The 1 1/16-miles Azeri, which serves as the local prep for the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) April 5, drew a field of six older fillies and mares that will run on the main track.
Kettleoneup is undefeated since taking the Oct. 16 Autumn Leaves Stakes by a half-length at Mountaineer Park. The Michael Tomlinson trainee came back a little more than a month later to win the Falls City Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, her second career graded stakes score.
In her 5-year-old debut Feb. 16 at Oaklawn, the daughter of Victory Gallop made her usual from off-the-pace move to take over in the stretch and pull away for a 2 ¼-length triumph in the Pippin Stakes. The win was Kettleoneup’s seventh in 18 lifetime starts. She has finished out of the money only three times in her career.
Kettleoneup, who is out of the Storm Catmare Bugs Rabbit, will try to avenge her narrow defeat in last year’s Azeri, when she lost by a head to India after making a late move under Calvin Borel, who will get the call again Sunday.
Kettleoneup will also try to avenge a loss to Hystericalady in last year’s Molly Pitcher Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Monmouth Park. In that Aug. 25 test, Hystericalady was 12 ¼ lengths better than Kettleoneup.
Trained and co-owned by Jerry Hollendorfer, Hystericalady is on a three-race losing streak, but will be dropping down in class for this event. The Distorted Humor mare made her 5-year-old debut Feb. 2 on the Cushion Track at Santa Anita, weakening in the stretch to finish fifth in the seven furlong Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I).
But that effort was after a more than three-month layoff, as Hystericalady last ran in the Oct. 27 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), where she lost by a neck to Ginger Punch after a terrific stretch duel. Three weeks prior to that, the unlucky chestnut mare was defeated a nose in the 1 1/16-mile Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
Most recently, Hystericalady, who was bred in Kentucky by Abbott Properties, worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 at Bay Meadows Feb. 28. Robbie Albarado will ride the three-time graded stakes winner for the first time.
Pin Oak Stable’s Brownie Points should also be given some consideration. The 5-year-old Forest Wildcatmare is a four-time stakes winner, but has been off since finishing third in the Aug. 18 Gardenia Handicap (gr. III) at Ellis Park. She has been working at Oaklawn this winter. Luis Quinonez will ride for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.
The other three challengers are Gasia, Clever Strike and Lemon Drop Mom, who finished second, third, and sixth, respectively, in the Pippin.
Gasia is a three-time stakes winner who has a win at this same distance at Oaklawn, as she took the Bayakoa Stakes by head over Brownie Points last April. Gasia, by Silver Deputy, is owned by Susan Knoll and trained by Larry Jones.
$175,000 Azeri Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 5:11 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Kettleoneup (KY), 119, Calvin H. Borel
2. Gasia (KY), 115, Terry J. Thompson
3. Clever Strike (KY), 113, Eusebio Razo, Jr.
4. Brownie Points (KY), 115, Luis S. Quinonez
5. Hystericalady (KY), 115, Robby Albarado
6. Lemon Drop Mom (KY), 115, Clinton L. Potts