Azeri is in class of her own in Horse of Year running

Other top horses falter in Classic

Xtra Heat is cut

Horse Racing

Breeders' Cup notebook

October 28, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - No female thoroughbred has ever been voted Horse of the Year without first beating males. Azeri is probably going to change that.

Her electrifying performance Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park, combined with the dismal performance by America's top horses in the Classic, virtually assures Azeri will win North American racing's highest honor.

"Who else is there?" Laura de Seroux, trainer of the 4-year-old filly, said yesterday outside her barn at Arlington. "Who else would you give it to? She's simply the fastest filly in the world right now."

Azeri zipped to a five-length victory in the Distaff for her seventh straight win and 10th win in 11 career starts. Until the Breeders' Cup, she had raced only once outside her home state of California, winning the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

The Breeders' Cup was her first performance on a national stage. Neon lights flashed her name after she toyed with a Distaff field considered perhaps the deepest, most competitive of the afternoon.

Since the Eclipse Awards were instituted in 1971, the only females voted Horse of the Year have been All Along in 1983 and Lady's Secret in 1986. All Along beat males three times in this country, and Lady's Secret defeated males in the Whitney Handicap.

Turf writers, racing officials and Daily Racing Form employees vote for Horse of the Year and the other Eclipse Awards.

Rough going for Xtra Heat

Xtra Heat sustained a half-dozen or so cuts on her legs and hoofs during her sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

John Salzman, her trainer and part-owner, said he didn't want to make excuses for the Maryland filly but she apparently had trouble gripping the track. The dirt surface was listed "fast" but contained moisture from recent rains.

Salzman said Xtra Heat probably cut herself "fumbling trying to get her feet under herself." He said she had never suffered similar cuts in a race. He described them as superficial.

"She's run better races, but she hasn't run many worse ones," Salzman said. "Still, she got beat just five lengths by the best sprinters in the world."

Xtra Heat's next assignment for her Maryland owners - Salzman, Harry Deitchman and Ken Taylor - is the auction ring. She will be offered for sale Sunday in a Fasig-Tipton auction in Lexington, Ky. Salzman said she will van there today.

If she meets her $2.2 million reserve, meaning a bid must surpass that amount, she will be sold. If she doesn't, she will return to Maryland and continue racing from her Laurel base.

Came Home hurt

Paco Gonzalez, trainer of Came Home, said the 3-year-old colt injured his left knee during his 10th-place finish in the Classic. He said Mike Smith, the jockey, "said he felt something going into the first turn, and then going down the backside he felt his stride getting shorter and shorter."

Came Home is scheduled to van today to Lane's End Farm in Kentucky to begin stud duty next year.

Miscellaneous

Bob Baffert, trainer of Vindication, winner of the Juvenile, expects his undefeated son of Seattle Slew to be a "paparazzi horse" during the buildup to next year's Kentucky Derby. "It's going to be very exciting to know that you've got a really good 2-year-old, and he's the kind of horse fans can follow and get on the bandwagon," Baffert said. "You always need a new star, so we're fortunate we have him." ...

Shug McGaughey, trainer of Storm Flag Flying, winner of the Juvenile Fillies, said it wasn't unreasonable to think the undefeated 2-year-old filly could run next year in the Kentucky Derby. ...

The Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien won the Turf with High Chapparal, but his mood was subdued after his outstanding 3-year-old colt Landseer broke a leg in the Mile and was euthanized. Some of the European horses, despite top-flight credentials, compromised their chances by breaking strides slower than their American competitors. O'Brien said the Europeans might need to prep in the United States for the Breeders' Cup series. "You can school as much as you want, but nothing beats racing," O'Brien said. "The pace of your races is so fast. Obviously, we have to sharpen up on that."

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