Jack Milner: Trainer Adam Marcus feels three-year-old filly Princess Calla will be competitive in Saturday’s Cape Town Met.
When Oh Susanna won the Cape Town Met in 2018, she became the first three-year-old filly in more than 100 years to win this race.
Adam Marcus will be looking to emulate that feat when Princess Calla runs in that Grade 1 race over 2000m at Kenilworth. Marcus chose to sidestep the Grade 1 Majorca Stakes for fillies and mares over 1600m to take on a strong field of some of the best middle-distance runners in the country.
“We entered her in the Majorca Stakes, but she drew No 20 of the 22 nominations,” said Marcus. “We were still going to stick to that plan but in the Paddock Stakes over 1800m she was only gaining momentum late, so it was pointless bringing her back to 1600m.”
Princess Calla finished third in the Grade 1 Paddock stakes but produced the fastest 400m to finish to run a 2.30-length third to Queen Supreme and just a short head behind second-placed Clouds Unfold.
“In any case,” added Marcus, “Princess Calla was beaten by Captain’s Ransom in the Cape Fillies Guineas over 1600m and it looked unlikely we would turn that around, especially from a wide draw.
“So, running her in the Met was a logical step.”
Marcus explained he had seen a lot of improvement in the daughter of Flower Alley recently. “She may be a three-year-old but she is a physically strong, well-built filly. The only concern is whether she is mentally tough enough, but that has been improving from run to run.
“She’s the type of horse who will improve as she matures. Even from her last race I feel she has mentally improved two lengths.
“On her recent progress, she deserves to run in this race,” said Marcus
He also could not be happier with her preparation. “It’s been absolutely perfect. If you gave me the opportunity to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Princess Calla will come into this race carrying just 51.5kg and that did give the connections pause about finding the right jockey.
“When we decide to run her in the Met, we did ask ourselves who we could get to ride at that weight. We decided to start with the best lightweight jockey in the country, so I called Grant van Niekerk.
“He said he didn’t have anything definite and would let me know. The next day he called me back to confirm.
“I am delighted to have a jockey like Grant on Princess Calla. He’s a top rider, he is riding with a lot of confidence and right now he adds an extra two lengths to any horse’s form.”
Marcus realises that if Princes Calla wins the Met, she will get a massive merit rating increase which will restrict her to weight-for-age races. “If she were to win the Met, I wouldn’t be worried about not being able to run her in handicaps.
“She will have proved her ability and there are plenty of other races to look at – and it will certainly add to her stud value.”
Looking at the race overall, Marcus believes there is only about two lengths separating the older horses who are all carrying 60kg.
“I believe Princess Calla is good enough to compete with them and I’m confident of a big run.”