Azeri, who figured to be the brightest star to shine over the holiday weekend at Churchill Downs in Thursday's Falls City Handicap (gr. II), has not been entered by trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas, along with owner Michael Paulson, wasn't overly concerned with the 126-pound assessment, it was the spread in the weights that will keep her on the sidelines.
The 6-year-old mare, who finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) in her last start, was asked to give 10 pounds to her nearest rivals and as many as 18 pounds to others in the race.
With the defection, seven fillies and mares passed the entry box Tuesday for the $300,000 race to be run at 1 1/8 miles Thanksgiving day.
Lukas will have a starter in the field in S. Angel Stable's Susan's Angel, winner of the Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) and Serena's Song Stakes earlier this year. The 3-year-old daughter of Cape Town
out of the Copelan mare Copeaway will tote 114 pounds and have the services of Pat Day. Susan's Angel was last seen finishing third, behind Halory Leigh and Lady Tak, in the Churchill Downs Distaff (gr. II) at a mile on Nov. 7.
Halory Leigh, along with Mayo On the Side, are the 116-pound highweights in the Falls City.
Halory Leigh, a 4-year-old filly by Halory Hunter--Graceful Leigh, by Clever Trick won a seven-furlong allowance in her race prior to winning the Distaff by five lengths. She covered the mile in 1:35.05 under Craig Perret for trainer Dale Romans. Perret, one the jockeys banned from the remainder of the Churchill meet, will be replaced by Eddie Martin Jr.
Owned by Jerry Crawford, Matt Gannon, and Charlie Grask, Halory Leigh was bred in Kentucky by Al Profitt and Larry Demeritte. She has won six of 20 career starts. Other than a fourth-place finish in last year's Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at 1 1/4 miles, Halory Leigh's only ventures beyond 1 1/16 miles have come on the grass. She finished second earlier this year in the nine-furlong Locust Grove Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs.
Mayo On the Side owns a win over Azeri, scoring in the seven-furlong Humana Distaff (gr. I) over the 2002 Horse of the Year and defending champion older female by a head on Kentucky Derby day under the Twin Spires. Her other victory this year came in the Doubledogdare Stakes during the April stand at Keeneland. The daughter of French Deputy was sixth in the Churchill Downs Distaff. Prior to that, she was third, beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Azeri and Tamwell in the Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I).
Bred by Robert Lothenbach and raced by Lothenbach Stables by trainer Carl Nazfger, Mayo On the Side is out of the Slew o' Gold mare Slewveau. She will be ridden by John McKee, who replaces Robby Albarado, another jockey banned from the track.
Breaking from the rail is Indy Groove, who is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff - Presented by Nextel (gr. I).Falls City Handicap (gr. II), $300,000, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, Thursday, Nov. 25, approx. post time 3:52 p.m.
PP - Horse - Wgt. - Jockey
1 - Indy Groove - 114 - Brice Blanc
2 - Miss Fortunate - 113 - Larry Melancon
3 - Halory Leigh - 116 - Eddie Martin Jr.
4 - Susan's Angel - 114 - Pat Day
5 - Flower Forest - 111 - Eusebio Razo Jr.
6 - Mayo On the Side - 116 John McKee
7 - Red Cell - 108 - Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr.