03/24/2011 3:55PM

Gulfstream's Pan American a good spot for Prince Will I Am


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. − Prince Will I Am exploded off the final turn to win the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida earlier this winter. Although he will be stretching out an additional furlong, to 1 1/2 miles, Saturday in the $150,000 Pan American at Gulfstream Park, his trainer, Michelle Nihei, sees no reason why he can’t do it again.

Prince Will I Am has transformed into one of the premier long distance runners in the country over the last six months under Nihei’s tutelage. He added the Mac Diarmida to earlier victories in the Grade 1 Jamaica and Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap. Prince Will I Am’s lone setback since late summer came when he finished second behind Eldaafer before being disqualified and placed 10th for bullying his way through horses on the far turn of the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. He’ll have an opportunity to make amends for that loss this weekend, with Eldaafer among the seven entered to contest the Grade 3 Pan Am.

“I’m very confident going into this race,” said Nihei, who served as an assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher before striking out on her own several years ago. “He likes the course, likes the distance, likes the rider, and can’t wait to get back out there and run again.”

John Velazquez, who was aboard Prince Will I Am for the first time in the Mac Diarmida, will ride again in the Pan Am.

One would think the relative lack of pace in the Pan Am might concern Nihei, considering Prince Will I Am’s stretch-running style. But even that doesn’t seem to faze her.

“He’s matured enough to know how to get it done,” Nihei said. “You just have to let him do what he needs to do. He’ll match the best fractions everyone puts up and does it consistently. I’m really not worried.”

Eldafeer has started once since his 1 3/4-length triumph in the BC Marathon, finishing eighth behind Giant Oak in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 5. Eldaafer is not as accomplished on turf as he is on dirt, but he did win a third-level allowance race last summer over the Laurel grass course.

Trainer Diane Alvarado has entered two horses in the Pan American, with recent allowance winner Beckham Bend joining Eldaafer in the lineup.

Rahy’s Attorney, Musketier, and Pool Play − the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers behind Prince Will I Am in the Mac Diarmida − will have another go at Prince Will I Am on Saturday.

Rahy’s Attorney slipped through along the rail and missed by less than a length in the Mac Diarmida. His stablemate Musketier was another half-length back after encountering some traffic issues in early stretch in his first start since a third-place finish in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Sycamore four months earlier.

Loup Breton, who was Grade 2-placed with trainer Julio Canani last spring at Churchill Downs, makes his second start since being transferred to Pletcher’s barn for the 2011 campaign.