10/20/2003 12:00AM

It's official: Azeri out of Distaff


ARCADIA, Calif. - Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, will not defend her title in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita and may be facing retirement, trainer Laura de Seroux said Monday morning.

De Seroux had told Daily Racing Form on Saturday that she was concerned over Azeri's obstinate behavior before several recent workouts, most recently on Friday at San Luis Rey Downs, where she trains. Azeri worked swiftly on Friday, but only after first balking at the commands of exercise rider Brian Eide to head off for the work.

"My feeling is she's trying to tell us something," de Seroux said. "It's my job to listen. She's always trained with joy. I think she's trying to tell us something."

De Seroux said the decision to bypass the Distaff was made after consulting Michael Paulson, who manages the Allen Paulson Living Trust that owns Azeri.

Azeri had her 11-race winning streak come to an end in her last start, the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Azeri is scheduled to go to the breeding shed next spring.