05/18/2003 11:00PM

Affluent up against old nemesis

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With a hint of reluctance, trainer Ron McAnally is starting Affluent against the 2002 Horse of the Year, Azeri, in Saturday's $200,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Affluent has faced Azeri in five stakes since the start of 2002, finishing behind her in each race. In the 2002 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita, Azeri was second to Summer Colony, with Affluent fourth. In three consecutive races last spring and summer, the two fillies made up the exacta. Azeri won the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park and the Milady and Vanity handicaps at Hollywood Park with Affluent finishing second each time. Last month, Azeri defended her title in the Apple Blossom, but Affluent could finish only fourth after chasing a slow pace.

McAnally realizes it will be difficult for Affluent to reverse things on Azeri in the Grade 1 Milady, which is run over 1 1/16 miles, but is still willing to take a chance.

"There's no question she's a super filly," McAnally said of Azeri.

While Azeri brings an eight-race winning streak into the Milady, Affluent has put together an excellent career. A 5-year-old owned by Janis Whitham, she has won 8 of 21 starts and $1,463,415, scoring stakes wins in routes on both turf and dirt.

In her only other start this year before the Apple Blossom, Affluent won the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap over seven furlongs at Santa Anita in January, running down Sightseek. Earlier this month, Sightseek won the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Affluent will have a new jockey in the Milady. Gary Stevens is replacing Alex Solis, who was aboard for the Santa Monica and Apple Blossom handicaps. Stevens is the fourth rider for Affluent since her regular jockey, Eddie Delahoussaye, retired last winter.

There will not be many runners in the Milady. Trainer Beau Greely is starting Enjoy and Keys to the Heart. Both have won at this meeting. Enjoy won an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on April 24, while Keys to the Heart won the Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on April 25.

McAnally considered rerouting Affluent to Monday's $350,000 Gamely Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf, but decided the distance was not ideal.

"The other race is a mile and an eighth, and it's not an easy race," McAnally said. "She hasn't raced in a while. If she'd had a race, it would be different."

Azeri has been assigned 125 pounds, two more than she carried in the Apple Blossom, but two less than her highest assignment of 2002, in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap last fall at Santa Anita.

Affluent will carry 117 pounds, with Keys to the Heart (115) and Enjoy (113) getting considerable weight from Azeri.

$1 million guarantee on Monday

The Milady and Gamely are two of five stakes at Hollywood Park from Saturday through Monday.

Monday's program includes the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile, a turf race worth $350,000, and the $150,000 Laz Barrera Handicap for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs. Monday's card also features a guaranteed pick six pool of $1 million.

Sunday's main race is the $100,000 Will Rogers Handicap for 3-year-olds on turf.

For some 3-year-olds, the Laz Barrera will be the first start following failures on the Triple Crown trail. Ministers Wild Cat has not started since finishing fifth in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19. Runnin' on Nitro finished eighth in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 5.

The Barrera field is led by King Robyn, the winner of the San Pedro and Harry Henson stakes in his last two starts. Among those he will face are Blazonry, Excessivepleasure, Martinblestme, Our Bobby V., and Roll Hennessy Roll.

King Robyn is trained by Jeff Mullins, who had a five-race winning streak at this meeting end when Su Tour finished seventh in Sunday's fourth race.

Trainer Wesley Ward expects improvement from Runnin' on Nitro. He dismissed the loss in the Illinois Derby as soon as the gelding walked off the track.

"He charged the gate, and it was like getting punched in the nose," Ward said. "He was dazed."

Runnin' on Nitro has been well beaten in two stakes. He was fourth in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 1, but rebounded to post a five-length win in a first-condition allowance race at Gulfstream Park on March 1.

"He ran huge at Gulfstream Park," Ward said. "I think he'll like this racetrack."

Gamely looking slim

The Gamely may have only six runners. Dress to Thrill, the winner of the Matriarch Stakes here last December, and Dublino, the winner of the Wilshire Handicap on April 27, share top weight of 122 pounds. They will face Megahertz (118), Miss Terrible (117), Damaschino (115), and Tates Creek, who will be awarded a weight assignment later this week if, as expected, she is supplemented to the race.

Bobby Frankel trains Megahertz, Miss Terrible, and Tates Creek. Miss Terrible is making her U.S. debut following a remarkable campaign in Argentina of eight victories in nine starts, including seven consecutive wins in Group 1 stakes.

Garden in the Rain and Turtle Bow were considered for the Gamely, but will travel for stakes out of town. Garden in the Rain is nominated for a stakes at Lone Star Park and the Yerba Buena Handicap at Bay Meadows, the race in which Turtle Bow is to run.

Rematch in Shoemaker

Ladies Din and Redattore, the first two finishers in the 2002 Shoemaker Mile, return in Monday's renewal, but both could be easy for bettors to oppose.

Ladies Din was sidelined following the 2002 Shoemaker and subsequently switched barns, going from Julio Canani to Frank Monteleone. In his comeback race on April 26, he finished fourth in the San Francisco Mile as a heavy favorite.

Redattore won the Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on March 1 but missed a start in the Explosive Bid Handicap at Fair Grounds in late March because of illness.

Those two face Century City, Medecis, Special Ring, Tijyr, Touch of the Blues, and War Zone.

Century City and War Zone are expected to be supplemented for $10,000 each on Wednesday.

Streak on the line

Bluesthestandard, the ex-claimer who has won five straight races including two stakes, is on schedule for Monday's $300,000 Lone Star Handicap over 1 1/16 miles, trainer Ted H. West said.

Bluesthestandard won the Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita in March and the Texas Mile at Lone Star Park on April 26 in his last two starts.

West said that jockey Martin Pedroza has the call and that Bluesthestandard will travel on Saturday.

No stakes for Le Mans

Le Mans scored a flashy win in an allowance race for California-breds on Saturday, but he won't be running in a stakes soon, according to trainer Gary Mandella.

Ridden by David Flores, Le Mans rallied from fifth to catch pacesetter Noble Silence at the end of a six-furlong race timed in 1:09.04. The victory came three weeks after Le Mans won a maiden race on the California Gold Rush program.

"We'll probably go back in an allowance. I need the W's," Mandella said. "I may try him in a two-turn allowance race."

The 4-year-old Le Mans has been well-regarded by Mandella since the start of his career. He is a full brother to La Feminn, the winner of three stakes and $366,430.

* Adminniestrator, the winner of the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita last January, has been turned out after injuring an ankle in the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap last month. Trainer Paddy Gallagher said Adminniestrator will have 90 days off and be pointed for a fall campaign.