"The Little Princess"
She was beautiful, she was well-bred, and she was undeniably fast. In 1951, the ranks of the juvenile fillies were dominated by a nearly invincible force of nature known as Princess Lygia
Princess Lygia was born royalty, not the least because of her parents. Her sire was stakes winner Roman, and though most of his best offspring were yet to come, he had already been represented earlier winners I Will and Cosmic Missile. She was out of a mare called Roman Matron, also the dam of Maryland Futurity winner Tuscany. Roman Matron was herself a daughter of champion juvenile colt Pompey, and her distaff side traced back to Broomstick and Peter Pan. Continuing the Roman theme, Princess Lygia was named after the fictional princess in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 1895 novel “Quo Vadis”, who was condemned to die by Roman Emperor Nero for her Christian faith.
A small-ish, finely boned bay, Princess Lygia was sold as a yearling for $3,600 to Core Mae Trotsek. Her training was undertaken by Trotsek’s husband, Hall of Fame trainer Harry Trotsek. It was with these connections that The Princess achieved her greatest success. She made her racing debut at the Lincoln Fields meeting at Washinton Park, and won easily by eight lengths. On June 10, 1951, she made her stakes debut, beating 11 rivals to take the Miss America Stakes, leading all the way through the five furlongs.
A scarce month later, she was at Arlington Park for the Hyde Park Stakes, that year run in two divisions. The first part saw Washington Park Futurity winner Oh Leo posting a surprise victory, while the second featured Princess Lygia running away with it by seven lengths as the favorite. The Pollyanna Stakes was run only a week later, and again The Princess was untroubled in her victory. Jockey Kenny Church guided her to a three-length score over future Milady Handicap winner Flitting Past.
Her fifth straight victory, and her fourth stakes score, came in the $56,715 Arlington Lassie Stakes on July 19. Breaking on top and staying there, The Princess won by 3 1/2 lengths from Hadnt Orter. She was now considered the champion juvenile filly of the year, and had in fact already earned more than any other juvenile, male or female, during that season
Now undefeated in five starts and outearning her competition, Princess Lygia was a highly promising prospect. Movie mogul Louis B Mayer, who had paid $50,000 for Busher in the dawn of her spectacular three-year-old season, was looking for another champion filly. In early August 1951, The Princess was sold for a staggering $100,000 to Mayer, who immediately entered her in the Princess Pat Stakes at Washington Park, less than a week away. Nobody, least of all Mayer, could have predicted how her season would end.
Carrying Mayer’s silk for the first time, Princess Lygia met her first defeat. A Gleam, the first daughter of Busher’s contemporary, Twilight Tear, posted an upset victory, winning by six lengths.
Whether she was injured, or simply fell off her training, Princess Lygia was retired for the year following the Princess Pat Stakes. Furthermore, she lost out on the Champion Juvenile Filly title to Matron and Selima Stakes winner Rose Jet
Unfortunately, The Princess never regained her juvenile form. At three, she won only one big race, but she was close in several others. Her first major engagement of the year was the $22,700 Sea Breeze Stakes at Hollywood Park in mid-May 1952. She was beaten a head by Tonga, though she did manage to outfinish old rival A Gleam.
Encouraged by her near miss, Mayer next pointed The Princess at the Hollywood Oaks, run in the first week of June. The top three finishers of the Sea Breeze were back, and this time the finish was reversed; A Gleam “finished full of run”, while Princess Lygia “could not handle the stretch drive” of her rival. Tonga, outrun early, drove on to finish third.
It was next on to Debonair Stakes in mid-June, and once again The Princess lost to her rival A Gleam, who skipped to a three length score. Princess Lygia lost ground in the stretch and was overtaken by the gelding Stranglehold for second.
The Princess had a chance to step out from the shadow of A Gleam in the Ramona Handicap on July 5, but she was instead overshadowed by another champion mare. Two Lea, then in the midst of a triumphant return to racing after being sidelined by ringbone, “laid back in last place in the field”, before surging to the front with a determined finish. The Princess ended up in a dead heat for second with the older mare Ruth Lily.
Princess Lygia had once last big win in her, and this came in the Misty Isle Stakes at Arlington in late August. Almost exactly one year and a month after her last stakes victory, in the Arlington Lassie, the former undefeated champion made a triumphant return to the winner’s circle. She carried 122 pounds and was the favorite in the the field. Her only real competition seemed to be British-bred *Papoose, a daughter of champion juvenile colt Menow. In the end, Princess Lygia galloped to a four length victory, with Papoose finishing third.
A week later came her last race. In the Sheridan Handicap at Washington Park, she was beaten by future Hawthorne Gold Cup winner Sub Fleet, piloted by Eddie Arcaro. It was close at the end, though. The Princess never gave up and Sub Fleet had to run “the fastest mile of the Chicago season” to beat her.
The Princess was a fine, if not particularly distinguished, broodmare. She was first mated in 1954, at age 5, and her first stallion was British import *Royal Charger, still in his first few years of stud in the US. The result was the filly Royal Lygia, undistinguished as both racer and broodmare.
She was given two years off before being sent back to *Royal Charger. This time the foal was colt, Prince Charger, who was stakes-placed and earned over $30,000. In 1958, she was matched with a cheap *Alibhai stallion named Quick Wink, the result of which was the colt Prince of Plenty. He was perhaps her most successful racer, winning one division of the Will Rogers Stakes and placing in both the Debonair Stakes and Bay District Handicap
A few years later, in 1963, she was sent to Hollywood Gold Cup winner Prince Blessed, and from that produced the filly Maskette (not to be confused with the two-time champion filly of the early 20th century), who won only one race and produced even less at stud
Princess Lygia’s final foal, the filly Fleet Lygia, was her only one who left a mark at stud. Both of Fleet Lygia’s sons were stakes runners, and her older son Feisty Fighter won the 1979 Tenacious Handicap