Published in the Nov. 2 issue of The Blood-Horse
When Azeri decimated the field in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), she represented another pinnacle in the legacy left by Allen Paulson. For a man who set nearly three dozen international aviation records, it seems only appropriate that he continues to soar to the heights of racing as well, even after his death at age 78 in 2000. Paulson bred Azeri and she was foaled at his Brookside Farm near Versailles, Ky. He never got the privilege of seeing the now 4-year-old filly make it to the races, and yet she is one of the masterpieces of his exquisite breeding program. Azeri joins such lofty company as other Paulson-bred Breeders' Cup winners Cigar (1995 Classic, gr. I), Eliza (1992 Juvenile Fillies, gr. I), Ajina (1997 Distaff), Escena (1998 Distaff), and Fraise (1992 Turf, gr. IT). Ranked as the winningest breeder/owner in Breeders' Cup history, Paulson also owned the winners Arazi (1991 Juvenile, gr. I, in partnership), Theatrical (1987 Turf), and Opening Verse (1991 Mile, gr. IT). Surely Paulson would have enjoyed what has become the routine brilliance of Azeri more than anyone. Her seven-race win streak and 10 for 11 career record is reminiscent of Paulson's Cigar, who went 10 for 10 in 1995, culminating in the Breeders' Cup Classic and Horse of the Year honors. With no decisive leader in the 3-year-old colt or older male divisions, Azeri will merit strong consideration for Horse of the Year honors herself. Although Paulson is gone, Azeri races in his silks and is owned by his Living Trust. His son, Michael, heads his estate and paid tribute to his father in the winner's circle. Paulson always supported the stallions he stood at Brookside and Azeri is by one of Paulson's home stallions, Jade Hunter. The 18-year-old sire raced for Sheikh Mohammed for two years before being purchased by a Paulson partnership, for which he won the Donn (gr. I) and Gulfstream Park (gr. I) Handicaps in 1988. After Paulson's death and the subsequent sale of Brookside Farms, Jade Hunter was relocated to John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm near Lexington. He shuttled to Argentina this year and is currently standing at Haras La Providencia. Azeri is out of the Ahonoora mare Zodiac Miss, an Australian-bred. A group winner at two, the mare never won at anything beyond a sprint distance. Paulson purchased her and imported her to the U.S., where she made two starts at Santa Anita on the turf. Her best finish was a runner-up effort in an allowance and it didn't take long for Paulson to retire her to his broodmare band. Bred to Jade Hunter, Zodiac Miss produced her first foal in 1996. The full sibling to Azeri died as a foal, as did a Theatrical foal in 1999 when the filly and her dam were both struck and killed by lightning. Zodiac Miss' second foal, a Blushing John colt, was unraced. Sandwiched in the middle of the three unsuccessful attempts to produce a racehorse was Azeri. The second dam of Zodiac Miss, the Try My Best mare Capricornia, also had limited production in the foaling barn. She only had three foals, including one other filly who was last reported to be in Norway, but she is a half-sister to the Sadler's Wells mare Balletomane. The latter is the dam of Silic, the 1999 Breeders' Cup Mile winner. It is under Azeri's fourth dam, the Ratification mare Miss Glasso, that the black type really gets rolling. English champion Sanglamore, French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) winner River Lady, and grade/group I winners No Lute and Kiri's Clown are all part of the family. Interestingly, with the exception of a distantly related minor stakes winner, Azeri is the first dirt runner in many generations of her female family. Although Azeri's sire, Jade Hunter, was a grade I winner on the dirt, his female family is turf oriented. In addition, his top progeny prior to Azeri was Yagli, a multiple grade I winner on the grass. Perhaps the dirt influence comes from Jade Hunter's sire, Mr. Prospector, as the deceased stallion's runners excelled on both surfaces.
British-bred Ahonoora, Azeri's broodmare sire, is the maternal grandsire of a total of seven champions or highweights in racing countries stretching from England (Cape Cross) to South Africa (Tracy's Element). Azeri, named for an aviation checkpoint, is the only one of Jade Hunter's 34 stakes winners out of an Ahonoora mare, or for that matter, from Ahonoora's male line, which is the Tourbillon line through Djebel. The only remotely similarly bred stakes winner by Jade Hunter is the Australian group winner Procrastinate, whose dam, like Azeri's, is by a Djebel-line stallion many generations back. Like so many horses these days, Azeri is inbred to Northern Dancer. The incomparable sire and broodmare sire appears on the bottom side of both her sire and her dam.