LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. — People use all sorts of ways to try to predict the winner of the Super Bowl: comparing regular season records, judging who looked stronger in the post-season run-up to the big game, or watching the betting lines from Las Vegas oddsmakers.
But the closest thing to a sure thing may come from a camel in New Jersey.
Princess, the star of New Jersey's Popcorn Park Zoo, has correctly picked the winner of five of the last six Super Bowls. She went 14 and 6 predicting regular season and playoff games this year, and has a lifetime record of 88-51.
Her pick this year: The New York Giants.
The Bactrian camel's prognostication skills flow from her love of graham crackers. Zoo general manager John Bergmann places a cracker and writes the name of the competing teams on each hand. Whichever hand Princess nibbles from is her pick. On Wednesday, she made her pick with no hesitation at all, predicting bad news for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, even though the Las Vegas oddsmakers have New England favored by about 3 points.
Her only miscue in the big game was picking the Indianapolis Colts over the New Orleans Saints two years ago, indicating that even camels know it's generally risky to go against Peyton Manning.
"It started out when a local radio station was looking to have some fun, so they asked Princess who was going to win a particular game each week, and it just took off from there," Bergmann said. "Now we have guys calling up on Sunday morning wanting to know who Princess has picked that week. One guy even asked if she does lottery numbers."
Her best season was 2008, when she got 17 out of 22 games right, including correctly picking the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl.
Princess doesn't do point spreads. But she has nearly mastered the art of picking straight-up winners.
The cunning camel was once the personal pet of heiress Doris Duke, the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke.
Doris Duke raised Princess and her sister Babe from youngsters, Bergmann said.
The pair of camels had their own barn, and spent summers at Duke's Rhode Island estate. During bad weather, they were put up in the solarium.
After Duke's death in 1993, the camels stayed on her estate in Hillsborough. Babe died several years ago, leaving just Princess.
When Princess' caretaker was about to retire, the estate offered Princess to Popcorn Park Zoo, which took her in. The zoo cares for abandoned and abused animals.