Sister Shannon

We have written virtually hundreds of stories over the last dozen years or so on great families and tail-female lines.  And in all that time, we can count on the fingers of one hand the mares that are bred as well as Sister Shannon.

Although they are most certainly different so far as their on-track ability is concerned, Sister Shannon has something in common with the incomparable Dahlia.  Both were better known for their sons, and/or grandsons, than their daughters, and no one appreciated those sons until it was too late.


Sister Shannon traces to the Number Four female line (Layton [Violet] Barb Mare) via branch 4-f (Alice Hawthorn).  This line, which is also responsible for classic horses like Thormanby and Bona Vista, first took root in the U. S. via the mare Idaliza (GB) by Princely Gift, who was imported by Louisville, Ky. attorney Millard Cox.

Cox purchased Idaliza as a weanling at the 1957 Newmarket sales.  Though she was not a successful runner, Idaliza had a solid pedigree, carrying Pharos/Fairway x2 and seven lines of Pilgrimage.  And as it turns out, she was the only filly produced by her dam.

Hers was a pedigree good enough to produce three stakes winners: Clipsetta Stakes victress Patsy’s Girl by Crimson Satan; Hutcheson Stakes winner Glengary by Dead Ahead and Christiana Stakes winner Shannon Park by Etonian.

Shannon Park died at three, the same year his full sister, Sister Shannon, was born.  The loss of Shannon Park cannot be measured; this was a truly special match.


There is an old horseman’s saying that all matings should be tried at least three times to get the true result.  We’ve never done a statistical analysis on that, but in this case, we’re certainly glad that Etonian was tried at least once more with Idaliza.

Etonian, by the way, was a son of Epsom Derby winner Owen Tudor who we happened to see race against Round Table in our youth.  He was not Round Table’s equal, even when getting 26 pounds, but Round Table did equal the mile record of 1:33 2/5 that day at Arlington.

Etonian was a useful sire and got a handful of good runners.  Two of his better daughters were the excellent producer Out Cold (dam of the G2 winners Ten Below and Fortnightly) and Hard and Fast, she the fourth dam of Wild Rush.

When matched with Idaliza, a particularly unique match occurred because both Etonian and Princely Gift, Idaliza’s sire, traced to the mare Gleam.  This created a 3 x 4 cross of half sisters Inkling and Sparkle.  And it also created a 4 x 4 cross of half sisters Selene and Composure.  The entire pedigree is woven into a fabric rich with the blood of Pilgrimage (11 lines in all).  It is a classic pedigree and it produced horses whose own classicity nearly cost them their existence.

The Big Guns of Loblolly

It sometimes seems that all of racing is connected, and this is not far from the truth.  The first stakes winner owned by John Ed Anthony’s Loblolly Stables was the fine runner and sire Cox’s Ridge.  One of Cox’s Ridge’s best runners was Vanlandingham, which happened to be one of the first special horses trained by “Shug” McGaughey.

Vanlandingham and Temperence Hill, both owned by Loblolly, are responsible for putting Sister Shannon’s family squarely in the limelight.  Anthony bought two horses from the family, Temperence Hill and his half sister Populi, by Star Envoy.  Populi foaled Vanlandingham.

Both Temperence Hill and Populi were bred by Dr. A. F. Polk and were sold under the name of his Oriskany Farm.  Populi cost only $38,000; Temperence Hill was considerably more expensive at $80,000.

Temperence Hill became champion three-year-old male in 1980 (the year Genuine Risk won the Derby) when he defeated the champion filly in the Belmont and also won the Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Arkansas Derby.  A tall, handsome individual, Temperence Hill went to stud in the U. S., standing at Gainesway Farm.  He stood briefly in Arkansas and then was exported to Thailand in 1996.  He left behind him a legacy of frustration, since he could never quite get the “big” horse.

He did, however, sire over 25 stakes winners, the best of which were Temperate Sil, A Penny Is A Penny, Templar Hill and Til Forbid.  He also moved his mares up to 1.91, a number many currently popular sires should be so lucky to achieve.  His daughters produced another 28 stakes winners to date, the leading earner being Tempered Appeal (by Valid Appeal).  He is also the sire of the second dam of champion filly Farda Amiga.

Vanlandingham, champion older horse in 1985, was on his day, as good as they get.  A true Loblolly homebred by Anthony’s Cox’s Ridge, the leggy colt was special from the start and gave the owner a real satisfaction since he owned both parents.

He also had a very special pedigree, being inbred to full siblings Equipoise and Schwester 5 x 6 in addition to his dam’s Gleam inbreeding and Cox’s Ridge’s own unique doubles:  full siblings Solario and Imagery along with a double of Fairy Gold.

The colt won G1 races on both dirt and turf including the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Washington D. C. International and he, too, got a shot at stud, this time at Claiborne.  An almost total flop, Vandlandingham was moved first to Oklahoma and in 1996 to Saudi Arabia.

When matched with the right kind of mare, he could get a decent runner and his best were Moving Van and Totemic.  Today, he lives on through a handful of daughters and is the broodmare sire of the popular stallion Lil’s Lad (out of Totemic) and he is also the broodmare sire of current stallion Five Star Day.

The Price of Stamina

Make no mistake about it, both Temperence Hill and Vanlandingham had good pedigrees and good race records.  They began their careers at good farms.  So what went wrong?  If ever the power of family has been demonstrated, it is with this pair.  But then, the climate of the market was about to shift and they might have failed no matter what.

Sister Shannon’s pedigree, as we stated above, was a purely classic one.  Mares like this do not get precocious sorts who work blazing furlongs at two-year-old in training sales.  Also, most of the offspring from this line were leggy individuals with great scope – routers if ever there were any.  And they came along, sadly, right about the time such horses began to go extinct.

We also believe that Vanlandingham was given up on earlier than Temperence Hill because he not only came along later but because his relative was already on his way “out”.  Of such bad decisions come today’s current breed of fragile one-season wonders.

A Match To Bring It All Back

If asked, most people today would assure you that both Temperence Hill and Vanlandingham are “dead” for all intents and purposes.  But there is a very unique way we can think of to bring them  back and those of you who read the above paragraphs probably already know what we are going to suggest.

The idea, of course, is trying Lil’s Lad with Farda Amiga.  This not only creates a treble of Almahmoud, but a double of Sister Shannon (4 x 4 to Populi and Temperence Hill).  There are five lines of *Turn-to in this match, too, which should certainly make for plenty of speed.

Other Thoughts

Other thoughts are mares carrying lines of Temperence Hill with Five Star Day and it should be noted that Totemic also has produced a couple of Storm Cat sons and one or more may go to stud.  Populi also has two daughters doing well in Europe, Kamkova, dam of G2 winner Kirkwall and Musicanti, dam of G1 winner Distant Music and G3 placed New Orchid.

In the U. S., Andover Cottage, Sister Shannon’s 1980 daughter by Affiliate has made a bit of an impact via her daughters Andover Square and Bartlett North.  It’s not entirely too late to rescue this remarkable line.

Why Now?

If Sister Shannon was not appreciated during her time, we feel she should be appreciated now before it is too late.  There are viable branches of this line alive in Europe and there are still ways in this country to inbreed to the family as well.  So in appreciation for her glorious pedigree and unique classic kin, we add Sister Shannon and her daughter Populi to the Reine-de-Course list.  Perhaps someone will actually try to do something about this wonderful line before it dies out altogether.

Family 4-F