05/06/2003 12:00AM

Azeri as fast as ever for Milady Handicap


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Everything Azeri does is fast. The defending Horse of the Year is back on her game, and Tuesday morning at San Luis Rey Downs she produced another in a long line of sensational workouts - five furlongs in 58 seconds.

"She looked like a video tape stuck on fast forward," trainer Laura de Seroux said. "It was scary fast. But she is doing it alone, and doing it relaxed. She's definitely recovered from the Apple Blossom, and then some."

Exercise rider Brian Eide was aboard Azeri for her 12th consecutive best-of-the-morning workout. Azeri, who has won 11 of 12 starts, runs May 24 at Hollywood Park in the Grade 1 Milady Handicap.

De Seroux could have a big month. She will start Total Impact and Shacane Saturday in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap; Ballingarry runs Saturday in the $400,000 Jim Murray Handicap; and Dublino, impressive winner of the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap, runs May 26 in the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap. Turtle Bow will run in either the Gamely or the Yerba Buena at Bay Meadows May 24.

Crafty C.T. out with minor injury

A minor foot injury will keep Crafty C.T. out of the Grade 3 Los Angeles Times Handicap Saturday at Hollywood Park, trainer Howard Zucker said. Crafty C.T. was the 120-pound co-highweight for the six-furlong race, but Zucker said he "came up a little tender" after being reshod last Friday. "I was going to run, but I had to walk him for three days, and we won't take him to the track for another day or two," Zucker said Tuesday. Crafty C.T.'s main goal is the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap July 5.

Disturbingthepeace and Echo Eddie worked five furlongs Tuesday at Santa Anita for trainer Darrell Vienna, and are being considered for the Los Angeles Times Handicap. The race would be the first for both horses since finishing unplaced in a $1.4 million sprint in Japan in March. Disturbingthepeace, who was California's top sprinter last summer, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60; Echo Eddie worked the same distance in 59.40 seconds. Disturbingthepeace is the 120-pound co-highweight for the Los Angeles and Echo Eddie was assigned 117. Other Los Angeles Times starters are expected to include Men's Exclusive, Giovanetti, Presidio Heights, Publication, Hombre Rapido, and Golden Hare.

Ladies Din seeks Shoemaker repeat

Ladies Din, who finished fourth in the San Francisco Mile April 26 at Bay Meadows, worked a half-mile in 47.40 seconds Tuesday at Santa Anita and will try to win the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile for the second straight year May 26. Previously trained by Julio Canani, Ladies Din was making his first start for trainer Frank Monteleone when he returned from an 11-month layoff for his last start.

"I was going to scratch him because the turf was off, but we were getting closer to the Shoemaker and he needed the race," Monteleone said. Ladies Din made a sweeping rally into the lane, then flattened out in a good prep. "He surprised me, and he's like a new horse since then. He's really woken up." Ladies Din finished second behind Silic in the Shoemaker Mile in 1999 and 2000, before winning it last year at 7.

Montelone's California-bred sprinter Giovannetti will start Saturday in the Los Angeles Times Handicap, his first start since winning the Phoenix Gold Cup March 8 at Turf Paradise. "He had two hard races in 14 days, so I walked him for 21 days; he deserved it," Monteleone said. "He's come back and breezed three times so he's ready to run."

Wooden Phone the Mervyn LeRoy highweight

Western Pride is headed for the Grade 1 Pimlico Special May 16, leaving Wooden Phone as the 118-pound highweight for the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap Saturday. Pleasantly Perfect (118) also is is headed for Pimlico, and Congaree (125) was never intended to start in the Mervyn LeRoy. Instead, a moderate field is taking shape for the $150,000 race at 1 1/16 miles. Wooden Phone finished last in his April 5 comeback at Santa Anita, which was his first start in 16 months. He worked five furlongs Monday at Santa Anita in 59.80 seconds.

Possible starters in the Mervyn LeRoy include Wooden Phone, Sunday Break, Palmeiro, Piensa Sonando, Fleetstreet Dancer, Kela, Shacane, Total Impact, Lethal Instrument, and Bring Homethegold. The Mervyn LeRoy is the first of three handicap-division races at Hollywood, which include the Grade 2 Californian June 14 and the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup July 13.

More tests for Ocean Terrace

Ocean Terrace is scheduled for further tests Wednesday, after which trainer Bob Hess hopes to have an answer for the colt's disappointing efforts in the Santa Anita Derby and Lexington Stakes. Ocean Terrace won his first three starts, including the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby, and was among the rising stars in his division until consecutive double digit-length losses in California and Kentucky.

Hess said Ocean Terrace's shins were "a little tender" following his last race, but veterinary exams in Kentucky were unable to provide conclusive reasons for his subpar efforts. Ocean Terrace returned Monday to Hess's main stable at Santa Anita, and was scheduled to leave Tuesday for Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center for extensive tests. "I'll have an answer Thursday, but he will get a freshening, and he will come back," Hess said. "The good news is he is ice cold and jogs 100 percent. Believe me, no one has seen the real Ocean Terrace."

Desormeaux set for Japan stint

Kent Desormeaux was Hollywood Park's fifth-leading rider during the 2002 spring-summer meet, but is not expected to crack the top 10 this meet. Desormeaux, who has won three races from just nine mounts at the meet, was scheduled to leave Tuesday for Japan, where he will ride regularly for the next two and a half months. Agent Tom Knust said, "It's an opportunity that's hard for him to pass up, but he'll come back on certain weekends to ride here when there's a big stake or a good horse."

Desormeaux has won two stakes races at the meet - the $150,000 Tiznow aboard Joey Franco, and the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap on Dublino. Knust said, "We've got some important horses to ride here that he doesn't want to give up."

Desormeaux is not expected to return until Memorial Day weekend when he rides Dublino and Touch of the Blues in a pair of stakes. Knust said Desormeaux is scheduled to ride one of the favorites this weekend in Japan in a race worth $1 million to the winner. According to Knust, jockeys earn a 5 percent commission on the amount earned by their mounts in Japan. The percentages apply regardless of where the horse places.