From Slip Anchor to Legatissimo

It was an excellent finish that Danehill Dancer’s daughter Legatissimo performed in the closing stages of the 1,000 Guineas. She was given a virtuoso ride by Ryan Moore, who won the second English classic after 2,000 Guineas on Gleneagles. Same as Gleneagles, whose dam is a sister of Giant’s Causeway, Legatissimo is a daughter of a mare who is a full sister to a Gr.1 winner. In her case it is the winner of the 2009 Irish Derby Fame and Glory, a grandson of the German 1,000 Guineas winner Grimpoly, who was bought in Germany by Leslie Harrison for Lord Howard de Walden’s Plantation Stud where she founded a successful family.

Birkhahn has played a major role in the expansion of German blood in the world

German blood has had major achievements in world racing in the past few decades. It is through German bred horses such as Monsun's progeny (Manduro or Shirocco), earlier through horses such as Borgia and Lando, but also through excellent German families that found their way to leading studs all over the world. It is hardly necessary to name the champion sire Galileo and his half-brother Sea The Stars, whose granddam Allegretta, full sister to the Deutsches St Leger winner Anno, is German bred and is also the dam of the 2,000 Guineas winner King’s Best. The dams of the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom, champion Hurricane Run, winner of the Lockinge Stakes and Champion Stakes Farrh, winner of the Japan Derby Eishin Flash, winner of the Prix Vermeille Baltic Baroness or winner of the Saint Leger Masked Marvel were also German bred. And the list could be much longer.

Personally I consider the winner of the 1948 Deutsches Derby and multiple champion sire Birkhahn to be the key sire of German breeding thanks to whom the German blood won renown all over the world. Exceptionally successful, that is if we focus on successes outside Germany, was the combination of mares with his blood with sires of the Nasrullah line. Birkhahn’s daughter Novara, the winner of the Deutsches Stutenpreis, produced the 1977 2,000 Guineas winner Nebbiolo with Yellow God. Eight year later, a son of another Birkhahn’s daughter Sayonara, second in the German Oaks and 2x4 inbred to Birkhahn’s sire Alchimist, won the Epsom Derby. His name was Slip Anchor, was bred by Lord Howard de Walden and sired by Shirley Heights. It is definitely worth mentioning that the combination which produced Nebbiolo and the one which produced Slip Anchor were unique and done just once when the products were the classic winners mentioned above.

Birkhahn already belonged among the pillars of German breeding. His son Literat produced another of key sires of the German history, Surumu, six-time champion sire and the sire of Acatenango who was the champion sire four times. Surumu is also the damsire of Monsun, four-time champion sire in Germany. These three names are sufficient to give as an idea about the influence of Birkhahn on German breeding.

I have mentioned the achievements of mare of the Birkhahn blood with sires of the Nasrullah line and it is perhaps even more the case with Mill Reef - Shirley Heights. This affinity played a significant role in the success of the Dewhurst Stakes winner Dashing Blade in German breeding. Shirley Height’s grandsson moved to Gestut Etzean, Germany, after a single season at Littleton Stud, England, and he won several championships as sire in Germany. He was successful especially with daughters of Surumu, Birkhahn’s grandson, with who he produced nine black-type winners including the excellent Eden Rock. The combination with daughters of Acatenango, on the other hand, was not so successful.   

But let us return to Sayonara, a mare of arguably the best German family Schwarzgold (by Alchimist). She produced not just Slip Anchor but also the filly Sandy Island. Mill Reef’s daughter won the Lancashire Oaks and finished second in the Ribblesdale Stakes. Later she became a successful broodmare whose progeny include, among others, the winner of the Hardwicke Stakes Sandmason or the winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes Sardegna.

When Lord Howard de Walden bought in 1986, a year after Slip Anchor’s triumph in The Derby, Grimpola, he repeated regularly the combination which had produced Slip Anchor. Grimpola was not sired by Birkhahn but was 3x3 inbred to him and she was even three-fold inbred to his dam Bramouse.

At stud she produced gradually foals by Shirley Heights, two by Slip Anchor, two more by Shirley Heights again and one by Darshaan – all sires of the Mill Reef line and its Shirley Heights branch. Only the last foal was by a sire from a different line – by Kenmare.

Grimpola’s first foal, Golan Heights, was the best on the racecourse. He was twice listed placed but was shadowed at stud by his half-sisters Goonda, a single winner, and unraced Gonfalon. The first produced the winner of the Maurice Lacroix-Trophy (Gr.2) Global Dream and two more black-type horses; the latter, Gonfalon, fared even better thanks to her daughter Gonbarda, the winner of the Preis vod Europe (Gr.1), top rated thee-year-old miler in Germany Gonlargo and listed winners Gonfilia and Gorlor.

All of these were exceeded by Gryada, Grimpola’s penultimate foal. She won two races and placed third in the Premio Dormello (Gr.3). She was more successful at stud, too, than her sisters. Her first product, Acatenango’s daughter Guaranda, was placed in the listed Upavon Stakes and produced at stud the winner of the Lillie Langtry Stakes (Gr.3) Gravitation. Her pedigree is very interesting because both her sire Galileo and damsire Acatenango bring German elements into it and although the mare is fairly uniquely outcross in the first five generations, Birkhahn is to be found four times in her pedigree.

Gryada’s second product, Grampian by Selkirk, was also successful in black-type races, having taken two second places in listed races. In 2005 Gryada gave birth to a filly Yummy Mummy by Montjeu. She won a single race but her value grew rapidly after her a-year-younger brother Fame and Glory arrived on the racecourse. In December 2009, when Fame and Glory had already won the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, Irish Derby and placed second in the Epsom Derby, she was sold at a Newmarket sale in foal by Dalakhani for 460,000 guineas. And it was not a bad investment not just because Fame and Glory won more three Gr.1 races. Her first sold yearling Another Cocktail (Dalakhani) was sold in 2011“just” for 85,000 guineas, but the second one, a colt Royal Battalion by Sea The Stars, was bought by David Redvers Bloodstock for 575,000 guineas. The first two horses had just moderate success on the racecourse but Yummy Mummy compensated for it on Sunday by the triumph of Legatissimo in the 1,000 Guineas. The filly bought by MV Magnier at October Sale for 350,000 drew attention, once again, to the quality of German families and expanded the long list of their achievements in today’s racing worldwide.

Miloslav Vlček

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