06/09/2010 11:00PM

Q&A: Laura de Seroux

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Benoit & Associates
Laura de Seroux with Azeri, who was the Horse of the Year in 2002 and was voted into the Hall of Fame this year.

Now retired in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., she trained Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, who was recently named one of the Hall of Fame inductees of 2010

Birthdate: February 9, 1952, in Los Angeles, Calif.

Family: husband, Emmanuel

Got into racing because . . . "After one incomplete semester at Cal State Los Angeles, I went to the racetrack to apply better grooming skills to hunters and jumpers. I never left. My first job was grooming two horses for trainer Eddie Truman when he was working in the racing office and had a few horses in training on the side."

How gratifying was it to have a horse you trained go into the Hall of Fame? "It's a great honor, considering the time frame. There is usually a backlog of deserving candidates, and therefore it usually takes longer."

Safe to say she was the best horse you trained? "Real safe."

Azeri had many high points during her career. Which races stand out for you? "Obviously, the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 2002, but the Lady's Secret, which was her final race before the Breeders' Cup, was a very interesting race. Mark Hennig sent out Mystic Lady from the East Coast, and I suspect the mission was to expose Azeri's Achilles' heel, if there was such a thing. Keep in mind that Azeri's only defeat had been to Summer Colony, trained by Hennig, who was heading to the Breeders' Cup Distaff for a rematch. Mystic Lady made a very sudden, premature move on the backside and surged to go alongside Azeri heading into the final turn and even headed Azeri for a few strides. The early move failed and Azeri prevailed; no chinks in her armor were found."

When Azeri won the Apple Blossom in her first start of 2003, she did it despite an abbreviated training campaign. How nerve-wracking were the weeks leading up to that race? "The judge in the Allen Paulson Living Trust dispute had ruled that all the horses, including Azeri, were to be sold at the Barretts March sale, and we were under a court order to keep the horses in light exercise only. Mike Paulson had assured me that the matter would be resolved, so the Apple Blossom was penciled in. The race was April 5, and Azeri hadn't raced since October. Let's just say that she ran off a few times from the wire to the backside and then had a handful of published works when the court order was lifted. So we walked a fine line into the race knowing that she wasn't 100 percent fit, but fit enough to run. I had a few anxious moments in the saddling area, where I got a good look at Take Charge Lady. She looked super fit, and it turned out to be quite a duel. Azeri really dug deep to win that race, and it was probably her most courageous race."

Azeri had a great career, winning Eclipse Awards in consecutive years while trained by you. Zenyatta is in the midst of a great career and has won Eclipse Awards in consecutive years. Are you a fan? "I'm a huge fan, and watching her win the Breeders' Cup Classic brought tears to my eyes."

Compare and contrast Zenyatta and Azeri: "Zenyatta is a pure closer, and she is so brilliant that she is not compromised by a lack of pace and still finds a way to win. If there is a fast pace, she mows them down all the better. Azeri developed into a front-runner, but she was not one-dimensional. If she missed the start, she could relax and finish. Leave her alone on the lead, and you can't catch her. Take her on up front, and you will commit suicide."

You worked for Charlie Whittingham when he had the deepest barn on the West Coast. Who were some of the horses you galloped during that time, and who were your favorites? "Nineteen-eighty-five and 1986 were great years for Charlie, and I had the honor of galloping Dahar, Estrapade, Greinton, Lord At War, Palace Music, Thrill Show, and Strawberry Road, all Grade 1 winners. My favorites were Greinton, because he was so sweet; Palace Music, because he was so cheeky; and Strawberry Road, aka Ro Ro, because he was so ridiculously tough to gallop, and I had to outsmart him in the dark every morning. My all-time favorite, though, was a mare named Swingtime because she would balk for everybody except for me. For some crazy reason, she loved me and would literally try to kill all the others who came near her."

What impact did Whittingham have on you becoming a trainer? "He was the ultimate paradigm for me; his methods became instilled in me through days, weeks, and years of consistent patterns that nuanced into instinct and feel, and those intangibles are what you draw on as a trainer."

Best horse seen? "Ooh, that's a tough one. Spectacular Bid."

Best horse ridden? "Dahlia ran off with me one morning, and when I was pulled up by the outrider, I said, 'Now I know why she's the world's winningest mare.' "

Childhood heroes? "Nautical, the horse with the flying tail. As an adult, my heroes were Chris Evert and then Steffi Graf and now Roger Federer."

Childhood dreams? "To be able to afford my own horse to hunt and jump."

Now that you've retired, what keeps you busy these days? "Riding show jumpers, golf, and tennis."

What are you better at, golf or tennis? "Tennis, for sure."

Favorite TV show? " 'True Blood.' I just love the writing of Alan Ball. 'Boston Legal' was very high on my list, and the Glenn Close series 'Damages.' "

Recent movies you saw that you liked? " 'The Reader,' 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,' 'Babel,' 'In the Valley of Elah,' 'Blood Diamond,' and 'Frozen River.' "

Last book you read? "'The Tender Bar,' by J.R. Moehringer."

Your husband, Emmanuel, is one of the sport's most successful bloodstock agents. Where is he jetting off to next? " 'San Diego, I hope, because he is in Japan at the moment.' "