Shirley Heights

Ellen Parker

One of the hardest things about being a woman in a largely men’s world (this circa 1978 and beyond when we first became a professional in the racing world) is getting the credit you deserve.  I once for example had a conversation with Dr. Steven Roman about how Apalachee and King’s Bishop were speedier versions of  (stout) Round Table due to the contributions of their dams, Moccasin and Spearfish.  Not too terribly long afterwards, both Apalachee and King’s Bishop were named brilliant and brilliant/intermediate Chefs-de-Race respectively with no credit to my comments.

A couple of years later when I tried to write a story about Shirley Heights being a stouter version of his sire, Mill Reef, I was blown off because the powers that be were ignoring anything too ‘different’.  (Actually they still are – check out the absence of Limamix or Sir Tristram or even Relaunch… Chef-de-Race crown for these immortals).  However, they did finally get around to naming Shirley Heights in 2001 (about 10 years after I first tried to do it).

In this issue of Pedlines, he is particularly prominent.  Consider the attached pedigrees of Waikika (FR) and Best of Days (GB), recently victorious in the Group 1 Premio Vittorio Di Capua and the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes.  Both are inbred (as Estimate’s Dubawi foal will be) to Shirley Heights or to his full sister, Millieme.

In addition, both of these recent stakes winners have a cross of the great mare Anne de Bretagne, which we have on board for our next Pedlines issue as a probable Reine-de-Course.  Waikika is tail-female to her, as is Best of Day’s sire Azamour (IRE).  This family line, a branch of Lady Alice Hawthorn (GB)(4-I) is enormous in its influence, so much so in fact that we will have to ‘chart’ it rather than doing a line-by-line as we do with more recent mares.

Anne de Bretagne, a 1932 daughter of Teddy, is I believe you will find, a very worthy ‘Queen’.  But I digress.

Shirley Heights is the topic at hand and in the pedigree of Best of Days, he appears three times in the first five generations – Darshaan x2/Mood Swings, the latter his third dam.  Now that isn’t all there is – the normal Northern Dancer inbreeding is on board.  But what we have here is the possibility of having it fade into the background with Mill Reef/Shirley Heights coming to the fore!

Before we leave Best of Days, by the way, let us also note that he is linebred to *Rough Shod II x3 via Lt. Stevens/Thong x2.  (The x2 Thong is in her dam’s contribution via ¾ brothers Sadler’s Wells and Nureyev.)  Also trebled is Lalun, via x2 Never Bend/Bold Reason.  Bred by Mr. G. Schoeningh, this two-year-old colt was a private purchase by Darley and will be pointed to the Epsom Derby.  We shall watch his pathway with great interest.

=Waikika (FR) who won her Group 1 at San Siro near Milan was bred by Pontchartrain Stud and races in the colors of Phillippe Bellaiche.  Her Shirley Heights influence is different in that it is expressed via a 3 x 4 cross of Millieme (a full sister to Shirley Heights and the third dam of Whipper, Waikika’s sire) and Shirley Heights.

Sire Whipper also underscores the impact of the brilliant Miesque, being by Miesque’s Son, a full sibling to Kingmambo.  Thus, in addition to the Millieme/Shirley Heights cross, there is a treble of ¾ siblings Nureyev x2/Sadler’s Wells and a treble of Lalun (Never Bend x2/Bold Reason).  Since Kingmambo also appears in Best of Days’ pedigree (as the sire of Kings Best, he sire of 2nd dam Best Side) this pair of major winners are very closely related. 

Waikika’s pedigree is made somewhat quicker by a Mr. Prospector double (Miesque’s Son/Soundings) and she is a miler like Miesque.  We obviously haven’t obliterated Northern Dancer here, either, as Nureyev and Sadler’s Wells are both sons.  Nevertheless, we love seeing this stamina influence and cannot help but wonder if Waikika might not stretch out under the proper conditions.

All this brings us to the pedigree of Shirley Heights himself.  Linebred to Pharos/Fairway, Bromus and Malva, sire Mill Reef brings in what may be the most significant cross – a *La Troienne line to meet her three quarter sister Adargatis via Ardan in broodmare sire Hardicanute.  There are multiples of breed-shaping sires like The Tetrarch, Teddy, Gainsborough and Spearmint and half brothers Swynford/Chaucer (out of Canterbury Pilgrim) are linebred to as well.

Shirley Heights was a wonderful racehorse, winning both the English and Irish Derbies.  As a stallion, he continued his classic ways, getting Epsom Derby winner Slip Anchor, French Derby winner Darshaan, Ascot Gold Cup winner Arcadian Heights and Irish Gold Cup winner Shady Heights to name only a few.  I for one had no doubt about Shirley Heights as a classic sire.

Today, he lives on mostly via Darshaan thanks to the Aga Khan’s use of him and as you have seen in the attached pedigrees, inbreeding to Shirley Heights is a useful tool that adds not just stamina, but also bone, strength and wind to the resultant offspring.  This gives us a very good feeling about Estimate’s expected foal!

(As this issue was going to press, Arc weekend produced two more Shirley Heights inbreds who deserve a mention.  So Mi Dar ran third behind Speedy Boarding and Pleascach in the Group 1 Prix de L’Opera.  Owned by Lord Lloyd Webber, she is 4 x 5 to Shirley Heights via Deploy in Dubawi’s pedigree and via High Hawk in the pedigree of her broodmare sire Singspiel.

 The other is the two-year-old Wuheida who is 4 x 4 to Shirley Heights and who won the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac by two lengths on the Arc undercard.  She is inbred on the exact same cross as So Mi Dar, via Dubawi and Singspiel.  As the good old boys network would like to say, think we have ourselves a “nick” here guys.)

Reprinted from Pedlines #177, October-December 2016