Eternal Prince, a colt who had never finished in the money in a stakes race before today, ran away with the Gotham Stakes in a brilliant performance at Aqueduct Race Track.
The 18-to-1 shot led all the way to cover the mile in 1:34 2/5 and trounced the favorite, Pancho Villa, by five lengths. Few members of his equine generation have run a race so impressively.
Eternal Prince, trained by former Marylander Butch Lenzini, had started his 3-year-old campaign with two wire-to-wire victories over moderate opposition here, but he seemed to show his limitations when he was outrun in the Bay Shore Stakes here two weeks ago. Since he was facing essentially the same field here, he didn't figure to be a contender.
The son of Majestic Prince broke sharply from the outside position and opened a length lead over another speedster, Nordance, and Pancho Villa. He sped the first quarter in 22 1/5 seconds and the half in a sizzling 44 1/5 seconds. Nordance and Pancho Villa still were stalking, and as the jockeys asked for a response on the turn, the crowd of 20,652 undoubtedly expected the leader to collapse.
Instead, Eternal Prince accelerated -- with hardly any urging from jockey Richard Migliore -- and shook off his challengers as he turned into the stretch. "He was bouncing along like he was playing," Migliore said. Eternal Prince flew through the third quarter in a remarkable 24 1/5 seconds and took command of the race. Pancho Villa held on for second, half a length in front of rallying El Basco, as Nordance faded to fourth.
Do It Again Dan was a badly beaten fifth, a performance that might be an indictment of the country's top 3-year-olds who have been based in Florida. Do It Again Dan finished within a length of the victorious Proud Truth in the Florida Derby, yet was more than a dozen lengths behind Eternal Prince.
The winner paid $38.80, $9.80 and $5.60. Pancho Villa paid $3.20 and $2.60, and El Basco paid $3.20.
"This colt can really run," Lenzini said, "and he finally put it all together today. I was a little bit worried with the fractions, but he's really talented and if he was going to win we figured he'd do it going wire to wire. We tried rating him in the Bay Shore and it didn't work, so we just let him go for the lead today. He's a speed horse and we never gave up on him. The Wood Memorial will be probably be his next race."
The 1 1/8-mile Wood, on April 20, will bring together many of the leaders of the 3-year-old crop, including Proud Truth and Rhoman Rule. Eternal Prince still hasn't proved he can go a distance, but for the time being he has to be considered one of the top members of his generation, too.