06/14/2004 11:00PM

Azeri vs. Sightseek

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Azeri's last victory came three races ago, in the $500,000 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 3

ELMONT, N.Y. - The first meeting between two-time defending divisional champion Azeri and multiple Grade 1 winner Sightseek will take place Saturday at Belmont Park in the $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap.

Only two other runners - 2002 juvenile filly champion Storm Flag Flying and Grade 1 winner Passing Shot - are expected for the Grade 1 Phipps, known as the Hempstead Handicap before last year. Entries for the 1 1/16-mile race are to be taken on Thursday.

Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year and champion older filly and mare the last two years, completed preparations for the Phipps on Tuesday morning by working four furlongs in 48 seconds at Churchill Downs. She was scheduled to van from Churchill Downs on Thursday along with Stellar Jayne, who is being pointed to the Mother Goose here on June 26.

Azeri will be trying to snap her first-ever two-race losing streak in the Phipps. She was beaten a head by Mayo on the Side in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Derby Day and then finished a well-beaten eighth in the Metropolitan Handicap, her first try against males.

Azeri will be the starting highweight at 123 pounds in the Phipps and will again be ridden by Pat Day. Sightseek, the defending Phipps winner, will carry 120 pounds under Jerry Bailey. Storm Flag Flying, to be ridden by John Velazquez, will carry 117 pounds, while Passing Shot was assigned 116. Passing Shot's regular rider, Jose Santos, is scheduled to ride Funny Cide in Saturday's $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap.

Like Azeri, Sightseek will be trying to bounce back off a subpar effort. She finished fourth, beaten seven lengths, in the Louisville Breeders' Cup at Churchill on April 30. Trainer Bobby Frankel believes Sightseek didn't handle the sloppy track that day.

Sightseek has been training sensationally at Belmont, where she also won last fall's Grade 1 Beldame.

"She couldn't be training any better," Frankel said. "She's dead fit."

Frankel gave a half-hearted "yeah" when asked if he was looking forward to running against Azeri. "I'd like to win the race," Frankel said. "I mean, if she wasn't in the race it wouldn't hurt my feelings."

Cat Fighter was expected to join the prospective field for the Phipps after scratching out of last Saturday's Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs. But trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday that Cat Fighter developed a fever after working five furlongs on Saturday at Churchill and will not make the race.