A 4-year-old chestnut son of Victory Gallop, Prince Will I Am has now won three graded stakes in his last four starts, including the off-the-turf W. L. McKnight Handicap (gr. II) last out and Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) back in October. His only loss was in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. III) when he crossed the wire second but was disqualified and placed 10th.
John Velazquez, aboard for winning trainer Michelle Nihei, allowed Prince Will I Am to rate in sixth through six furlongs while Gabriel’s Hill set fractions of :25.04, :49.62, and 1:14.47. Prince Will I Am came four-wide entering the stretch before taking the lead inside the eighth pole and holding on.
The final time for 1 3/8 miles on the firm turf was 2:13.04. Musketier was third in a field of 12.
“We talked before the race about where to be and I told John that the biggest thing was for him to be comfortable, whether it would be in the back or in the middle; wherever he’s happy,” Nihei said. “We began the season with ambitious plans for him to run in the biggest races, but decided to concentrate on distance races on turf. So we decided to start here.
“It’s great to have a horse with his versatility and I love the way he’s matured. I began to think he was special after he finished third in the Saratoga allowance on turf with so much trouble in the race. I think you’ll see him next right back here in the Pan American (gr. IIIT, March 26).”
Owned by Casa Farms I, Prince Will I Am improved to 5-2-1 from 13 starts and earnings of $386,090. He was bred in Kentucky by Roxanne Martin Stable and Anzac, and is out of the Dynaformer mare Dyna’s Dynamo.
The winner, sent off as the favorite, paid $8, $4.40, and $3.40. The exacta (7-3) returned $54 and the trifecta (7-3-6) was $84.40 for $1.
One race earlier in the $100,000 Sabin (gr. III) (VIDEO), E. Paul Robsham Stable’s homebred filly Awesome Maria pulled away from favored Amen Hallelujah in the stretch to post a dominating 4 3/4-length victory.
A 4-year-old filly by Maria’s Mon, Awesome Maria covered one mile in 1:36.38 under Velazquez for her first graded stakes score since she took the Matron (gr. II) as a juvenile at Belmont. Amen Hallelujah was 5 1/4 lengths better than third-place Catch a Thief.
Second last time out in the Nov. 27 Gazelle (gr. I) at Aqueduct, Awesome Maria kicked off her 2011 campaign by being rated just off splits of :24.65 and :47.58 set by Catch a Thief before taking over while entering the turn. Despite a bold move by Amen Hallelujah entering the stretch, Awesome Maria had plenty left down the stretch.
“The race developed just the way I thought it would and she was able to sit just off the pace,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “She trained like she was going to run a big one off the layoff. She trained good at Saratoga last summer and then at Belmont, but hit another level since we got into Palm Meadows. She’ll go farther than this and we’ll consider the Rampart (gr. II, April 2) here.”
Bred in Kentucky and out of the Awesome Again mare Discreetly Awesome, the winner improved to 4-3-1 from nine starts and earnings of $512,375.
Awesome Maria paid $6.40, $3.20, and $2.60. The exacta (7-4) returned $17.80 and the trifecta (7-4-6) was worth $33.70 for $1.