Updated on 12/27/2011 3:48PM

Gulfstream Park: Michelle Nihei and Jessica Campitelli score doubles


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Michelle Nihei and Jessica Campitelli got a belated Christmas present when they saddled two winners apiece on Monday’s card.

Nihei’s two winners couldn’t have been any more different. Donnatale, a 2-year-old Tale of the Cat filly, scored an impressive victory over maiden special weight opposition under jockey John Velazquez in her debut. Woodford Belle, on the other hand, was fit enough returning from a 16-month layoff to capture a 1 3/8-mile optional claiming race on the turf in her U.S. debut with Edgar Prado aboard.
Nihei said she had to show a little patience before getting Donnatale to the races for her owner-breeder, Susan Atkins’s Casa Farms I LLC.

“I had her this summer at Saratoga, but she had a few bumps and needed a little time – typical 2-year-old stuff,” said Nihei, who served as an assistant and exercise rider for trainer Todd Pletcher before going out on her own. “But once she came along everything started clicking with her and it’s certainly nice to be able to win with her first time out.”

Nihei said she’ll be in no rush with Donnatale this winter.

“We’ll nominate her to the obvious races, but if we need to sit back and wait for an allowance race we can do that,” said Nihei. “Johnny [Velazquez] says he’s sure more distance will help her.”

Nihei was also happy to report that Atkins’s Grade 1 winner Prince Will I Am is ready to return to her barn after being away since the summer. Prince Will I Am captured the Grade 1 Jamaica and is also a two-time Grade 2 winner. Nihei sent him to Atkins’s farm after his form tailed off late last spring.

“We really never could determine what the problem was, so we just took a big breath and gave him some space,” said Nihei. “He’s due back in around the middle of January and I’ll just basically start all over with him. He’s like part of the family to me and I can’t wait to get him back.”

Campitelli got her two wins on Monday with Sir Rabbit in the second race and Voce Del Leone in the nightcap.