Prince Will I Am, who rebounded from his Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. III) disappointment with a victory in the off-the-turf W. L. McKnight Handicap (gr. II) last out, will return to the grass against a deep field in the $150,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (gr. IIT) Feb. 19 at Gulfstream Park.
The 4-year-old son of Victory Gallop will take on a dozen rivals in the 1 3/8-mile race for older horses. He and Al Khali will both carry top weight of 123 pounds. Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield has entered three in the Mac Diarmida, including three-time graded stakes winner Musketier. Post time is slated for 5:26 p.m. EST.
Prince Will I Am has a chance to be one of the top turf horses in the nation this year. He really began to blossom in the second half of last year when trainer Michelle Nihei switched him to turf. The chestnut ridgling won an optional claimer at Saratoga and then pulled a 9-1 upset in the grade I Jamaica Handicap Oct. 9 at Belmont.
With Javier Castellano aboard, Prince Will I Am ran a big race in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Churchill Downs to finish second, but was disqualified and placed 10th for interference around the final turn. Both rider and horse rebounded with a decisive 2 1/2-length score in the Dec. 18 McKnight Handicap on a sloppy track. John Velazquez will have the mount this time and they will break from post 7.
Casa Farms I owns Prince Will I Am, who is out of the Dynaformer mare Dyna’s Dynamo.
Crossing the wire third in the BC Marathon but placed second was Gabriel's Hill, and the son of A.P. Indy will make his 7-year-old debut here. The Seth Benzel trainee was sixth in last year’s Mac Diarmida, one race after he won an optional claimer going 1 1/4 miles at Gulfstream. That Feb. 3, 2010 victory was his last in a span of nine races. Alan Garcia has the mount.
Al Khali is a two-time graded stakes winner on turf, both of them coming in New York. He was beaten only a half-length when fourth in a blanket finish Oct. 16 in the Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) at Woodbine, one start before finishing seventh in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT). Bill Mott has assigned Kent Desormeaux to ride.
Other notables in the contentious field are millionaire Rahy's Attorney, who counts the 2008 Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) among his four graded wins; last year’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) upsetter Stately Victor; and German-bred 9-year-old Musketier, who will make his 36th lifetime start.
$150,000 Mac Diarmida (gr. IIT, Race 10, 5:26 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Pool Play (ON), P Husbands, 119, M E Casse
2. Gabriel's Hill (KY), A Garcia, 117, S Benzel
3. Rahy's Attorney (ON), E S Prado, 117, I Black
4. Free Fighter (IL), C H Marquez Jr., 121, C M Block
5. Ordination (IRE), S O Madrid, 117, K G McPeek
6. Musketier (GER), A O Solis, 121, R L Attfield
7. Prince Will I Am (KY), J R Velazquez, 123, M Nihei
8. Stately Victor (KY), P Lopez, 119, M J Maker
9. Perfect Shower (ON), J L Castanon, 117, R L Attfield
10. Simmard (KY), J Lezcano, 117, R L Attfield
11. Mint Chip (KY), M R Cruz, 117, G R Arnold, II
12. Al Khali (KY), K J Desormeaux, 123, W I Mott
13. Citrus Kid (KY), J Castellano, 117, J P Terranova II