Metropolitan Mile Could be Next for Azeri

(from Churchill Downs notes)
Azeri could next race against males in the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park on May 31, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said from his Churchill Downs stable Friday.

Beaten by a head by Mayo On the Side in Saturday's $250,000-added Humana Distaff (gr. I) May 1 at Churchill Downs, Lukas said Azeri had emerged from the race in good shape. He said he and Michael Paulson, who manages the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, have discussed the Met Mile, as it is known.

"That's definitely one of the options," said Lukas. "Michael and I talked a little bit about it last night, but we're just kind of letting the weeks slide by."

Lukas has yet to map out the rest of the campaign for the 6-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter.

The $400,000-added Fleur de Lis (gr. II) at Churchill Downs on June 12 and the $300,000-guaranteed Ogden Phipps (gr. I) on June 19 at Belmont Park are also possible spots in which Azeri could return to competition, Lukas said.

"She's really doing well," said Lukas. "She's getting better every day."

Azeri, the 2002 "Horse of the Year" and last year's champion older filly or mare, returned to competition in her first start for Lukas with a dazzling victory in the Apple Blossom (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park. She followed that with the narrow loss to Mayo On the Side, to whomshe conceded 11 pounds while racing at the seven-furlong distance for the first time.

"We feel we should have won that race," said Lukas. "You're not supposed to give away a grade one when you're that good, and I mean she's really good."

The loss by Azeri was just her third in 18 career starts. She has finished second in each of her defeats.