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Updated on 09/17/2011 12:11PM
Azeri stays right on schedule
DEL MAR, Calif. - Like several others who celebrated her victory on Sunday, Azeri spent the next morning rolling around on the ground. The only difference is that she did not have a hangover. She was just happy to be back home, at San Luis Rey Downs, after spending a few days at Del Mar preparing for the Clement Hirsch Handicap.
"She was rolling around in her sun pen, like she had never had a race," Azeri's trainer, Laura de Seroux, said Monday morning.
Azeri won her 11th consecutive race in the Hirsch. She is expected to have one more race this year before a defense of her title in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 25. Because this year's Breeders' Cup is at Santa Anita, de Seroux believes it is best to stay home in California and prep for the Breeders' Cup in the Lady's Secret Handicap during Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, rather than entertain thoughts of going to New York for a race like the Ruffian Handicap.
"The Lady's Secret is perfect timing-wise to have her at her best for the Breeders' Cup, just like last year," de Seroux said.
De Seroux said she has "great respect" for the division's other top leaders - the Bobby Frankel-trained duo of Sightseek and Wild Spirit - and wants to do everything she can to have Azeri at her best to meet that pair in the Distaff.
"We have a good handle on how to let her down after a race, and get her up for a race," de Seroux said. "We want to do whatever is best to have her at her best on the day. This has been a very well thought-out plan to get her to her next race. I'd like to keep as much gas in reserve as I can."
The plan has worked to near-perfection so far. Azeri has won 14 times in 15 starts. And, according to de Seroux, Azeri retains a passion for training and racing.
"When the groom enters her stall in the morning to put the tack on her, she turns around and faces the wall, like she's saying, 'Put it on,' " de Seroux said. "When he reaches for the bridle, when it's time to go out, she nickers. With a lot of old warriors, it's like, 'Not you again.' She's so intelligent."
Michael Paulson, who owns Azeri under the banner of the Allen Paulson Living Trust, has been eager to see Azeri face males, but on Sunday said it was "most logical" for Azeri to make that attempt after the Breeders' Cup, a scenario that de Seroux believes is best, too.
De Seroux said races against males might include the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in November - "if she needs to beat males to be Horse of the Year" - or perhaps next spring at Santa Anita, in a race like the San Antonio Handicap. Azeri is likely to go to the breeding shed next spring, but could make a few starts in early 2004 before her retirement, de Seroux said.
All that is predicated on Azeri continuing to race well. First things first. The Distaff, de Seroux believes, will not be a pushover, and she wants Azeri at her absolute peak for that race.
"The march continues to the Breeders' Cup," she said. "On championship day, you have to be at your best."
Kona Gold makes final appearance
The popular sprinter Kona Gold was retired in a brief ceremony between races on Saturday afternoon. He walked onto the track, led by his longtime groom, Juan Soto, and with regular rider Alex Solis on his back.
Solis walked Kona Gold up the stretch to just inside the sixteenth pole, then had Kona Gold face the stands and take in the cheers from the crowd. The scene was reminiscent of the 2001 Bing Crosby Handicap, when Solis and Kona Gold took a curtain call in front of the stands after winning that race.
During the afternoon, Del Mar on its infield video screen showed some of Kona Gold's biggest victories, including the 2001 Bing Crosby and the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint, which secured for Kona Gold that year's Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.
Kona Gold, 9, will spend the next few months in an outdoor paddock at trainer Bruce Headley's home, then will return to the track to work as a stable pony, putting him in the atmosphere in which he has thrived.
Siphonizer, Krone prep for Best Pal
Siphonizer, who won a maiden race in his debut on Aug. 2 for trainer Richard Mandella, sped through a five-furlong work in 58.20 seconds on Monday morning in preparation for Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs for 2-year-olds. Julie Krone was aboard for the work, which equaled the fastest time of the morning at the distance.
David Flores rode Siphonizer in his victory, but has opted to ride Rulers Court in the Best Pal. Rulers Court, trained by Eoin Harty, won his first start, at Hollywood Park, then was the beaten favorite in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship.
The Best Pal, the final major prep for the Del Mar Futurity, is also expected to attract Badgett's Mandate, Blairs Roarin Star, Capitano, Last Time in Town, Military Mandate, and Perfect Moon.
Senor Swinger drills half-mile
Senor Swinger, in his final work for Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 La Jolla Handicap, worked a sharp half-mile on turf in 47.20 seconds for trainer Bob Baffert. Exercise rider Dana Barnes was aboard for the work, which was completed around orange cones, known as dogs.
The La Jolla, at 1 1/16 miles on turf, is also expected to include Devious Boy, Fairly Ransom, Ministers Wild Cat, Stanley Park, and Sweet Return. On Sunday, Devious Boy worked five furlongs on turf in 1:01.40, and Ministers Wild Cat worked seven furlongs on turf in 1:29.20.
- Also recording turf works Monday were Just Wonder (three furlongs in 38 seconds), Touch of the Blues (four furlongs, 52.40 seconds), and Sarafan (six furlongs, 1:15.20).
- Eye of the Tiger, preparing for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, worked five furlongs in 58.80 seconds on Monday morning for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The time was the fourth-best of 62 at the distance.
- Jockey Martin Pedroza was off his mounts on Monday after injuring a foot in a starting gate mishap Sunday.
- Martin Panza, Hollywood Park's racing secretary, and assistant Dan Eidson were at Del Mar Monday morning reminding trainers and owners that nominations to Hollywood Park's major fall grass stakes - the Citation, Matriarch, and Hollywood Derby - all close on Friday. The Matriarch, a Grade 1 for older fillies and mares, has been shortened to a mile this year.