Updated on 09/17/2011 11:47AM

Azeri losing? It's not likely

Azeri, shown after she won the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap May 24 for her ninth straight victory, will face six rivals Saturday in the Vanity.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Some cast members have changed, but the star is the same for Saturday's $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Azeri, the reigning Horse of the Year, will start as an overwhelming favorite in the Vanity, searching for her 10th consecutive victory. Supporting her is a cast of six that includes three stakes winners - Bare Necessities, Keys to the Heart, and Meguial.

None of those three fillies, or the other starters - American Czarina, Sister Girl Blues, or Tropical Blossom - is considered a real threat to Azeri, who will carry top weight of 127 pounds, spotting the others 9 to 17 pounds.

Instead, their connections are hoping to gain a placing that will enhance the values of their fillies and mares. Beating Azeri seems almost impossible to fathom.

Azeri is such a standout in the Vanity that Hollywood Park is not offering show wagering. When Azeri won her ninth consecutive race in the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap on May 24, she attracted $1,528,349 of the $1,607,740 bet to show, creating a minus show pool of $267,227.

Azeri won the Milady by three lengths, repelling the challenge of Damaschino on the first turn, Affluent on the backstretch, and Enjoy on the final turn. None of those fillies returns in the Vanity, which is run over 1 1/8 miles.

Since the Milady, trainer Laura de Seroux said, Azeri has been more relaxed in her workouts. De Seroux compares Azeri's behavior to the way she was training last year, when she won her last seven starts in a campaign that ended with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park.

"She's as calm as she can be," de Seroux said. "She's definitely not dull. She was like this going into the Breeders' Cup."

The Vanity is Azeri's third start of the year, a season that began with a hard-fought victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 5. She rallied from a deficit of 1 1/2 lengths in midstretch to win by a head over Take Charge Lady and score the narrowest victory of her winning streak.

"She was a little on red alert after the Apple Blossom, because she had to try so hard," de Seroux said.

In the Milady, Azeri was headed by Damaschino on the first turn, took command on the backstretch, and was in front by two lengths on the final turn. With Azeri's effective speed, it is unlikely that too many of her opponents will try to go with her early.

"When you're the Lakers, or at the top of your sport, they are all trying to find a way to beat you," said Michael Paulson, who owns Azeri through the Allen Paulson Living Trust.

Someone may try. Sister Girl Blues led throughout an allowance race on May 22 but is not a confirmed front-runner. Meguial has raced close to the lead but has shown erratic form since arriving from Argentina last winter.

Trainer Wally Dollase starts the entry of American Czarina, who is making her graded-stakes debut, and Bare Necessities, who has won three consecutive stakes. Both are best from a stalking role, leaving Dollase nearly resigned to defeat.

"The only thing that could throw her off is if something went head and head," Dollase said of Azeri. "I don't know if that would do it. Hopefully, we can get a Grade 1 placing."

Keys to the Heart has been entered for the same objective. The winner of the Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap on April 25, she finished fourth in the Milady by seven lengths.

Trainer Beau Greely, who is on a scouting trip to Europe, admits he is only dreaming of a miracle.

"What can you say about Azeri?" Greely said last week. "It's tough to run against her. Hopefully she'll get tired and the weight will catch up to her. You know you're running against a champion."