Incantation still casting her spell over Breeders’ Cup


Incantation was a daughter of the Hollywood Gold Cup winner Prince Blessed foaled in 1965. She was nothing out of the ordinary as a racehorse, winning three times over six furlongs, two of them claiming races. But thanks to some influential male descendants, her name continues to feature in the pedigrees of some of the best performers in America, including at this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

 With better luck, Incantation could have had a much more direct claim to Breeders’ Cup fame. Her best son Seattle Song, trained in France by Francois Boutin for Stavros Niarchos, would have been a leading contender for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Turf at Hollywood in 1984 but cracked a cannon bone in training at the track ahead of what was due to be his final race before retiring to stud.

A son of Seattle Slew, Seattle Song began his stud career in Kentucky at a fee of $55,000, boasting big wins on both sides of the Atlantic. He had won the Prix de la Salamandre at Longchamp at two and on what proved to be his final start won the Washington DC International at Laurel Park. His career also included a second place behind Sadler’s Wells in the Phoenix Champion Stakes in Ireland.

Seattle Song’s stud career didn’t live up to his initial fee but among his first crop was the filly Cee’s Song who became dam of 2000 US Horse of the Year Tiznow, winner of that season’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and who, uniquely, won it again a year later (from a field that included Sadler’s Wells’ heir as the top European stallion, Galileo). Tiznow’s gelded brother Budroyale had finished runner-up in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Returning to Incantation, her stud career was a curious one. Until visiting triple crown winner Seattle Slew, she had mainly been covered by the father-and-son stallions Lucky Mel (credited with setting a world record time for five furlongs at Hollywood) and Lucky Mike. Seattle Song had been Incantation’s eighth consecutive male foal, all of them winners, but they were preceded by her very first foal, a filly (by Lucky Mel) named Lucky Spell. She won twelve races, including a couple of Grade 3 contests, and finished second in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks. Not the least remarkable fact about Lucky Spell was that she lived to the ripe old age of 34, and like her own dam she produced plenty of winners.

Among those was the filly Merlin’s Charm who was bought to race in England by Robert Sangster for whom she won the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. But it’s a couple of her other winning daughters we’re interested in here, Trolley Song and Lucky Soph, the former by the top-class French colt Caro and the latter by Caro’s Breeders’ Cup Mile-winning son Cozzene.

Arrogate, by Incantation's great grandson Unbridled's Song, before his win in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic
Arrogate, by Incantation’s great grandson Unbridled’s Song, before his win in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

Trolley Song became the dam of 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Unbridled’s Song (later successful in the Florida Derby) whose son Arrogate put up the best performance at the latest Breeders’ Cup when defeating California Chrome in a memorable edition of the Classic. Unbridled’s Song’s previous Breeders’ Cup winners include the Distaff winners Unbridled Elaine and Unrivaled Belle, the latter (the 2010 winner of what was then the ‘Ladies Classic’) recently sold at Keeneland’s November Sale for $3.8m which made her the most expensive thoroughbred sold at public auction this year.

Unbridled’s Song’s fee in Kentucky was $85,000 in 2012, the year Arrogate was conceived (it had peaked at $200,000 in 2007). Meanwhile, Trolley Song’s half-sister Lucky Soph had a stallion son too, though Lucky Pulpit hardly had the same opportunities as Unbridled’s Song, standing at just $2,500 in California.

2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, by Incantation's great grandson Lucky Pulpit, placed in the Breeders' Cup Classic for a second time in 2016
2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, by Incantation’s great grandson Lucky Pulpit, placed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic for a second time in 2016

But in 2014 Lucky Pulpit’s son California Chrome emulated another less fashionable Californian-bred, Tiznow, in becoming Horse of the Year when winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, though he suffered a narrow defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that year too, coming off worst in a three-way finish with Bayern and Toast of New York. With his wins this year including the Dubai World Cup, California Chrome will retire to stud at a fee of $40,000 in 2017 as the leading all-time money earner with $14,452,650. Ironically, he will stand at Taylor Made Stallions in Kentucky, the former home of Unbridled’s Song until his death in 2013.

The other leading player at the latest Breeders’ Cup with a connection – a double one in fact – to Incantation was the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tourist. By Tiznow out of a mare by Unbridled’s Song, his pedigree therefore features Incantation both top and bottom.

2016 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Tourist; Incantation appears twice in his pedigree
2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tourist; Incantation appears twice in his pedigree

[Images: Santa Anita Paddock – Tichnor Brothers, Publisher; Arrogate and Tourist – Jlvsclrk; California Chrome – Bill Brine]