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Azeri to carry 127 in Vanity 'Cap
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Azeri, the reigning Horse of the Year, will have as many as six opponents when she attempts to win her 10th consecutive race in Saturday's $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.
The defending champion of the Vanity, Azeri will carry 127 pounds, two pounds more than her assignment in the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap on May 24, a race she won by three lengths.
The 127-pound assignment is equal to the highest weight that Azeri has carried in her 13-race career. In the Grade 2 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap last fall at Santa Anita, Azeri carried 127 pounds against six opponents. She won that race by 3 1/2 lengths in her final prep for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Azeri's competition in the Grade 1 Vanity is expected to include Bare Necessities (118), Enjoy (114), Keys to the Heart (112), American Czarina (111), Sister Girl Blues (110), and Tropical Blossom (110). The weight that some jockeys tack will reduce Azeri's handicap. For example, Patrick Valenzuela is booked to ride Sister Girl Blues, but Valenzuela typically tacks 116.
Enjoy may be sent to Monmouth Park for the Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap on May 28.
Bare Necessities will be facing Azeri for the first time. A 4-year-old trained by Wally Dollase, Bare Necessities has won three consecutive stakes - the Sacramento, Santa Lucia, and Sixty Sails handicaps.
Azeri had her final tune-up on Saturday, working five furlongs in 1:00.20 at San Luis Rey Downs training center.
In recent months, Azeri has worked much quicker than she did on Saturday, but her trainer, Laura de Seroux, said she was pleased with the pace of the workout, which came under exercise rider Brian Eide.
"I like to see her relax like that going to the Vanity, which is over a mile and an eighth," de Seroux said. "This is the old Azeri of last year that you could get to work in 1:01."
De Seroux said Azeri ran the first eighth-mile of her work in 12 seconds, "and then she clicked off her 11-and-change pace."
Blazonry going in Affirmed
Blazonry will attempt to win his second stakes of the meeting in Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds. He has won one of his two starts since arriving here from England last winter, but trainer Kathy Walsh thinks that he should be undefeated in the United States.
In his U.S. debut in an allowance race over a mile at Santa Anita in April, Blazonry was wide for most of the race and finished third by a neck. He followed that with a victory in the Grade 2 Laz Barrera Handicap over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on May 26.
"I think he probably should have won his first race," Walsh said. "He was green in the first turn and took himself out of it a bit."
On Sunday, Blazonry worked six furlongs in 1:11.60, the fastest of 10 recorded works at the distance.
"He was well in hand," Walsh said.
Blazonry scored his first stakes win in the Barrera, but will face tougher opposition in the Grade 3 Affirmed over 1 1/16 miles. He was assigned 118 pounds.
Chief Planner, the winner of the Snow Chief Stakes on April 26, shares top weight of 119 pounds with Eye of the Tiger and Outta Here, who were fifth and ninth in the Kentucky Derby. All three are expected to run.
Other probables are Ministers Wild Cat (118), Roll Hennessy Roll (116) and Bullistic (112).
The $75,000 Haggin Stakes for 2-year-olds on Saturday has seven probables - Blairs Roarin Star, Dave the Dude, Don'tsellmeshort, Double Belvedere, Patriot Dream, Perfect Moon, and Stalking Tiger.
Don'tsellmeshort worked a half-mile in 47.40 seconds on Sunday. He won a maiden race in his second start on May 21, his first race for owner Cecil Peacock and trainer Dan Hendricks after being acquired at the Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Gold Cup begins taking shape
Kudos and Redattore are headed to the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13, but the California-breds Calkins Road and Sky Jack will pass the richest race of the meeting for older horses, their trainers said over the weekend.
Kudos, trained by Richard Mandella, ended a three-race losing streak with a victory in Saturday's $400,000 Californian Stakes, his first win since returning from an ankle injury.
His stablemate Redattore is the top turf miler in California this year with wins in the Frank Kilroe Mile and Shoemaker Mile.
Mandella considered Redattore a candidate for the American Handicap on turf on July 4, but has changed his mind and will try the Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles.
"He's on top of his game," Mandella said.
Redattore won the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita on dirt in 2002 but was fifth in the 2002 Californian, his most recent start on the surface.
Piensa Sonando and Reba's Gold, second and third behind Kudos in the Californian, are also being pointed for the Gold Cup. The participation of Reba's Gold depends on field size, according to Hendricks.
"I would try him over a mile and a quarter if there are three or four in there," he said. "I won't run if it's a large field."
Calkins Road was entered for Saturday's Californian but was scratched on race morning. He has not started since winning the California Cup Classic last November. A 4-year-old, Calkins Road worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Sunday and will be pointed for an allowance race, trainer John Shirreffs said.
Sky Jack finished sixth in an allowance race on turf on Friday night, his first start since August. Trainer Doug O'Neill said Sky Jack's long-term goal is the $250,000 California Cup Classic, a race he won in 2000.
"The Gold Cup is too quick," O'Neill said. "I thought maybe if he ran out of his mind. It would be selfish if I ran him back in the Gold Cup off that race."
Johnston takes weekend off
Jockey Mark Johnston did not ride over the weekend because "he had to take care of some things," according to his agent, Michelle Barsotti.
Last week, Johnston lost an appeal of a three-day suspension for a riding infraction earlier at this meeting. The suspension covers racing dates from Wednesday through Friday.
Johnston began riding in Southern California in April, having previously been a leading rider in Maryland. Barsotti said that Johnston will ride at Hollywood Park on Saturday.
* Mandella unveiled a promising colt on Saturday when Fantastic Spain won a $46,000 maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on turf in his career debut. A 3-year-old, Fantastic Spain is a half-brother to Spain, the winner of $3,540,542. Owned by Thoroughbred Corp., Fantastic Spain was in training in England last year. Mandella said Fantastic Spain is likely to remain on turf.