10/20/2002 11:00PM

BC Countdown - Distaff: Azeri and company sharp in last drills


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Very little needed to be done with Azeri following her victory three weeks ago in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap, but her subsequent works have so impressed Laura de Seroux that the trainer heads into Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff full of confidence.

"Everything is perfect. Azeri is dead fit," de Seroux said Monday, after Azeri worked three furlongs at Southern California's San Luis Rey Downs training center in 35.80 seconds, a move de Seroux said was "absolutely stunning."

Azeri will be the favorite in the day's first Breeders' Cup race at Arlington Park. She has won her last six starts, and is 9 for 10 lifetime. She will face seven rivals, three of whom also completed their serious training with workouts to start the week.

Brian Eide, a former jockey who is now an exercise rider, was aboard for Azeri's work. He had Azeri gallop out a half-mile in 48 seconds and five furlongs in 1:03, according to de Seroux.

"He sits as still as a day with no breeze," de Seroux said of Eide.

Azeri was scheduled to be flown to Chicago on Tuesday, along with Southern California-based runners Farda Amiga and Starrer.

Farda Amiga, who won the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes in her last two starts, also worked Monday, at her base at Hollywood Park. She was timed in 1:00.60 for five furlongs, completing a series of works that have thrilled trainer Paulo Lobo.

"She went very well. It was a very good work," Lobo said. "Last Tuesday, we went easily, so this time we went a little faster. I'm very happy."

Here at Arlington, Two Item Limit, who could be the longest shot in the field, continued to train strongly, as she has for the past week. That in itself is probably not enough to back her against this outstanding field, but Two Item Limit could not be training any better.

Rene Douglas, Two Item Limit's jockey, was aboard Monday morning for a half-mile breeze in 48.20 seconds.

Steve DiMauro, the trainer of Two Item Limit, was attending to his stable in Florida on Monday and had assistant Mike O'Neill oversee Two Item Limit's work. But DiMauro still saw the drill; he made sure he was in front of his television to watch the workout on TVG's "The Works" show.

"I'm a TV trainer now," DiMauro said. "She didn't need anything real serious. She's been very aggressive, but she does rate, and she does relax. She's as good as she was last year going into the race. No matter how much we do, she bucks and squeals."

In last year's Distaff, Two Item Limit finished third as a 32-1 longshot.

Two Item Limit is the lone Distaff runner who arrived before this week. She has been here more than one month.

Starrer, who finished second to Azeri in the Lady's Secret, worked six furlongs in 1:12 on Sunday at Hollywood Park with jockey Patrick Valenzuela aboard.

Imperial Gesture was scheduled to work on Tuesday at Belmont Park, and fly here on Thursday. Summer Colony also is scheduled to fly here Thursday from New York. Take Charge Lady will arrive on Thursday, but she is traveling by van from Churchill Downs.

Mandy's Gold arrived safely at Arlington on Monday morning after an overnight van ride from Delaware Park.

The Distaff field scheduled to be entered on Wednesday morning is Azeri (Mike Smith the jockey), Farda Amiga (Pat Day), Mandy's Gold (Jose Santos), Imperial Gesture (Jerry Bailey), Starrer (Valenzuela), Summer Colony (John Velazquez), Take Charge Lady (Edgar Prado), and Two Item Limit (Douglas).