Dodge Classic challenger Azeri arrives at Lone Star.

Dodge Classic challenger Azeri arrives at Lone Star.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Azeri's Team Gambles With Run in Classic

By Tom LaMarra and
Ron Mitchell

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Tuesday that 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri would challenge males in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) rather than face fillies and mares in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).

Speaking at a Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships kickoff luncheon in downtown Dallas, Lukas said the difficult decision made last night was unanimous between himself and owner Michael Paulson.

"It wasn't an easy decision," Lukas said. "He (Paulson) agonized over it. We looked at all the situations, and it was a unanimous decision. I backed him 100%.

Equating the gamble of going in the $4-million Classic rather than face fillies and mares to a popular poker game, Lukas said, "We're in Texas and this is 'Texas hold 'em'," Lukas said. "We're all in. We're going to the Classic. We'll play our queen and see what happens."

Lukas labeled Azeri's victory in the Overbrook Spinster (gr. I) at Keeneland "a beautiful prep. It was a very, very easy race and she relaxed beautifully."

A 6-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter, Azeri has won 17 of 23 starts and earned $3,959,820.

For more information on the great Azeri, please check out the new book from Eclipse Press, Women of the Year