Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally has deferentially called Horse of the Year Azeri a "monster."After finishing behind the superstar mare with Affluent in all five previous meetings, McAnally knows what he's talking about. He hopes to stem the tide in the $200,000-added Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) Saturday with a change in jockeys and a meaningful break in weights. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will ride the 5-year-old mare for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares. Stevens will become the mare's fourth different rider in five races since the retirement of Hall of Famer Eddie Delahoussaye.Azeri was assigned highweight of 125 pounds Sunday, while Affluent was pegged at 117."Weight broke the bridge," said McAnally Sunday, hoping Affluent can turn the tables after a fourth-place finish behind Azeri in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) while in receipt of six pounds. "One year they put too much weight on Bayakoa, and I didn't run her." Affluent, a Grade I stakes winner on dirt and turf, has won eight of 21 starts and earned $1,463,415 for owner-breeder Janis Whitham. But she was no match for Azeri in the Milady last year, finishing second by 3 ½ lengths while in receipt of three pounds.McAnally is the all-time leader in Milady victories with six, the most recent with Listening in 1997. McAnally strung together five straight victories from 1989 to 1993, champions Bayakoa and Paseana sandwiching repeat victories around one by Brought to Mind.Azeri seeks to join Paseana, Bayakoa, Adored and A Gleam as repeat Milady winners in the 52nd running of the race. Paseana carried 125 as the last repeater in 1993.
Stevens has never won the Milady but he finished second three times, with Tiffany Lass in 1987, Flying Julia in 1989 and Lady Melesi in 2001.Azeri, seeking her ninth consecutive victory, is scheduled to ship north from San Luis Rey Downs on Tuesday afternoon with trainer Laura de Seroux. Mike Smith has the Milady call.Other probable starters include the Beau Greely-trained duo of Keys to the Heart (115) and Enjoy (113). Jose Valdivia, Jr., and Victor Espinoza will ride the pair.Take Charge Lady was assigned second highweight of 120 but is not expected to run. Other nominee weights are: Bare Necessities 116, Alexine 114, Damaschino 114, Rhiana 114, Blind Ambition 111, Tropical Blossom 111, Cunning Play 110, Ladylore 110, and Xtrasensory 108.