Horse of the Year Azeri.

Horse of the Year Azeri.

Barbara D. Livingston

Azeri Has High White Blood Count; Distaff Still a Possibility

Tests performed Tueday on Azeri revealed a "very high white blood count," said trainer Laura de Seroux, who is still hoping to be able to make the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).

Azeri, who finished an uncharacteristically dull third (she was moved up to second on a disqualification) in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup (gr. II), was found to have bled significantly in the race.

"My worry was that, is she now a bleeder or was that just an isolated incident?" de Seroux said. "I would like to have thought there was a reason she bled, and we found it with the very high white blood count. She's incubating something. So, we're doing a tracheal wash and we're culturing it. Whatever is it, with the culture, we can be very antibiotic specific. So, we're on it, and we might have time to turn this around. I'm not making any predictions that we're going to make the Breeders' Cup, but I'm certainly going to try."

De Seroux said Azeri showed no signs before the race that would indicate the filly was not 100 percent. "But, then you medicate two days out, and that can mask things," she said. "She so enjoys what she doing, she showed no signs that anything was wrong. She's a read. I know how to read her, and I wouldn't turn a blind eye to any of it. But she does have a very elevated white blood count; she has low blood plasma; she's anemic right now, and she probably has some sort of viral or bacterial infection. We're going to start her on antibiotics tonight.

"We think the virus is what caused the bleeding, from the effort she put out. Think about it, giving 10-20 pounds, incubating a virus, bleeding significantly – and I think she was bleeding by the time she hit the three-quarter pole, because she looked like a rabbit, leaping up and down as if she wasn't getting any traction. And she still only gets beats 2 1/4 lengths. Fillies are eased under those circumstances. It was a performance that just makes me want to cry out of love and pride and admiration."

As for the Breeders' Cup, de Seroux said, "I thought I was going to be facing the choice of where to go next, the Distaff or the Classic, following a facile victory on Sunday. But that's all changed. How fleeting it all can be, because now I have to just hope that I have her healthy enough to compete in the Distaff. Because that loss has to be avenged now."