Laura de Seroux, trainer of Azeri, said Tuesday that in the wake of the defections of Candy Ride and Perfect Drift, she will keep her options open regarding the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
"The Distaff (gr. I) has always been the plan, but we're certainly keeping an eye on what's going on with the defections in the Classic," de Seroux said on a national teleconference. "My plan has always been to have her at her absolute best, which is why we've stayed at home and chosen the races we have. And I am confident she will be peaking on Breeders' Cup Day, whichever race we decide to go in.
"The Classic is definitely starting to look like a roller coaster, strong one moment and sliding the next. We're just keeping a real watchful eye on it. I'm reading everything there is out there, and we're keeping ourself poised. We'll wait until the very last moment before deciding. We'll have to see who ships, and what Mineshaft does. There's no reason to make up our minds before that. Either way, it won't affect her schedule or how I train her."
Earlier in the day, Azeri worked a sharp half-mile in :47 3/5 at San Luis Downs.
Azeri, owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust, will make her next start in Sunday's Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita, which served as a springboard to last year's brilliant victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
"We have a lot at stake here," de Seroux said. "Besides Horse of the Year, we have a win streak, and we want to come away from Breeders' Cup Day having won a Breeders' Cup race, not finishing second, third, or fourth. So, I'm going to select the race in which we have the best chance to win. If the Breeders' Cup Classic falls apart a little bit, we'll have to look at it strongly. I feel that if there is a time to try it it would be at Santa Anita, because it's a very speed-favoring course, and she loves the course. And we'd be doing the least amount of traveling. So, this would be the best place to attempt it."
De Seroux said that Azeri a much stronger than last year. "Physically, it is so evident, she almost looks like a disproportionate body builder, where the head looks too small," de Seroux said. "You can pump everything else up, but the head doesn't pump up in proportion. She looks fantastic, and is right where I want her to be. She's had a fairly easy time this year, and I think that is going to contribute to her being at her absolute best on Breeders' Cup Day."
The one key that may influence de Seroux's decision is the status of Mineshaft, who runs in Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). Trainer Neil Howard said there is some concern about having to ship to California.
"I think shipping does add some difficulty to it, but it's just a matter of how much you want to worry about it and how much you don't want to worry about it," Howard said. "I think there is always a question going out there, but this horse is a good shipper. He's shipped everywhere and done well, but this is totally a different ball of wax. This isn't like just loading the tack trunk and shipping to Pimlico or something like that. Shipping to California this time of the year is a concern, but it's not something you should dwell on. All you can do is hope he doesn't have a problem with it."