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Prince Will I Am's New Life as a Pony Horse

Regalo Mia, who will bid for her third consecutive stakes victory in Thursday’s 1½-mile Bewitch Stakes (G3) on the Keeneland turf course, is the 120-pound highweight in the race and is a star for trainer Michelle Nihei. But she’s not the most accomplished runner in Nihei’s string here. That honor belongs to Grade 1 winner Prince Will I Am, who has been Nihei’s pony horse since the spring meet opened.

“He’s a pretty cool guy. He’s one of the nicest horses, movement-wise, that I’ve ever ridden,” Nihei said about Prince Will I Am, a six-year-old ridgling by Victory Gallop whom she first rode when he was two.

Racing for Casa Farms I LLC, Prince Will I Am won five of 19 races and earned $429,084 from 2009-2012. He won the 2010 Jamaica Handicap (G1) to give Nihei her first Grade 1 win and captured the 2010 W.L. McKnight Handicap (G2) and 2011 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2). The chestnut made one Keeneland start, running fifth in the 2009 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (G2).

Prince Will I Am had a few physical issues during his career that eventually led to his retirement. His final race was last November at Calder, where he finished fifth in the W.L. McKnight.

Nihei said Prince Will I Am was bored when he was turned out at the owner’s farm but is thriving at the racetrack - “he’s always enjoyed having a job” - and seems to be a mentor to the younger horses in Nihei’s 10-horse stable.

“He likes to go to the track,” Nihei said. “He doesn’t care if I take five sets to the starting gate.”

Nihei trains Regalo Mia, a four-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Sligo Bay (IRE), for owner Steven W. Ciccarone of Baltimore. The filly has won two races at Gulfstream Park this year, taking the January 19 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Stakes and the March 30 Orchid Stakes (G3), the latter at the same conditions as the Bewitch.

“She’s doing so well,” Nihei said. “I don’t like to run anybody back too quickly and sometimes she seems to be more of a six- to seven-week horse, but she has never come out of a race better so it’s hard to turn this one down.”

Last year, Regalo Mia was ninth in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs behind Centre Court, who won the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) here on April 13. Regalo Mia had a second in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream and a third in the Appalachian Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. Those races were won by Dayatthespa, who won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1) here in October.

“We’ve never made it easy for her,” Nihei said about Regalo Mia, who will be ridden in the Bewitch by Luis Conteras and break from post position nine in the field of 12.. Contreras was aboard her in the Orchid.

 

 

 

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