Azeri, reigning Horse of the Year, worked five furlongs in :57.60 Friday at San Luis Rey Downs in her final drill before defense of her honors in the $200,000-added Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. i) for fillies and mares May 24 at Hollywood Park. The Milady is contested at 1 1/16 miles.
"She has been working fast lately; there is nothing I can do but watch," said trainer Laura de Seroux, who was in awe of the drill under regular work rider Brian Eide. "She went the first eighth in 12 and one (fifth) and clicked off 11's the rest of the way."
Azeri, a 5-year-old mare, will be seeking her ninth consecutive victory under regular jockey Mike Smith. Owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust, the chestnut daughter of Jade Hunter has won 11 of 12 life starts and earned $2,527,740. Azeri is three-for-three at Hollywood Park, including Grade I victories last year in the Milady and Vanity handicaps. She seeks to become the first repeat winner in the Milady since champion Paseana won under 125 pounds in 1993.
"She's a bigger stronger version of what she was coming into the Milady last year," said de Seroux. Azeri defeated Affluent by 3 1/2 lengths under 122 pounds in 1:42.02 in a six-horse field last year.
Azeri has been doing so well that de Seroux has widened her intervals between works to nine or ten days since opening the year with a hard-fought victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn April 5. Since the Apple Blossom, Azeri worked four furlongs in :46.30 April 19, four furlongs in :47.60 April 28 and five furlongs in :58 May 6 before the most recent drill.
Another small lineup is shaping up to tangle with the queen, with a Beau Greely-trained duo of Keys To The Heart and Enjoy considered definite and Affluent heading the list of possibles.
De Seroux will also have a busy Memorial Day weekend with turf females. Dublino, winner of the Wilshire Handicap here April 27, will return May 26 in the $350,000-added Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I), a test the trainer won last year with Astra.
In addition, de Seroux plans to run Turtle Bow in the $150,000 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap at Bay Meadows May 24 and Little Treasure in the $200,000 WinStar Distaff Handicap at Lone Star Park May 26.
Dublino and Turtle Bow are scheduled to work together on the Hollywood Park turf Sunday. "We'll keep them apart for now, but they will probably both run in the Beverly Hills," said de Seroux of the $200,000-added handicap at 1 1/4 mile on the Hollywood turf June 28.
De Seroux, who will give highly-regarded 3-year-old colt Slew In Time his first start in the first race at Hollywood Saturday, said her stable is picking up momentum. "We got off to a slow start because of sickness and court rulings (which eventually cleared horses in the Allen Paulson Living Trust to continue racing), but we're rolling now," said de Seroux.