Rock Falls; Distance: 643.371 km; Results: 1st Club, 11th Association

CU-96-CDN-0591

.  Station: Point Au-Baurel; Distance: 225.651 km; Results: 1st Club, 2nd Association, 28th Combine

.  This bird also won 1st Champion Bird of the combine.

.  Station: Gogama; Distance: 478.217 km; Results: 1st Club, 4th Association, 37th Combine.

CU-96-1918

.  Station: North Bay; Distance: 293.989 km; Results: 1st Club, 12th Combine.

.  Station: Engelhart; Distance: 463.753 km; Results: 1st Club, 30th Combine

CU-96-CDN-0564

.  Station: Latchford; Distance: 407.274 km; Results: 1st Club, 6th Combine

CU-96-CDN-0565

.  Station: Ramore; Distance: 523.765 km; Results: 1st Club, 23rd Combine

CU-97-CDN-0067

.  Station: Burks Falls; Distance: 217.056 km; Results: 1st Club, 19th Combine

CU-97-CDN-0060

.  Station: New Liskeard; Distance: 428.251 km; Results: 1st Club, 15th Combine

CU-97-CDN-0088

.  Station: Engelhart; Distance: 459.856 km; Results: 1st Club, 7th Combine

.  This bird was also the 4th Champion Bird of the combine.

CU-TOR-FED-97-2312

.  Station: Engelhart; Distance: 463.753 km; Results: 3rd Club, 4th Association, 26th Combine

.  He was also 1st Auction Race and Ray shipped only three birds.

CU-98-CDN-0539

.  Station: North Bay; Distance: 293.989 km; Results: 1st Club, 5th Association, 22nd Combine.

.  Station: North Bay; Distance: 293.989 km; Results: 1st Club, 5th Association, 22nd Combine

.  This bird was also 1st Gold Band Race.

CU-97-CDN-0062

.  Station: New Liskeard; Distance: 428.251 km; Results: 1st Club, 1st Association, 1st Combine

CU-97-0687

.  Station: North Bay; Distance: 293.989 km; Results: 1st Club, 1st Association, 14th Combine

CU-97-CDN-0095

.  Station: North Bay; Distance: 293.989 km; Results: 1st Club, 9th Association

CU-97-0682

. Also successful

The above referenced twenty children of "1689"( CU-92-1689) are all documented first place winners. What an incredible accomplishment for this young sire and Ray Crawford. It says volumes about Ray Crawford's ability to condition and handle a team of racing pigeons.

Another performance of great interest was that of a daughter of "1689" (CU-92-1689) in the all-Ontario Upper Canada National with 222 lofts, 3,271 birds. Ray's hen, CU-96-CDN-0585, was 24th, plus Ray also scored 36th, 41st, 84th, and 85th. Another great-granddaughter of "1689" (CU-92-1689) is CU-98-CDN-0540, who competed in the Hamilton Engelhart Open Race (one of Canada's largest young bird open races) with 101 lofts, 872 birds, scoring 4th overall. This is incredible when you think that Ray only sent one bird! Need anyone say any more? It is not often that the true worth of a bird is so well documented.

Since Jim McLean and I both owned "1689's" (CU-92-1689) sire, "Spanjaards" (NL-84-1092058), up until his death in the fire at Jim's loft in 1995, no one was in a better position to know and appreciate his value than we were. Jim McLean and I were so impressed with "1689" (CU-92-1689) that on February 20, 1999, Ray's birthday, we arranged to purchase this magnificent Spanjaards cock with Ray Crawford's blessings. "1689" (CU-92-1689) has now been named "Limited Edition" (CU-92-1689), which truly reflects his unique genetic value. Our thanks to Ray Crawford for allowing "Limited Edition" (CU-92-1689) to be incorporated back into our Spanjaards/Janssen genetic pool. He, along with eight other brothers and sisters bred by us from "Spanjaards" (NL-84-1092058), will insure the perpetuation of this line well into the 21st Century.

Ray Crawford has in a short period of time shown conclusively that you do not have to be wealthy to succeed. He has shown that the will to learn, the will to work hard, with honesty and fair play, and most important, love of your hobby and your pigeons, can and will lead to success. Our sport is a 365-day-a-year endeavor; there is no off season.

Ray Crawford, I'm proud to have met you. I know that we will be hearing more about you in the years to come on a National level. Most important, I know that you will never stop loving your birds. Mr. Spanjaards would have been proud of you and your birds!

Ray Crawford, your results, your ability, and your generosity to new members makes you a true Canadian and North American Champion.


Racing Pigeons Section Contents

Ashdon Farms

Background on Silvio Mattacchione, his pigeons, his loft, and inbreeding program.

Articles

A group of articles and editorials addressing various aspects of the sport of pigeon racing and the history of Silvio's line of Spanjaards/Janssens pigeons.

Pigeon Books

Buy fantastic pigeon books online! Selections include The Will to Prepare by Robert Kinney, Rotondo on Racing Pigeons by Joseph Rotondo, and The Pigeon Guide by Dr. Jon Esposito and Shannon Hiatt.

Pigeons For Sale

Some of Silvio Mattacchione's own winning stock is for sale.

Pigeon Consulting

Sivio Mattacchione offers a wide range of racing pigeon consulting services and consults with owners as far away as Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines and the United States. Each consultation is tailored specifically to meet the client's needs, and is conducted in as thorough a manner as possible.

Charity Events

Good causes supported by Silvio and the racing pigeon and parrot communities.

Emoticons

Clever pigeon pictures constructed of keyboard strokes by artist Jerry Downs.

Pigeon Links

Links to other racing pigeon sites including those of clubs, products, and information resources. An easy way to navigate a series of pigeon web sites!

Contact Us

Silvio's e-mail, mail, phone, and fax contact information.


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