10/16/2003 11:00PM

Workouts and questions

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BONSALL, Calif. - Friday was relatively quiet for Breeders' Cup hopefuls, the majority of whom will get in their final workouts either Saturday, Sunday, or Monday mornings.

Friday's most significant work took place in the relative obscurity of San Luis Rey Downs, approximately 100 miles southeast of Santa Anita, where reigning Horse of the Year and 2002 Breeders' Cup Distaff champion Azeri gave her best Tiznow impression before finally sizzling six furlongs in 1:10.17 under her regular exercise rider, Brian Eide.

Conditions at San Luis Rey couldn't have been better. The track was fast, the skies were bright, and the temperature was in the low 80's as Azeri made her way onto the course, accompanied by a stable pony. But once stopping by the finish line, Azeri decided she was going to hang around for a while despite continuous proddings from both the pony boy and Eide, who even resorted to dropping his irons a couple of notches at the request of trainer Laura de Seroux in a futile effort to get Azeri's attention.

It took almost 10 minutes before Azeri reluctantly continued her way to the top of the stretch, at which point she dug her toes in for several additional minutes before Eide and the pony rider finally convinced her to canter off in the right direction. She began to pick up interest upon being turned loose by the pony approaching the finish line and accelerated noticeably leaving the 5 1/2-furlong pole. By the time she officially began her work at the five-eighths pole, Azeri was in high gear.

With little urging from Eide, Azeri covered her opening quarter-mile in 22.69 seconds, and her half in 46.47. She hit the wire after five furlongs in 57.75, completed her work around the turn at the seven-eighths pole, then galloped out an additional eighth in 12 and change.

Tiznow routinely propped, wheeled, and generally gave his exercise rider and connections all sorts of fits while also finding time to train like a bear in the final days leading up to the 2001 Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park. But on race day, he was all business, outgaming Sakhee to successfully defend his title in the Classic.

The question remains whether Azeri's reluctance to begin or her over-aggressiveness once she finally got her mind on working Friday can be construed as positive or negative coming only eight days before the BC Distaff - especially considering that the popular filly will likely go off as the favorite in one of the most talented and competitive fields on this year's Breeders' Cup card.

* Three Breeders' Cup hopefuls worked on Friday at Santa Anita, where the weather was also clear and unseasonably warm.

Dixie High (Juvenile Fillies) went five furlongs in 58.20 with jockey Victor Espinoza aboard. It was the fastest of 45 works at the distance that morning, as timed by the track's clockers.

Trainer Richard Mandella sent out two of his Breeders'Cup contenders. Minister Eric (Juvenile) worked six furlongs in 1:13.60 in company with stablemate Exclamation, and The Tin Man (Turf) went a mile in 1:36.60, along with stablemate Middleweight.

* Skies were cloudy and the temperature was in the high 50's at Belmont Park on Friday, when track clockers caught Sulamani (Turf) working five furlongs in 1:15.96 on the main track and Society Selection (Juvenile Fillies) breezing seven-eighths in 1:33.48 over the training track under regular jockey Ray Ganpath.