Azeri’s Ninth in a Row Is Good as Gold
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.
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.
“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.
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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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
AZERI’S WINNING STREAK
* 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.
* Highest weight Azeri has carried: 127 pounds in Lady’s Secret Handicap.