Updated on 09/17/2011 10:35AM

Azeri victorious in Milady

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Azeri with Mike Smith up wins the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap Saturday at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Convincing wins have become commonplace again for Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year.

Scoring her ninth consecutive victory, Azeri defended her title in Saturday's $211,800 at Hollywood Park, easily defeating five overmatched rivals.

The style of the victory was the opposite of Azeri's 2003 debut in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 5 when she needed a stretch-long rally to catch Take Charge Lady.

The Milady more closely resembled Azeri's seven stakes wins from 2002. Ridden by Mike Smith, Azeri led or disputed the lead throughout, winning by three lengths in 1:41.87.

"She has tracking speed, high cruising speed and finishing speed," trainer Laura de Seroux said. "She's multi, multi-dimensional. You're seeing one of the greatest mares of all time."

Twice in the first half of the race, Azeri's rivals tried to take control of the race. Damaschino, a stakes winner in Australia who was making her first start on dirt, led around the first turn through an opening quarter mile in 23.08 seconds, but could not sustain her advantage.

Azeri took control on the backstretch and led through a half-mile in 46.23 seconds. Past the half-mile pole, Affluent drew within a half-length of Azeri, but the challenge was quickly repelled. Azeri led by 2 1-2 lengths midway on the final turn, through six furlongs in 1:10.13.

"I thought they would double-team or triple-team her and that's the way it unfolded," de Seroux said. "I thought Mike was very confident."

Azeri maintained a comfortable lead in early stretch. Even though Enjoy, a 9-1 shot making her stakes debut, made an eye-catching rally from sixth to be second, Azeri was not threatened in the stretch.

"Azeri is so great that she carries her speed," said Beau Greely, who trains Enjoy. "You can't go with her."

Enjoy finished three lengths in front of Tropical Blossom, who was followed by Keys to the Heart, Affluent and Damaschino.

Azeri has won 12 of 13 starts and $2,654,820. Owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust, Azeri's nine-race winning streak began in the 2002 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita, the race following a second to Summer Colony in the La Canada Stakes.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime horse," owner Michael Paulson said. "She has so much speed she's scary. When they try to head her, she says, No, you won't do that, and she's a length in front."

Azeri ($2.40) was the subject of massive place and show bets. Of the $1,607,740 bet to show, $1,528,349 was bet on Azeri, creating a minus show pool of $267,226.82. There was a minus place pool of $3,027.

Azeri's next start has not been determined. An obvious consideration is a defense of her title in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap on June 21, but the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13 is a possibility, according to Paulson.

"We talk about it frequently," he said. "She'll dictate what we do."