Foaled in June 1846, the filly who would become Princess was bred by L. B. Adams of Middletown, Vermont. She was sired by Andrus’s Hambletonian, son of Judson’s Hambletonian, who in turn was sired by Bishop’s Hambletonian, a thoroughbred son of Imported Messenger. Princess’ dam was known as the Isaiah Wilcox Mare.
In the late summer of 1852, Adams traded the mare for a wagon and $20 to James Densmore of Hartland, Vermont. In the autumn of 1853, Densmore exchanged mares with Methodist preacher Rev. John G. Bennett, who then sold her the following year to the father of Hall of Fame Immortal C. K. G. Billings, Albert M. Billings of Claremont, New Hampshire.
In the spring of 1855, David A. Gage, proprietor of the Tremont House in Chicago, purchased the yet-unnamed bay mare from Billings for $500 to be his road horse. Gage named her Topsy, after the character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s popular book of the time, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Topsy’s first race, trotted to skeleton sleighs on the frozen Chicago River, came in December 1855 versus the gelding Sorrel Charley, owned by the rival Briggs House hotel. Topsy won the race easily.
In the autumn of 1856, Gage traded Topsy to Isaac Anderson for land in Iowa. The following spring, the mare was placed in the hands of trainer George Bidwell, who raced her to wagon in Chicago that June. Later that year, Anderson sold Topsy to George Trussell who sent her to train with A. L. Daniels in New Orleans. In early 1858, Daniels purchased Topsy, who was then shipped to San Francisco, arriving on April 1, 1858. Her name was changed to Princess, and a half-interest in her was purchased by E. M. Teackle for $2,500. That summer she raced in the San Francisco area, most notably against a gelding named New York.
In the fall of 1858, Princess was sold to horseman James Eoff. Early the following year she became the long-distance champion of the West Coast by twice defeating gelding Glencoe Chief in ten-mile races on consecutive days. The purses for the two events reportedly totaled $35,000. In the first known instance of a racehorse being sent from the West Coast to the East Coast, Princess was shipped back East to New York via Panama.
Princess is perhaps best known for her races in the summer of 1859 against Hall of Fame Immortal Flora Temple. The long series of duels was box office all over the Northeast and Midwest that year, and while Flora Temple won all thirteen events, it was the speed of Princess that forced her rival to race even faster. Flora Temple would set the world record mile for trotters four times that year going head-to-head against Princess, ultimately setting her mark of 2:19 ¾ on October 5 - a record that would stand for eight years.
In 1861 Princess was purchased by George B. Alley of New York City. The following year she was bred to Rysdyk’s Hambletonian, resulting in the 1863 foal Happy Medium, who was placed on the farm of Ransom Galloway in Suffern, New York. Though Happy Medium’s racing career was a comparatively short one, his offspring quickly began to prove his ability as a sire. He was sold in 1871 for $25,000, the highest price ever paid up to that time for a trotting stallion for either stud or race purposes. Of Hambletonian’s four main sire lines through his sons George Wilkes (1856), Happy Medium (1863), Dictator (1863) and Electioneer (1868), only that of Happy Medium continues to flourish.
In 1864 Princess was purchased from Galloway by previous owner D. A. Gage, who fell on hard times in 1870 and had to dispose of his horse stock. New York Ledger owner and Hall of Fame Immortal Robert Bonner purchased the 24-year-old Princess from Gage for $1,000. Princess died on Bonner’s farm in Tarrytown, New York in March 1877 at the age of 31.
John Hervey wrote that “Princess unquestionably ranks among the greatest mares of trotting history. Taking into account the period in which she lived, the usage she received, and the incidents of her career, we may fitly so characterize her.”