01/24/2003 1:00AM

Azeri heads Eclipse favorites


BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Azeri, who won the Breeders' Cup Distaff and was a unanimous choice as champion older filly or mare, is favored to be named Horse of the Year when the champions of 2002 are announced at the 32nd annual Eclipse Awards Dinner on Monday night here at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The other finalists for Horse of the Year are Left Bank, who is also a finalist for champion older male; Rock of Gibraltar, a finalist for champion male turf horse; and War Emblem, the favorite to be named champion 3-year-old colt.

Azeri won eight times in nine starts last year, including her last seven consecutive starts, and captured five Grade 1 races. Her trainer, Laura de Seroux, is a finalist as champion trainer, but the favorite in that category is Bobby Frankel, who last year led the nation in both Grade 1 stakes wins and purse earnings.

Eleven year-end awards for horses, and five for humans, will be announced Monday night. Other awards, such as the Eclipse Award of Merit, were announced previously and will be presented at the ceremony.

Who should be Horse of the Year?