ELMONT, N.Y. -- Prince Will I Am may not have been ready for the big stage early in the year, but if his last two races were any indication, he could be ready to take New York by storm in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Jamaica Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park.
In a contentious renewal of the Jamaica, restricted to 3-year-olds and scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf, Prince Will I Am should offer some value in the 11-horse field that includes stakes winners Krypton, Lethal Combination, Teaks North, and Beau Choix.
During the winter at Gulfstream while trying to join the Triple Crown trail, Prince Will I Am was no match for Eskendereya and Drosselmeyer -- the eventual Wood Memorial and Belmont Stakes winners, respectively -- on the dirt. In the spring, he was twice defeated by Colizeo -- who won an overnight stakes here last weekend -- and Exhi, a four-time stakes winner.
Transferred to the turf by trainer Michelle Nihei at Saratoga, Prince Will I Am ran two solid races against older horses. On Aug. 7, he finished a close third in a first-level allowance race before overcoming significant trouble in upper stretch to clear that allowance condition Sept. 3.
"I get on him every day and instinctively this horse is a better horse on the grass," Nihei said. "The two races that he ran in Saratoga were sort of turning points for him. He came out of those races really well. He's put on some weight, he's kind of figuring out where he needs to be more than anything. He overcame so much trouble in that last race and did it in a fashion I had not seen before."
Nihei, a former exercise rider for trainer Todd Pletcher, shipped Prince Will I Am in early and was aboard the ridgling when he breezed a bullet half-mile in 48.40 seconds over Belmont's main track.
"It wasn't my intention for him to clip along quite that well," Nihei said. "He just gets over this surface easily; he's not limited by surface this horse. He takes to the track well, which is another confidence booster for me. I think he's going to like the turns on the turf course."
Trainer Barclay Tagg hopes the wider turns of Belmont will help Beaux Choix turn the tables on Teaks North, who beat Beaux Choix by one length in the Restoration Stakes at Monmouth Park. That race was at 1 1/8 miles. Prior to that, Beaux Choix won two listed stakes at a mile.
"I thought the two turns would be a little easier for him, but he went kind of wide the whole way and he ended up second," Tagg said. "I'm still up in the air about the mile and an eighth. I'm hoping with that under his belt that might make a difference."
Teaks North, trained by Justin Sallusto, has won his last two starts on the turf, including the Restoration at Monmouth. Last November at Calder, he finished second to Nordic Truce in a maiden race. Nordic Truce came out of that race to win two stakes.
There should be speed in this field, with Two Notch Road -- who set the pace when third to Paddy O'Prado in the Colonial Turf Cup and fourth to that same rival in the Virginia Derby – and Fantastico Roberto in the field.
Pace would help several in here, including the Kiaran McLaughlin uncoupled pair of Krypton and Lethal Combination.
"We want to lay a little bit off of it," McLaughlin said, referring to Krytpon. "He finishes strong. [Lethal Combination] finishes stronger."
Citrus Kid, Admiral Alex, Center Divider, and Turf Melody complete the field.