The Allen E. Paulson Living Trust's Azeri has only raced seven times, but the 4-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter has built a solid resume, winning six of those races including Saturday's decisive win in the $211,400 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park. The Milady marks her third career grade I win.
Azeri began racing last November, winning her debut race by six lengths under Mike Smith. The Laura DeSeroux trainee then romped twice in allowance company before finishing second to Summer Colony in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) in her stakes debut. Since then Azeri has raced solely in grade I races, sweeping all three, including the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in April.
"How good is she? She is scary good," Smith said. "Her connections were telling me about a week ago about how she has just gotten better. I'm thinking to myself, 'How much better can she get?' They were right. She just galloped. She's amazing. Words don't describe her. She's done everything asked of her. She is just so special."
Azeri went to the lead from the start and set fractions of :23.42 and :46.46 as Affluent trailed the field. Azeri opened a two-length lead over Ask Me No Secrets after six furlongs run in 1:10.27, then held off Affluent in the stretch to earn the 3 1/2-length win. She completed the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.02 on the fast track. The win was worth $126,840, raising her career earnings to $727,240.
"She got right out there and really relaxed well," Smith said. "I didn't have to do a whole lot, just tighten up the reins a little bit. She is really something special, just so well balanced. She simply floats over the top of the ground. She seems to be getting better, too. She's gaining more weight. Her color is looking good. It's all good."
Affluent finished four lengths ahead of third-place Collect Call. Elaine's Angel and Ask Me No Secrets completed the order of finish. Cashmina broke down on the backstretch and was euthanized. Her rider, Victor Espinoza, was not injured.
"I had no excuse," said Affluent's rider Eddie Delahoussaye. "I had to swerve a little bit to miss the horse (Cashmina) that broke down. But it wouldn't have made any difference. The winner is just too much horse. She might be a great filly. My filly has chased her three times. Maybe we'll turn it around one day. But right now Azeri just looks unbeatable."
The 3-5 favorite, Azeri returned $3.20, $2.20, and $2.10. Affluent paid $2.60 and $2.10. Collect Call was worth $2.10 to show. The $1 exacta paid $2.80. (Chart, Equibase