Updated on 09/17/2011 11:48AM

Azeri's next start likely at Del Mar

Azeri and jockey Mike Smith after winning Saturday's Vanity Handicap. Laura de Seroux says Azeri's next start likely will be in August.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Although Azeri will not start in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13, her trainer, Laura de Seroux, has not entirely ruled out a race against male horses later this summer.

Azeri, the reigning Horse of the Year, stretched her winning streak to 10 with a two-length score in the $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on Saturday. She has not lost since finishing second to Summer Colony in her stakes debut in the La Canada at Santa Anita in February 2002, a streak achieved entirely against fillies and mares.

De Seroux said that she and owner Michael Paulson will choose from two races at Del Mar and a race at Saratoga for Azeri's next start. She ruled out the Hollywood Gold Cup, against males, saying: "I don't want to run back in three weeks."

Judging from her comments, made on Sunday, the most likely choice is the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap over 1 1/16 miles against fillies and mares at Del Mar on Aug. 10, a race Azeri won in 2002.

Other possibilities are two races against males - the $250,000 San Diego Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 3 and the $750,000 Whitney Handicap over 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga on Aug. 2.

"It's good timing to wait for an August race," de Seroux said.

Of the three possibilities, the Whitney Handicap seems the least likely.

"I'm not crazy about traveling with the bad weather the East has been having," de Seroux said.

The decision will likely revolve around the contenders for the San Diego and the weight that Azeri will be assigned in the Clement Hirsch. While the male handicap division in California is not as strong now as in recent years past, de Seroux is quick to acknowledge that Azeri, who races near the front, would have a more difficult race against males, facing pressure throughout from pacesetters and closers.

"There are plenty of soldiers out there that are running well right now," de Seroux said. "I don't want to put her at risk with the winning streak going."

Ultimately, Azeri's campaign will lead to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, a race she won at Arlington Park last year.

There is a chance that Azeri, a 5-year-old mare by Jade Hunter, will have the same schedule in the second half of 2003 as she did in 2002 - Clement Hirsch Handicap, Lady's Secret Handicap at Santa Anita on Sept. 28, and Breeders' Cup Distaff.

In her 14-race career, Azeri has never faced males. During her winning streak, she has won eight Grade 1 stakes and two Grade 2's. In the Vanity, Azeri carried a career-high-matching 127 pounds, the same amount she carried in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita last fall.

The weight assignment was a factor in the tactics used in Saturday's race. Jockey Mike Smith had Azeri close to Sister Girl Blues for the first seven furlongs, led briefly on the backstretch, but did not urge her to the front until the final furlong.

"Going down the backstretch and into the far turn, I was thinking I could blow it open right now if I wanted," Smith said. "But if I did open it up and we win by 10, then they'll give her 130 or something next time."

Azeri returned to de Seroux's base at San Luis Rey Downs in San Diego county on Saturday evening. She will resume serious training in the first week of July.

Since her win in the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap in late May, de Seroux said, Azeri has been more relaxed than she was after she won her 2003 debut in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in early April.

"She was so quiet yesterday, but she's not dull," de Seroux said. "It's when she's at her best. In the paddock, she was almost sleeping.

I don't like to see her dancing and sweating up and being rank."

Still, Azeri can sometimes be difficult to handle, especially when she is galloped at Hollywood Park in the days before her races. The crowded environment at Hollywood is much different than training at San Luis Rey, where de Seroux said the track is nearly deserted by late morning.

"Training at San Luis Rey Downs is a crediting factor to her soundness," de Seroux said. "I'm almost always thinking, Did I do enough?"

So far, Azeri has proven to be more than ready.