Princess Calla And The Search For Greatness

Fifth fastest time in 77 renewals of Majorca!

The dust has now settled on Princess Calla’s dominant win in the Majorca S. (Gr.1) over 1600m on Saturday 27 January. It was a class act which shone as the best performance on a stellar card of big races at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.

Robin Bruss writes that unusually for Princess Calla, her rider Richard Fourie elected to sit back well off the pace in 8th spot until turning for home and then came to the wide outside to make her sustained run.

The Sean Tarry team lead Princess Calla in after her Gr1 success on Met day (Pic – Wayne Marks)

She barreled past the field of high class fillies to win going away full of running by 3 widening lengths to record her 5th Grade 1 win. Her time was the fifth fastest in 77 runnings of the race and she was unextended.

Enjoy the replay:

For owner Mario Ferreira, racing manager Des Goncalves, trainer Sean Tarry and jockey Richard Fourie it was yet another highlight in the career of a filly who has progressed to become one of the great racemares of South African racing history.

In summary, Princess Calla has so far made 27 starts for 12 wins from 1000m to 1800m and 13 places.

She has won 11 Graded Stakes races of which five are Grade 1.  Only twice she didn’t make the first four – one was when she ran 5th in the Met (Gr.1) at 2000m as a 3 year old filly, and the other when 5th in the blanket finish in the Cape Flying Championship (Gr.1) at 1000m, beaten just over a length.

Maine Chance Farms’ Dr Andreas Jacobs – proud winning breeder (Pic – Wayne Marks)

She has never failed to earn a cheque in 27 starts – and that’s about as impeccable level of consistency as any racehorse could ever have.

There are many remarkable things to note about Princess Calla’s admirable racing career. Apart from her debut win, almost all her races have been in graded stakes events, and she has never faltered: she has won or placed in 14 Grade 1 events.

One of the reasons she has been able to do this is her amazing versatility in the range of distances in Grade 1 company – from 1000m to 2000m. many of them against colts, and this aptitude opened up the whole programme for her connections to choose from.

“Princess Calla has been a pleasure to train” says Sean Tarry “and I think what sets her apart from other champions I have had, is her versatility over a many different distances and adaptability to the pace they are run at.  She also has an incredible constitution and has remained at the top a very long time”

“She never leaves an oat, she is very sound and durable and a very straight forward mare to train.  She has such a huge girth and great depth to her, she must have amazing heart and lungs.

“When she works in the mornings, she gives everything, and I find that I have to slow her down so that she doesn’t overdo it.  This is the reason why I put earmuffs on her, and why she goes to the start in the earmuffs on racedays.  Its not about her temperament, it’s about her willingness to give.”

Richard Fourie and his champion Princess Calla (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

It’s rare when a horse – of either sex – can succeed against the best specialist sprinters and yet extend that speed to 1600m., 1800m and even 2000m.  This is the domain of the Great Horse, the one that is hardest to breed because it brings about an unusual combination of traits that are hard to predict and to preserve in determining matings:  how to extend stamina, but also preserve great speed.

Princess Calla has another unusual attribute – during her career she has had four different  trainers in different racing centres, and she has cross crossed the country many times.

She began with Dennis Bosch in Kwazulu-Natal, who ran her on the polytrack on her debut and she skated home by 3 lengths. In her second start, she ran 3rd in the two year old fillies Championship, the Thekwini Fillies S. (Gr.1) over 1600m at odds of 12/1.

Moved to Cape Town for the Summer season, she went to Adam Marcus and he won the WC Fillies Championship (Gr.2) over 1400m., ran 2nd in the Cape Fillies Guineas (Gr.1), 3rd in the Paddock S. (Gr.1) 1800m against older mares and in Durban, she won the Umzimkhulu S. (Gr.3) 1400m and then three frustrating narrow defeats in Gr.1s from 1600m to 2000m. Back in Cape Town, Adam won the Prix du Cap (Gr.3) with her over 1400m.

Back in Johannesburg, Princess Calla went to new trainer Andrew and Ashley Fortune to record her first Grade 1 win in the Empress Club Stakes WFA over 1600m, her first run at altitude.

Her first Gr1 win – Empress Club Stakes (Pic – JC Photos)

She was given a break and then joined Sean Tarry, who was to try something completely new. Princess Calla had proven herself a high class individual with each of her trainers, all of whom could be satisfied with their success rate, but then with Sean Tarry, the direction and tempo changed.

He dropped her from middle distances to pure sprints, and the transformation began.

“When I looked up her form, I saw four seconds in Gr.1 races in narrow defeats when she just couldn’t get her nose to the wire to finish it off.   She was showing tons of speed at home and I thought that in the sprints we could temper her willingness in the early speed and then she would run on strongly to the line.”

Her first start  for Sean was in the 1000m Southern Cross (Gr.2) and Princess Calla came from last to rocket past a big field an win in 58,3 sec.  Then came the Sceptre S. (Gr.2) over 1200m., the top race for sprinting fillies in Cape Town.  It was a repeat performance.

High class versatility (Pic- Chase Liebenberg)

Back in Johannesburg and she gave weight and a thrashing to the colts including Gr.1 Winner Thunderstruck in the Tommy Hotspur S. (Gr.2) 1100m in 66,36 secs., near record time.

