Mayo on the Side (5) nips Azeri by a nose in a thrilling finish to the Humana Distaff.

Mayo on the Side (5) nips Azeri by a nose in a thrilling finish to the Humana Distaff.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Azeri Upset in Humana Distaff

Azeri came back time after time, but it wasn't enough. Mayo on the Side and Pat Day got by at the end to win the $272,813 Humana Distaff Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Saturday.

Azeri, who has won more than $3 million, was making just her second start for trainer D. Wayne Lukas after being transferred from the barn of Laura de Seroux. She won the Apple Blossom Stakes (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park on April 3.

The Horse of the Year had never run seven furlongs in her previous 17 starts, 15 of them victories. It was her first start at Churchill Downs.

Randaroo and John Velazquez broke sharpest of all in the four-horse field. Mike Smith and Azeri got bumped out of the gate, and he then had to hustle Azeri up the rail. Smith switched her to the outside as she and Azeri went a quarter in :22.49 and a half in :45.04. In the turn, Randaroo began to back out of it as Azeri came on. But on the outside, Day had Mayo on the Side in full flight.

Mayo on the Side and Azeri put on quite a stretch duel with Mayo on the Side getting by in the final strides to win by a head. The six furlong split was 1:09.65 and the final time was 1:22.78 over a fast track.

``My filly broke extremely sharply, jumped into the race and was comfortable at all times,'' Day said.

Smith said his horse was bumped twice by Randaroo and jockey John Velazquez.

``Still, coming into the stretch, I thought I was going to win,'' Smith said.

Mayo on the Side is owned by her breeder, Robert Lothenbach and trained by Carl Nafzger. The day before, Nafzger won the Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) in another upset of a top runner. His Lead Story beat Sightseek.

The winner is a 5-year-old mare by French Deputy out of the Slew o' Gold mare Slewveau. She has won seven of 21 starts and has won two straight stakes, having taken the Doubledogdare at Keeneland on April 16. The victory was worth $174,375, increasing Mayo On the Side's lifetime earnings to $519,366.

Mayo on the Side paid $13 and $3.20 while Azeri returned $2.40. There was no show wagering. Randeroo was third and Keiai Sakura trailed.

(Chart, Equibase)