03/10/2005 1:00AM

Island Sand heads stellar cast in Azeri


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Azeri would dig it.

The field for the Grade 3, $175,000 race named in her honor Saturday at Oaklawn is so deep that the cast of six includes a Grade 1 winner in Island Sand, a Grade 2 winner in La Reason, and a Grade 3 winner in Fencelineneighbor. There's also a horse shooting for her fourth straight win in Casual Attitude, a Todd Pletcher-trained Gulfstream invader coming off a win in Colony Band, and a recent stakes winner in Injustice.

The Azeri Breeders' Cup is a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up. Until last year it was known as the Oaklawn BC. It is a prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom, a race Azeri, now retired, won a record three times from 2002-2004.

is pointing for the Apple Blossom on April 9. She comes into the Azeri on the heels of a solid second-place finish to Casual Attitude in the $50,000 Pippin Stakes here on Feb. 19. Island Sand had a demanding trip between horses in the two-turn Pippin, which was her first start in nearly four months and her first race without blinkers. She figures move forward Saturday.

"We're right where we need to be," said Larry Jones, who trains Island Sand for B A Man Inc.

Island Sand won the Grade 1 Acorn last year, and also finished second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She might get a nice stalking trip behind Injustice, Fencelineneighbor, and Colony Band.

"The beauty part about this filly is she can run whichever way she needs to," said Jones. "When she won the Acorn, she was in the back of the pack, and in the Kentucky Oaks we were left at the gate, and so we were completely dead last. But she's been known to take it from gate to wire. She can play it however she needs to."

Terry Thompson will ride Island Sand.

Fencelineneighbor invades from Santa Anita, where last out she was a big second in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff. She raced close to a strong pace in the race, but does not need to be on the lead Saturday.

"She can sit," said Mike Machowsky, who trains Fencelineneighbor.

Machowsky said Fencelineneighbor has trained strongly for the Azeri. In her final prep, she went six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.60 Feb. 25.

La Reason, trained by David Vance, will add blinkers.