So, will Michael Paulson and Wayne Lukas move Azeri up into the heavyweight division and go for the big knockout punch or take the more logical route and be satisfied to conclude her illustrious career with a TKO or decision?If Azeri wins the Nextel Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) again, it would be a magnificent swan song to a Hall of Fame career, and would cap a great comeback, after the entire racing world was convinced she had been retired. Paulson, however, insisted she never was retired. It is true that a victory in the Classic would take her to where no filly or mare has ever gone before, but the degree of difficulty obviously would be far greater than competing with her own sex. She has tried colts once before and failed, and has tried 1 1/4 miles once before and failed. This would seem to make the task even more difficult.Azeri's victory in the Oct. 10 Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I) was an impressive addition to her resume. After being hooked by longshot Tamweel for a quarter of a mile, Azeri finally asserted her class and drew off to win comfortably by three lengths in 1:49 3/5 for the nine furlongs. How she'll fare hooking up with the likes of Ghostzapper, Roses in May, and Pleasantly Perfect, among others, is the big question.Paulson and Lukas must now decide if it's worth taking the gamble for the chance at immortality. A sound defeat in the Classic really would not tarnish her reputation, while even a solid third-place finish would enhance it. On the opposite end, she is not going to have an easy time of it, with her style of running. In her only 1 1/4-mile race, she came home very slowly and was run down in the final furlong. So, Paulson and Lukas will have to ask themselves, do they want to subject her to such an arduous task at the age of six?So far, Paulson has been proven right by Azeri, as evidenced by her three grade I victories this year. One thing you have to say about him, regardless of whether Azeri has won or finished out of the money, he has always been right there waiting for her on the track to give her a pat on the neck. Watching him with Azeri in the paddock or after a race, there is no doubt he has great affection for her and would never do anything to put her in harm's way. He has stuck his neck out before in the face of criticism, and is not going to let public opinion influence him now. So, if he and Lukas decide to go for the Classic, everyone will have to accept the decision and hope this great champion does herself proud, win or lose.Acropolis, Now?
Is it possible the most amazing performance this month has been a fourth-place finish? You'll see that it's more than possible if you watch a replay of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and follow the Aidan O'Brien-trained 3-year-old Acropolis. Coming off only one start this year, a narrow victory in a small race at Leopardstown, the 84-1 shot had one horse beat turning for home in the 19-horse Arc field. Stuck down on the rail with little room, the son of Sadler's Wells made steady progress through heavy traffic, then darted inside one horse and began to pour it on. He was just starting to run at the eighth pole and kept getting stronger in the final furlong, just nipping English Derby (Eng-I) winner North Light for fourth, while being beaten only 3 1/2 lengths by Bago. Who knows where this effort came from, but it was pretty spectacular to watch, especially under the circumstances. O'Brien said a decision will be made over the weekend or early next week whether he makes the journey to Lone Star. O'Brien also said the Classic and John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) are being considered for Powerscourt. His other Breeders' Cup possibles are Yesterday for the Filly & Mare Turf, in which she finished third last year, and Antonius Pius for the Mile. O'Brien had considered sending a pair of colts for the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I) – Oratorio and Scandanavia – but has decided against it.Red-hot Ramsey
There will be no owners more live on the Breeders' Cup program than Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who have a big chance in three events – the Classic with Roses in May, Turf with Kitten's Joy, and Mile with Nothing to Lose. All are coming off brilliant stakes victories, with Nothing to Lose blowing away a strong field to win the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT).Kitten's Joy will attempt to join Manila (1986) and Prized (1989) as the only American-trained 3-year-olds to win the Turf. Three European sophomores have captured the race – Lashkari (1984), Tikkanen (1994), and High Chaparral (2002).
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