The Western Thoroughbred History: Woven Web

Woven Web is the only World Champion Quarter Running Horse to share a sire with a Triple Crown winner. She held more records in Quarter Horse racing than any other horse of her time. Fondly known by racing fans across the south as “one hell of a mare,” Woven Web is a great reminder that sometimes the best Quarter Horses are actually Thoroughbreds.

Woven Web was bred by Robert J. Kleberg Jr. of the historic King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas. Her sire, Bold Venture, won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Woven Web was among Bold Venture’s 1943 foal crop which also included Triple Crown winner Assault. Woven Web’s dam, Bruja, was undefeated on the track. Bruja produced seven winners for the King Ranch including Witch Brew, Encantadora, Haunted, Capricho, Pepeluis and Divining Rod. As with many Thoroughbreds that were successful on the short tracks, it was rumored that Woven Web had Quarter Horse bloodlines. That rumor was unlikely to be true because her pedigree was well-documented. Her dam line had been in Texas for at least four generations. She was known to be descended from Chicaro, Friar Rock and the legendary Domino.

Triple Crown winner Assault was born the same year as Woven Web and shared the same sire, Bold Venture.

Woven Web stood just 14.2HH and weighed about 950 pounds. “Her coat was a beautiful medium sorrel, and her most distinguishing mark was a rather small oblong star just above the line of her eyes,” wrote Bob Denhardt in The Western Horseman in 1948. “She was so smoothly muscled that her power was lost to the observer. It was not until one studied her stifle, thigh, gaskin, the depth through the heart, the muscles over her back, inside her legs, and under the belly, that one could tell that here was a tremendous running machine. She had, and still has, one outstanding characteristic that any race horse man notices immediately, and that is her loveable disposition. Even when wound up tight she is still as gentle and friendly as a kitten.”

This photo of Woven Web is from Nelson C. Nye’s book Champions of the Quarter Tracks. She raced under the name “Miss Princess” when she faced Quarter Horse company.

Despite her dainty size, Kleberg had high hopes for Woven Web. Since his great short-horse stallion, Nobody’s Friend, had been defeated by the champion mare Shue Fly, Kleberg had been looking to even the score. In 1945, when Woven Web began training, Kleberg thought he finally had the horse. She immediately attracted attention and showed promise of becoming a great Thoroughbred racehorse. Unfortunately, tracks in the United States had just closed and would remain closed until the end of World War II. Kleberg decided to ship Woven Web to Hippodromo in Mexico City to start her racing career. She made six starts, won four races, and finished second twice. Her biggest win was in the Campeonate De Potrancas. According to Western Horseman, Woven Web equaled the World Record for 2 ½ furlongs while at Hippodromo.

This photo of Woven Web, aka “Miss Princess,” is from the June 1948 issue of The Western Horseman.

At the end of the war, Kleberg shipped Woven Web back to the United States and contacted Earnest Lane. Lane would frequently lease Kleberg’s sprinters to prove them on the short tracks. Woven Web was turned over to Lane and her name became “Miss Princess” when she raced against Quarter Horse company. With Lane and trainer Paul Simar, Miss Princess won the Juno Derby, Eagle Pass Championship and set two new track records at Ft. Duncan Racetrack. For her accomplishments, she was named the 1946 World Champion Quarter Running Mare and World Champion Quarter Running Horse. Kleberg was now certain that she was ready to beat Shue Fly.

Robert J. Kleberg Jr. went to Del Rio for the match race instead of going to watch his Triple Crown winner Assault who was racing that same day.

In 1947, when Miss Princess arrived at the Val Verde Downs in Del Rio, Texas, Shue Fly was ten years old and had been turned out to pasture. She was overweight and had arthritis in her shoulder. Nevertheless, Shue Fly’s owners did not back away from a challenge. They began preparing her to race. Kleberg and Lane organized a $30,000 quarter-mile winner-take-all match race. The event on May 3rd, 1947, drew racing fans from across the south from California to Louisiana. Both mares went into the gate without trouble, but Shue Fly began acting up and the race was delayed for nearly 30 minutes. When the gates finally sprung open, Miss Princess took the lead and never wavered. To Shue Fly’s credit, the race she ran would have probably defeated any other contender of the time. But Miss Princess matched Shue Fly’s former world record and outran the older mare by a length and a half.

Kleberg felt satisfied with the outcome of the race having finally served Shue Fly her payback. However, supporters of Shue Fly insisted that the match race was unfair. It almost certainly was, but Kleberg kept Miss Princess in Del Rio where she continued to win. She defeated Barbara B, Stella Moore, Lightfoot, Miss Bank and Mae West. From 1947 to 1948, Miss Princess set eight new track records at Val Verde and Tucson. She also set a new world record for 440 yards in 22 seconds flat that stood for 33 years. Miss Princess won two more World Champion Quarter Running Mare and World Champion Quarter Running Horse titles. In total, she won at least fifteen races and held more records from 300 to 440 yards than any other horse at the time.

Finally, there was nothing left for Miss Princess to accomplish. She returned to the King Ranch where she assumed her Thoroughbred identity, Woven Web, once again. She produced seven Thoroughbred foals for the ranch – Baloma, Furolle, Potion, Pan Lopez, Chisera, Test of Time and Magic Realm. In 1952, Baloma won the Debutante Stakes and set a new track record at Fair Grounds for 2 furlongs in 0:21.80. Potion, Pan Lopez, Test of Time and Magic Realm would also win races. Altogether, Woven Web’s offspring earned $140,438 on the track, the equivalent of about $1 million today. Woven Web died in 1966 at the age of 23. She was inducted into the Texas Racing Hall of Fame in 2005 and the AQHA Hall of Fame in 2016. Each year, Los Alamitos Race Course honors her with the Gr. 3 Miss Princess Handicap. Bob Denhardt summarized her life and career best: “no gamer or more likable champion ever broke on the straightaway than the little sorrel filly named Miss Princess.”

Sources: Equineline, Equibase, Western Horseman, Champions of the Quarter Tracks

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