Azeri will seek to become the first horse ever to win the 1 1/8-mile Apple Blossom three straight years. The 6-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter won in 2002 on her way to Horse of the Year honors and won again last year to help land the Eclipse Award for champion older female. Laura de Seroux trained Azeri the previous two years but after being transferred over the winter she is now under the care of D. Wayne Lukas. Azeri will bring in a record of 14 wins and two seconds from 16 career starts and earnings of $3,044,820.Heading the competition for Azeri are Everest Stable's Island Fashion and Sumaya Us Stable's Wild Spirit, the Chilean-bred champion who sports three wins in four starts in this country.
Wild Spirit, by Hussonet, has not raced for trainer Bobby Frankel since winning the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park in September. Her lone defeat in North America was a second-place finish in the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga.Island Fashion will enter off a game second-place finish against males in the March 6 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). The 4-year-old daughter of Petionville won the Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita in her only other start this year for trainer Marcelo Polanco.The other nominees are Bedanken, Cloakof Vagueness, Golden Sonata, Keys To The Heart, Lead Story, Mayo On The Side, Roar Emotion, Star Parade, and Sue's Good News