It was a totally dominant run and even though a raised temperature and interrupted prep intervened, she started hot favourite for the Computaform Sprint (WFA) Gr.1 over the minimum 1000m. She wasn’t 100% and finished a creditable third in 56.4 secs.

Sean realized something else : she seemed to thrive when trained at altitude. So she was trained in Johannesburg to raid into coastal KZN for the winter championship races and she dazzled in a trio of Gr.1 races to the thrill of racing fans – and earn her Horse of the Year title.

Her win in the 2023 SA Fillies Sprint (Gr.1) over 1200m was breathtaking in its majesty and that was followed by a tour de force in the 2023 Garden Province S. (Gr.1) over 1600m.

She had thrashed the best fillies but to complete her rout she would have to step up to 1800m and defeat the best colts in the country in Champion S. (Gr.1).   They were all there, except for Charles Dickens, who did not enter.  Princess Calla won with authority and ease.

Royalty! Princess Calla poses for Jeremy Nelson

The Equus Horse of the Year 2023 title became hers.

Owner Mario Fereirra says “it has been an honour to own such a special filly.  From choosing her through to winning the Horse of the Year title.  A horse in a million, and I have been blessed to own her”.

When asked how Princess Calla came to be chosen as yearling, he said “my wife’s name is Carla, pronounced as we do Calla, so her choice was easy!”

Princess Calla was a R600,000 purchase at the 2019 Cape Premier Yearling Sales bred by Andreas Jacobs of Maine Chance Farms, Robertson, by Flower Alley – Princess Royal (by Captain Al – Platinum Princess by Rakeen.)

“I bought Platinum Princess from Nicky Bartlett” said Andreas “and mated her to Victory Moon, our leading sire by Al Mufti (by Roberto).  That foal was Princess Victoria, who was Champion Filly and 2 and 3 years in South Africa in 2011 & 2012, winning four Gr.1 races.”

“Therefore after we lost Victory Moon, it was logical to mate Platinum Princess to another son of Al Mufti – the champion sire of 2 year olds Captain Al. That mating provided more speed and the resulting foal was named Princess Royal.”

Princess Royal, dam of Princess Calla, was the second best 2 year old of her year and won the Sceptre S. (Gr.2) at 3 years, the same race won by Princess Calla six years later

Princess Royal was a precocious juvenile trained for Andreas by Glen Kotzen and was 2nd in the Allan Robertson Fillies Championship (Gr.1) at 2 years and won the Sceptre S. (Gr.2) over 1200m at 3 – the same race her daughter Princess Calla was to win six years later.

“Being physically more compact like Captain Al, and somewhat temperamental, we decided for her first mating to send her to the USA Travers S. Gr.1  winner Flower Alley, a horse of size and scope with good bone, and proven as the sire of a Kentucky Derby winner.  I believed in him and had bought a share, plus I thought he was the perfect outcross for her and he was inbred to Mr Prospector. He had also won over 2000m., South Africa’s most important distance”.

“Princess Calla was a very beautiful yearling and her price was three times the average for the Flower Alleys that year.  I have not sent her dam back to Flower Alley as he is now older and I’m not a fan of using stallions after their 10th covering season”

Princess Royal’s Hawaam yearling half brother to Princess Calla sold for R2 million to the bid of Justin Vermaak at the Cape Racing Sale in Met week, she foaled a good colt by leading sire Vercingetorix on 23 Sept 2023, and is now back in foal to Vercingetorix.

“One of the most interesting factors is that Princess Royal always produces outstanding looking progeny and invariably, when you pick the best looking foal in the paddock each year, it tends to be hers. It’s a good looking, running family,” says Andreas.

Flower Alley (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Flower Alley (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Flower Alley (USA) (by Distorted Humour) stands at Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud and has sired 491 winners from 694 runners, a strike rate of 71% winners from runners, which indicates a high degree of soundness, and they have won 1,741 races indicating 3,5 wins per winner, so he is a prolific winner getter.

He has 37 SW (5,3% compared to the breed average of 3%), amongst them five Gr.1 Winners.  So these are good overall statistics.

Princess Calla is the best filly he has ever sired.

Dam Sire Captain Al is South Africa’s ‘chef de race’ – he sired 105 SW of 212 Stakes Wins, amongst them 25 individual Gr.1 winners.

He has had 78% Winners from runners and 10,8% Stakes Winners.  It’s really a world class statistic – because a good comparison is with his own father Al Mufti (USA) who sired 54 SW (less than half of Captain Al).

Captain Al imparts speed and stamina, great bone and soundness on all surfaces.  He is the dominant factor in the pedigree of Princess Calla.

The family was founded in New Zealand and two branches arrived in South Africa- one was Petrava (NZ) who won four Gr.1 races for Laurie Jaffee and produced Jallad, another champion sire in South Africa who sired 102 SW and 16 Gr.1 winners. The second branch was Platinum Lady (NZ) who is the 3rd dam of Princess Calla.

The story of Princess Calla is one which is yet to end.

She goes for the Horse Chestnut S. Gr.1 in Johannesburg “at altitude” on March 2nd and has every chance to record Gr.1 win number 6.

She is likely to attain her best performances and value internationally rather than stud in South Africa give the extreme rarity of fillies able to win as many as five Gr.1 races in any major racing country.

And that’s a story that still waits to unfold.

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