05/26/2003 11:00PM

Vanity likely next stop for Azeri

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Continuing her campaign against her own division, Azeri is expected to defend her title in the $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 21, trainer Laura de Seroux said.

Monday, de Seroux reported that Azeri emerged from her victory in Saturday's Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park in good shape and has returned to San Luis Rey Downs in northern San Diego County, de Seroux's base.

"Whoever has to walk her has had a tough time keeping up," she said.

The 2002 Horse of the Year, the 5-year-old Azeri scored her ninth consecutive win in the Grade 1 Milady. Last year, she won the Milady and Vanity during a campaign that ended with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park.

Because of her dominance in the filly and mare division over the last 15 months, there have been discussions of trying Azeri against males, possibly in the $400,000 Californian Stakes on June 14 or the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup. De Seroux and owner Michael Paulson have not finalized plans for Azeri's next start, but the Vanity remains the most likely option.

"I'd like to go in the Vanity because it's another Grade 1," de Seroux said. "If we take on the boys, we should do it when her next race is a weight-for-age race in her own division."

Later this summer a race such as the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 24 could be considered. "We could go to the Pacific Classic and then the Breeders' Cup, but that's all speculation," de Seroux said.

What is certain is that Azeri put in an outstanding performance in the Milady, scoring a three-length win over Enjoy, who was making her stakes debut. The Milady was Azeri's second win of the year. She won the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 5, but needed the entire stretch to catch Take Charge Lady.

In the Milady, Azeri carried 125 pounds. She withstood a challenge from Damaschino on the first turn and Affluent on the backstretch before pulling clear to eventually win by three lengths.

"It was no pushover," de Seroux said. "It was an exciting race. I know it all sounds so corny, but she truly thrives on the competition."

Makeup Artist serious after surgery

Makeup Artist, the winner of the Senorita Stakes on May 17, underwent surgery last Friday for colic surgery and was in serious condition on Monday, trainer John Shirreffs said.

Makeup Artist was sent to Chino Valley Equine Hospital on Friday after showing signs of discomfort. She had four feet of small intestine removed during surgery on Friday afternoon, Shirreffs said.

Owned by George Krikorian, Makeup Artist was kept for observation over the weekend, but Shirreffs said on Monday that her condition was improving.

"It's all good news," he said. "They're reintroducing solid food. As long as that goes well, we'll be in good shape."

Makeup Artist has won 2 of 4 starts and $136,300. She finished second in the Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in April and won the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes after being supplemented for $5,000. Following that race, there was hope that Makeup Artist could be a contender for the $750,000 American Oaks on July 5.

Shirreffs did not estimate what impact the surgery could have on Makeup Artist's career, but remained optimistic that she could return. He is more concerned, however, about her short-term health.

"You always hear good stories about horses that recover and go on and have good careers," Shirreffs said. "I don't want to look beyond the first step."

Crafty C.T. to take a drop

Crafty C.T., second in the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Handicap at Keeneland on April 13, will take a drop in class into Saturday's $75,000 Ack Ack Handicap in an effort to end a five-race losing streak.

The 5-year-old Crafty C.T. is trained by Howard Zucker and will carry topweight of 120 pounds in the Ack Ack, which is run over 7 1/2 furlongs, a distance seldom used for stakes. Crafty C.T.'s most recent win came in an allowance race at Del Mar last August.

Crafty C.T. will face a field expected to include Cappuchino, Danthebluegrassman, Geronimo, Gondolieri, Jimmy Z, Joey Franco, Kela, Publication, and Taste of Paradise.

The Ack Ack is one of two $75,000 races this weekend, joined by Sunday's Manhattan Beach Handicap for 3-year-old fillies over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. This is the lone weekend of the spring-summer meeting that does not feature a graded stakes.

Private Chef staying on turf for now

Private Chef, the undefeated winner of the Will Rogers Handicap on Sunday, will be pointed for the $200,000 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf, Shirreffs said.

Private Chef won a maiden race on the main track at Santa Anita in February and did not start again until the Will Rogers, run over a mile on turf. While Shirreffs has not ruled out a return to dirt racing, he wants to keep Private Chef on turf in the short-term.

"His style of running is probably better not racing on the main track," Shirreffs said.

Sky Jack working for return

Sky Jack, the winner of the 2002 Hollywood Gold Cup, worked six furlongs in 1:14.80 on Monday, and could start in late June, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Sky Jack has not started since finishing 11th in the Pacific Classic last August, a layoff caused by a knee injury.

"A few more works and he should be able to run," O'Neill said.

- Ballingarry, the winner of the Canadian International last year who is winless in three starts in the United States, is being pointed for the Stars and Stripes Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Arlington Park on July 5, de Seroux said. The 4-year-old Ballingarry finished third on the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap on May 10.