Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profile: Shirl’s Speight

August 2nd, 2020

Unbeaten and unchallenged in two starts on turf and synthetic, Shirl’s Speight is an unproven commodity racing 1 1/4 miles on dirt. Yet this abundantly gifted Charles Fipke homebred appears to have the talent—and just as importantly, the bloodlines—to handle the testing conditions of the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

Shirl's Speight Pedigree
Gone West
Silken Cat
Shirl's Speight
Perfect Soul (IRE)
Perfect Shirl
Lady Shirl

Shirl’s Speight is a son of Speightstown, voted champion sprinter of 2004 after winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) during a near-perfect 5-for-6 campaign. Some pedigree analysts view Speightstown as a source of speed, a logical conclusion since his progeny win at an average distance of just 6.5 furlongs. Certainly Shirl’s Speight showed speed in his July 4 debut over the Woodbine turf course, leading all the way to dominate by eight lengths in the blazing time of 1:19.97.

Yet Speightstown has also demonstrated a surprising ability to sire high-class route runners in sizable bunches. Travers (G1) winner Golden Ticket and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) victor Haynesfield have thrived racing 1 1/4 miles on dirt, while Belmont Derby (G1) winner Force the Pass, Hollywood Derby (G1) winner Seek Again, and American Oaks (G1) winner Competitionofideas have excelled running the same distance on turf.

Speightstown is also the sire of Delegation, a classy synthetic performer who crushed the 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day (G3) at Woodbine by 9 1/4 lengths. Shirl’s Speight likewise displayed an affinity for artificial going when rolling to a confident triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Marine (G3) on July 25 at Woodbine.

A common thread uniting the most long-winded of Speightstown’s runners is their strong female families. For example, Golden Ticket, Force the Pass, and Competitionofideas were produced by daughters of Deputy Minister, Dynaformer, and Medaglia d’Oro—all solid sources of stamina.

This is good news for Shirl’s Speight, who hails from a stout female family. His dam, Perfect Shirl, is a daughter of Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile (G1) winner Perfect Soul, the sire of 1 1/8-mile Clark H. (G1) winner Seeking the Soul and 2013 Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul. Perfect Shirl’s dam, Lady Shirl, likewise proved her class at a high level when dominating the 1 1/4-mile Flower Bowl H. (G1) on turf by three lengths.

When Perfect Shirl hit the racetrack, she had big shoes to fill as a half-sister to Shakespeare, who combined speed and stamina to win the 1 1/2-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and 1-mile Woodbine Mile (G1) during a near-perfect 7-for-8 career. Perfect Shirl didn’t achieve quite the same winning percentage, going 4-for-16, but she arguably achieved a higher level of fame than her older sibling when upsetting the 1 3/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

On the whole, Shirl’s Speight’s pedigree is geared toward success on turf, and if he falters in the Kentucky Derby he’ll still have a bright future on the lawn. But the 1 1/4-mile distance shouldn’t be an issue, so with the dirt influence of Speightstown (and to a lesser extent, Perfect Soul) backing him up, Shirl’s Speight looms as an intriguing longshot contender in the Run for the Roses.