Auctions of Thoroughbred horses are well known for ringing up million-dollar sales. In fact, it has become so routine at premier auction houses in the United States and Europe that most people are not fazed when they see a report of a yearling or broodmare changing hands for millions.

But it got my attention when a reader of from Sweden sent me an article from The Guardian about how two buyers from China got into a bidding competition in a two-week online auction for a five-year-old racing pigeon and sire, named Armando, in which the winner paid the equivalent of $1,452,000 U. S. Reportedly, Armando’s new owner intends to stand him at stud in China, where he is to be bred to the owner’s prize brood-hen.

While horse racing is subject to cheating by various means, skullduggery is also evidently a threat to honest pigeon racing. According to the article in The Guardian:

“Last year, two professional pigeon racers in China were sentenced to three years in jail for cheating in a 466-mile (750km) race by smuggling their birds on to a bullet train to the competition’s finish line.

The men, Gong and Zhang, had earned €140,000 in prize money for winning the 2017 Shanghai homing pigeon race before their fraud was discovered.”

This brought to mind another famous case of cheating in racing, when Rosie Ruiz in the 1980 Boston Marathon jumped into the race about a half mile from the finish and won the female title, only to be disqualified eight days later.

Wonder if there are rules in world-class pigeon racing about race-day medication or a dispute about the need for a national oversight board to regulate drugs? Are pigeon races ever decided by a beak?

If a racing pigeon can sell for close to $1.5 million to Chinese buyers, imagine what potential there is for horse racing in mainland China if pari-mutuel wagering is eventually legalized.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business