03/25/2003 1:00AM

Affluent gears up for Azeri


Affluent ran one of the best races of her career in last year's Apple Blossom Handicap. Trouble was, she ran into Azeri, who was in the midst of her Horse of the Year winning streak, and had to settle for second.

Affluent is heading back to Oaklawn Park for this year's Apple Blossom on April 5, and again will face Azeri, who this time will be coming off a layoff, making her first start since the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Affluent, however, has questions of her own. She missed the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita on March 9 after becoming ill the day before. But Affluent showed on Tuesday that she is ready to compete again with a six-furlong workout in 1:13.20 at Santa Anita.

Ron McAnally, who trains Affluent, said the 5-year-old mare rebounded quickly after her illness.

"She got sick for one day," McAnally said. "She had a 102 temperature the day before the race, and she didn't eat up. We treated her with mild antibiotics, and then when right on with her training. She actually missed only two days of training."