02/19/2011 7:50PM

Prince Will I Am continues his hot hand by taking Mac Diarmida

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Adam Coglianese
Prince Will I Am takes his second straight Grade 2 stakes in the Mac Diarmida.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Trainer Michelle Nihei had originally contemplated kicking off Prince Will I Am’s 2011 campaign in a Grade 1 race such as the Donn or Gulfstream Park Handicap. Instead she opted for the more conservative route, a decision that paid quick dividends after Prince Will I Am rallied to a three-quarter length victory over Rahy’s Attorney in the  Grade 3, $150,000 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park.

Prince Will I Am closed out his 3-year-old campaign on a roll, winning three of his last four starts, including the Grade 1 Jamaica and Grade 2 W.L. McKnight. His only loss during that streak came in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, when he was disqualified and placed 10th after crossing the wire second behind Eldafeer.

In the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida, jockey John Velazquez was able to secure good position for Prince Will I Am in mid-pack while able to save ground during the opening mile.  Prince Will I Am angled out five wide to commence his rally entering the stretch, readily ran past the tiring leaders approaching the sixteenth pole, and then held safe Rahy’s Attorney. Rahy’s Attorney was well placed throughout, could not match strides with Prince Will I Am through midstretch but continued on gamely to finish a half-length in front off the late-striding Musketier.

Prince Will I Am, the tepid 3-1 favorite in a full field of 12, returned $8 after covering the distance in 2:13.04. Prince Will I Am, a son of Victory Gallop, is owned by Casa I Farms LLC.

“We had thought about one of the Grade 1’s earlier in the meet but after the McKnight just decided to regroup and make more distance our preference,” said Nihei. “I told John the most important thing was for the horse to be comfortable and happy no matter where he was in the race and it worked out perfectly.”

Nihei said Prince Will I Am would likely return in the Grade 3 Pan American at 1 1/2 miles on March 26.

“I’m really pleased with the way he’s maturing,” said Nihei. “He’s always need distance but it’s hard to find those kind of races early in the year for 3-year-olds.”

Nihei said her ultimate goal this year for Prince Will I Am would be to return to the Breeders’ Cup, not in the Marathon but in the Grade 1 Turf.