10/19/2004 11:00PM

Race could decide two championships

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The 3-year-old Hollywood Story, unraced since July, was a surprise pre-entry.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - The 12 pre-entries for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff include top contenders for the Eclipse Awards for both older filly or mare and 3-year-old filly, meaning the race could determine as many as two championships when it is run Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park.

Azeri, who won the Distaff in 2002 and is a two-time champion as best older filly or mare, is the marquee name. Although it seems more logical for her to run in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff, owner Michael Paulson said on Wednesday that he has not decided whether Azeri will instead go in the Classic against males at 1 1/4 miles.

Azeri worked six furlongs in 1:13.40 on Wednesday at Churchill Downs.

"It was excellent," Paulson said after getting a report from trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

The only previous time Azeri faced males was in the Metropolitan Handicap, in which she finished eighth of nine. Paulson said that running one turn at Belmont, getting stuck on the rail, and facing a field loaded with speed compromised Azeri's chances in the Met Mile.

"The results didn't look good, but you have to take everything into consideration," he said.

Azeri would be a heavy favorite in the Distaff, but it is not a walkover. The top older females pre-entered on Wednesday include Storm Flag Flying, who won the 2002 Juvenile at Arlington Park and this summer defeated Azeri in the Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga, and Island Fashion, who captured the Lady's Secret Handicap at Santa Anita in her last start and earlier this year ran second against males in the Santa Anita Handicap. If either Island Fashion or Storm Flag Flying defeats Azeri, they could end up with the Eclipse Award.

The 3-year-old filly title is between Ashado, Society Selection, and Stellar Jayne, all of whom were pre-entered in the Distaff. Ashado won the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks. Society Selection won the Test and Alabama stakes at Saratoga. Stellar Jayne was second in the Alabama and CCA Oaks, but defeated Ashado and Society Selection in the Mother Goose.

The biggest surprise among Distaff pre-entries was the 3-year-old filly Hollywood Story, who has not raced since finishing third in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 3. She has been aggressively managed her entire career. Hollywood Story was fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies while still a maiden, earned her lone win in the Hollywood Starlet, and has competed in four Grade 1 stakes this year. John Shirreffs, the trainer of Hollywood Story, said Wednesday from Hollywood Park that the decision to go for the Distaff "came about fairly recently."

"Maybe George had it in the back of his mind earlier," he said, referring to owner George Krikorian. "George really supports the game and the business."

Also entered in the Distaff is Elloluv, who finished second to Adoration in last year's Distaff.

The European filly Nebraska Tornado was cross-entered in the Filly and Mare Turf, but the Distaff is preferred. She is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, which has Light Jig in the Filly and Mare Turf.

"We don't want to run two fillies in the Filly and Mare Turf," said Dr. John Chandler, the general manager for Juddmonte Farms.

Juddmonte also owns Sightseek, who would have been one of the top choices in the Distaff but was never seriously considered for the race and was recently retired.

Distaff (Grade 1) 1 1/8 miles Purse: $2,000,000

HORSETRAINERCOMMENTODDS
AzeriD. W. LukasBetter, stronger, and faster than her opposition6-5
Society SelectionH. A. JerkensThis sets up more favorably than Beldame did6-1
Storm Flag FlyingC. McGaugheyFigures to be more comfortable going two turns5-1
Island FashionM. PolancoThreat if able to recapture early-season form10-1
TamweelW. CatalanoTried hard in her second to Azeri last time out12-1
AshadoT. PletcherShe's still a question at the distance at this level6-1
ElloluvC. DollaseSecond in this last year; was in better form then20-1
Stellar JayneD. W. LukasHasn't run poorly in a while, but is a notch below20-1
Nebraska TornadoA. FabreTerrific last year, but a disappointment this year30-1
Hollywood StoryJ. ShirreffsIneffective this year, and absent since early July50-1
Indy GrooveT. ProctorHer biggest win came at Mountaineer; 'nuff said50-1
Bare NecessitiesF. KirbyLost her sharp form after the switch in trainers50-1

- Odds and commentary by Mike Watchmaker.