Prince Will I Am reigns in Mac Diarmida
Following up on his victory in the off-the-turf W.L. McKnight H. (G2) at Calder, Casa Farms' PRINCE WILL I AM (Victory Gallop) got the chance to stay on the turf in Saturday's $150,000 Mac Diarmida S. (G2), and promptly delivered as the slight 3-1 favorite. Rallying from midpack for new rider John Velazquez, the Michelle Nihei trainee outfinished Rahy's Attorney (Crown Attorney) by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 2:13 for 1 3/8 firm-turf miles.
Prince Will I Am was returning to turf for the first time since his last-to-first triumph in the October 9 Jamaica H. (G1). Since then, the chestnut ridgling contested the November 5 Breeders' Cup Marathon (G3), where he crossed the wire in second, but was disqualified and placed 10th after a bumping episode rounding the final turn. Plans called for him to revert to the grass for the McKnight, until heavy rains forced the surface switch. While he splashed to a 2 1/2-length decision in the slop, the turf might turn out to be his true home.
"We began the season with ambitious plans for him to run in the biggest races (on dirt), but we decided to concentrate on distance races on turf," Nihei said. "So we decided to start here. It's great to have a horse with his versatility, and I love the way he's matured."
Prince Will I Am was reserved about three to four lengths off the pace, which was carved out by 30-1 longshot Gabriel's Hill (A.P. Indy) through deliberate fractions of :25, :49 3/5, 1:14 2/5 and 1:38 1/5. Gabriel's Hill was still hanging tough in front entering the stretch, but Rahy's Attorney was advancing on the inside, and Prince Will I Am was traveling sweetly on the outside. Looking like the winner more than a furlong or so from home, Prince Will I Am swept to the lead. Although Rahy's Attorney kept fighting, Prince Will I Am retained his firm grip on the prize, and furnished mutuels of $8, $4.40 and $3.40.
"It worked out perfectly," said Velazquez, who, one race earlier, rode Awesome Maria (Maria's Mon) to victory in the Sabin S. (G3). "We held our position into the first turn, and I was right where I wanted to be at the half-mile pole. Turning for home I asked him and he responded.
"These are the days you look forward to when the horses respond for you. You have to love it when you have the horses who run like that."
Rahy's Attorney held second by a diminishing half-length from the flying Musketier (Ger) (Acatenango). Pool Play (Silver Deputy) came next in fourth, followed under the line by Citrus Kid (Lemon Drop Kid); Gabriel's Hill; Simmard (Dixieland Band); Free Fighter (Out of Place); Perfect Shower (Perfect Soul [Ire]); Mint Chip (Johar); the 3-1 second choice Al Khali (Medaglia d'Oro), who never landed a blow from his wide trip; and Stately Victor (Ghostzapper). Ordination (Ire) (Fantastic Light) was scratched.
Prince Will I Am's record now stands at 13-5-2-1, $386,090. Runner-up to eventual Belmont S. (G1) winner Drosselmeyer (Distorted Humor) in an allowance over Gulfstream's main track last winter, he was unplaced in his first three stakes appearances. Prince Will I Am started to put it all together when stretching out on the turf over the summer. He made a successful return to the stakes level in the aforementioned Jamaica, upsetting that nine-furlong grass event at Belmont Park by 1 1/4 lengths at 9-1.
"I began to think he was special after he finished third in the Saratoga allowance on turf with so much trouble in the race," Nihei said. "I think you'll see him next right back here in the Pan American ([G3] on March 26)."
Bred in Kentucky by Roxanne Martin Stable & Anzac LLC, Prince Will I Am is the first foal out of the winning Dyna's Dynamo (Dynaformer), a daughter of multiple stakes heroine Dynawhite (Vigors) and a half-sister to multiple stakes hero Glacia (Northern Flagship). The mare's only other foal is the unraced sophomore gelding Washburn (Five Star Day). This is the family of Grade 3 victor Strawberry Wine (Strawberry Road [Aus]).
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