Dollase Sees Tough Task in Vanity; Azeri Gallops

(from Hollywood Park track notes)
Trainer Wally Dollase watched rival Azeri gallop on the main track at Hollywood Park Wednesday and conceded the enormity of his mission Saturday. He plans to enter two of his distaffers against the reigning Horse of the Year in the $250,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.

"Azeri looked good galloping; she's a lot of horse," said Dollase in admiration. "If I was to run second in a Grade I, I'd be pleased."

Despite a huge break in the weights, Dollase suggested a runner-up finish was his highest realistic hope when he sends out Bare Necessities and American Czarina against the 5-year-old mare. Azeri seeks her tenth straight victory.

"Azeri has the same running style as Sharp Cat," Dollase said of the talented distaffer that won such major stakes as the Ruffian Handicap and Beldame for him in 1998. "They both run on the Bill Dailey. When horses come to them, they pull away."

Azeri was assigned high weight of 127 pounds, while Bare Necessities was second at 118. American Czarina was pegged at 111.

Bare Necessities, winner of the Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne Park for her third straight victory in her last start April 26, breezed four furlongs in :50 here Tuesday. American Czarina, who has won twice in six outings over this track, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 here Monday.

Azeri seeks to become the first repeat winner of the Vanity since It's In The Air in 1980. Dollase can relate to the difficulty of that task. He won the Vanity in 1996 with champion Jewel Princess, who settled for a third-place finish the following year. Since It's In The Air, such stars as Track Robbery, Dontstop Themusic and Paseana have won the Vanity once but finished second in their respective defenses the following year.

Azeri was a picture of confidence and relaxation as she galloped about 1 3/8 miles with four white protective bandages under regular exercise rider Nuno Santos.

"She was great, nice and relaxed," said Jeff Ford, assistant to trainer Laura de Seroux. "She knows why she is here. She shipped Tuesday afternoon from San Luis Rey Downs and will school this afternoon and again Thursday."

De Seroux joined the 5-year-old mare Wednesday afternoon. The 127 pounds would be the most carried by a Vanity winner since champion Paseana toted the same weight in 1992.

A field of seven is probable: Azeri, Mike Smith, 127 pounds; Bare Necessities, Alex Solis, 118; Keys To The Heart, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 112; American Czarina, Victor Espinoza, 111; Meguial, Felipe Martinez, 110; Sister Girl Blues, Goncalino Almeida, 110, and Tropical Blossom, Tyler Baze, 110.

Almeida replaced Patrick Valenzuela on Sister Girl Blues because of the weight assignment. Almeida can make 111.

Trainer Doug O'Neill said he would enter Meguial after an allowance race he preferred did not fill.

Manny Marques, assistant to Beau Greely, will saddle Keys To The Heart while his boss is in Europe for a week. Marques confirmed that a second nominee – Enjoy, who finished second to Azeri in the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap May 24 – would pass for the Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Monmouth on June 28.