Azeri, withdrawn from next race.

Azeri, withdrawn from next race.

Barbara D. Livingston

Azeri Out of Louisville Breeders' Cup; Take Charge Lady Highweight

Edited release from Churchill Downs
Horse of the Year Azeri has been declared from the list of fillies and mares nominated to the $300,000-added Louisville Breeders' Cup (grade II) on Kentucky Oaks Day, a move that leaves Select Stable's Take Charge Lady as the likely starting highweight in the handicap for older fillies and mares.

Churchill Downs racing secretary Doug Bredar assigned high weight for the $200,000-added Humana Distaff (gr. I) to Edward P. Evans Raging Fever and Flaxman Holdings' Aldebaran received the top impost for the $150,000-added Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II), which are set for the Kentucky Derby undercard on Saturday, May 3.

Azeri, owned by the estate of Allen Paulson, scored a narrow victory over Take Charge Lady in her 2003 debut in the Apple Blossom (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park. Trainer Laura de Seroux said concerns over the effect of cross-country travel on the 5-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter prompted her to decide to declare her from the list of nominees and stay in California, where she will now focus on the Milady Breeders' Cup (gr. I) at Hollywood Park on May 24.

"I went out of the race because I've decided not to travel," said de Seroux. "Azeri had a hard race off the layoff, although she has come out of it very well, and as hard as she tries I don't feel like traveling again right now."

She said the atmosphere surrounding Kentucky Derby week and other factors also contributed to the decision to keep Azeri in the relative quiet of Southern California.

"It absolutely wouldn't have been the right thing to do," de Seroux said. "Especially with all the tension and the mania of the week and the weather volatility and everything."

The decision to declare Azeri from the 1 1/16-mile Louisville Breeders' Cup leaves George Krikorian's Starrer as the assigned highweight among the 30 fillies and mares ages 3 & up nominated to the race. She was assigned 123 pounds.

The Ken McPeek-trained Take Charge Lady, winner of the Ashland (gr. I) and Spinster (gr. I), was assigned 119 pounds and is the likely starting highweight.

Other likely starters in the Louisville Breeders' Cup include Edmund Gann's You (118), Mrs. William F. Kilroy's Charmed Gift (112), and Kenneth English and Alan Braun's Red N'Gold (112).

Owner Edward P. Evans and trainer Mark Hennig's Raging Fever and Gold Mover and Edmund Gann's You top the list of assigned weights for the $200,000-added Humana Distaff, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares ages 4 & up scheduled for Kentucky Derby Day. This year's renewal marks the second running of the race as a Grade I event.

Raging Fever, winner of the Bed O' Roses (gr. III) at Aqueduct in her most recent race, was assigned highweight of 120 pounds, but stablemate Gold Mover is expected to be the starting highweight at 119. The Bobby Frankel-trained You was also assigned 119, but Frankel plans to start Juddmonte Farm's Sightseek (116) in the race.

Possible starters in the Humana Distaff also include Spring Meadow (117), Roxelana (116), September Secret (115), Shawklit Mint (115) Miss Lodi (114), and Sixtyone Margaux (113).

Flaxman Holdings' Aldebaran, runner-up to Congaree in the recent Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct, is expected to start for trainer Bobby Frankel in the seven-furlong race for 4-year-olds and up and he has been assigned highweight of 120 pounds.

That impost is one pound higher than the weight assigned to Baker, Cornstein and Mack's Proud Citizen, the runner-up in the 2002 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). The D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of Gone West has been training sharply at Churchill Downs in preparation for his expected return to competition in the Derby Day fixture.

Fog City Stable's D'Wildcat, winner of the race via disqualification in 2002, is expected to defend his title for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. and has been assigned 117 pounds.

Other possible starters in the race include Mountain General (118), Pass Rush (117), Lord Abounding (114), Slider (113), Binthebest (113), Cappuchino (112), Swift Replica (112) and Tough Game (111).