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Azeri’s Ninth in a Row Is Good as Gold

Times Staff Writer

Only three times in 64 opportunities has a filly or mare won the Hollywood Gold Cup, Hollywood Park’s signature race.

Happy Lea and Princessnesian, both 4-year-olds, won in 1944 and 1968, respectively, and the 6-year-old mare Two Lea was successful in 1952.

Azeri could join that select list in 2003.

After watching the reigning horse of the year win for the ninth time in a row and 12th time in 13 starts in the $211,800 Milady Breeders’ Cup Handicap on Saturday in Inglewood, her connections indicated a date with the boys in the $750,000 Gold Cup on July 13 isn’t out of the question.

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In defending her title in the Milady, the 5-year-old Jade Hunter mare remained perfect in four starts at Hollywood Park, easily beating five opponents.

Engaged at the start by 15-1 shot Damaschino, who wound up last, Azeri, the 125-pound highweight, quickly rid herself of that pest, then kicked away when Affluent mounted a brief challenge entering the far turn. At the finish, she and jockey Mike Smith had three lengths on Enjoy, the 9-1 third choice, and completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.87.

Azeri, owned by Michael Paulson and trained by Laura de Seroux, paid $2.40 as the 1-5 favorite. She also caused a minus place pool of $3,027 and a minus show pool of $267,226.82. She was the recipient of $1,528,349 out of a total show pool of $1,607,740.

According to Paulson and De Seroux, Azeri, whose only defeat came in the La Canada at Santa Anita more than 15 months ago, will dictate where she next runs.

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“We’ve looked at [the Gold Cup] and talked about it frequently,” Paulson said. “We’ll do what’s best for our mare. With a horse like this, you just want to cherish every moment.”

Racing for only the second time in 2003, Azeri could even show up in the $250,000 Vanity, a race she won last year, on June 22, then return in the Gold Cup 22 days later. She won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to cap her horse-of-the-year campaign a little more than three weeks after taking the Lady’s Secret Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Santa Anita.

“You’re seeing one of the greatest mares of all time,” De Seroux said.

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Two weeks before a New York-bred son of Distorted Humor tries to make some history in the Belmont Stakes, another scored a surprising win in the $200,000 Peter Pan.

Go Rockin’ Robin, whose brother, Funny Cide, can win the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont, took advantage of a perfect trip behind a quick early pace to post an eight-length win at 13-1 over a sloppy surface at Belmont Park. He ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.47 under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.

Owned by Herbert and Carol Schwartz and trained by Scott Schwartz, Go Rockin’ Robin isn’t nominated to the Belmont and would have to be supplemented for $100,000. His trainer indicated that is a possibility.

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Streaking Along

Azeri joined a select group by extending her winning streak to nine Saturday in the Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park. The longest winning streaks in North American thoroughbred racing :

*--* Wins Horse Years Wins Horse Years 16 CITATION 1948-50 11 TOM FOOL 1952-53 16 CIGAR 1994-96 10 SYSONBY 1904-05 16 *HALLOWED DREAMS 1999-00 10 COUNT FLEET 1942-43 15 COLIN 1907-08 10 NATIVE DANCER 1953-54 15 VANDER POOL 1930-31 10 SECRETARIAT 1972-73 15 BUCKPASSER 1966-67 10 *RUFFIAN 1974-75 14 MAN O’ WAR 1919-20 10 SPECTACULAR BID 1979-80 13 *PERSONAL ENSIGN 1986-88 9 SWAPS 1954-55 12 MORVICH 1921-22 9 SEATTLE SLEW 1976-77 12 SPECTACULAR BID 1978-79 9 AFFIRMED 1977-78 11 NATIVE DANCER 1952-53 9 *AZERI 2002-03

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*--*

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Female

AZERI’S WINNING STREAK

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NOTABLE:

* Mike Smith has been Azeri’s jockey in all 13 of her races -- 12 of them victories. Her career earnings: $2,654,320.

* Azeri’s only non-winning race was a second-place finish by one length to Summer Colony in the La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 9, 2002 -- her fourth career race.

* Lowest odds at which Azeri has won: 1-9 in the Clement Hirsch Handicap.

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* Highest weight Azeri has carried: 127 pounds in Lady’s Secret Handicap.


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