10/27/2003 12:00AM

Paulson drops de Seroux

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Azeri won 11 straight races and was the 2002 Horse of the Year, but after a loss in last month's Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap, and subsequent injury, she was sent to Kentucky. Now the remaining eight horses Michael Paulson has with trainer Laura de Seroux are leaving her care.

"Mike has decided his horses would do better on the East Coast, so they are leaving on Friday," de Seroux said. She said four Paulson horses were currently in training, and four more were recuperating.

Paulson manages the Allen Paulson Living Trust, which owns Azeri. "I think most of dad's pedigrees are better suited to the East Coast," Paulson said Monday. "I think the tracks are a little softer, and the workers' comp situation in California is a factor." Paulson said Michael Matz and Bill Mott would train some of the horses.

Paulson was upset after the Lady's Secret and criticized jockey Mike Smith's ride. Azeri was subsequently found to have a tendon injury, and last week was sent to Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

Paulson also questioned de Seroux's choice of races for Azeri after the Lady's Secret, saying he had wanted to run in the Whitney, against males, in the summer.

"If she'd have run in one of those New York races and, by the grace of God, beaten Medaglia d'Oro or Mineshaft, she might be Horse of the Year," Paulson said Monday.

Azeri remains a strong candidate to win an Eclipse Award as champion older filly or mare.