Spring 2003 (11.1)
Best Race Horse of the Year - "Azeri"
by Jay Hovdey
Left: Azeri and Mike Smith return after a
commanding victory in the Grade I $200,000 Milady Breeders' Cup
Handicap Saturday, May 25, 2002 at Hollywood Park, Inglewood,
CA. The 4-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter is owned by Mike Paulson
and trained by Laura DeSeroux. (Benoit Photo)
To be Azeri has taken
on a whole new meaning, at least when it comes to the sport of
Thoroughbred Horse Racing. "Azeri" is the name of a
Thoroughbred mare. She is five years old and weighs about 1,000
pounds. Her coat is a rich, mahogany red. Often, by nature, thoroughbreds
are tightly-wound, easily agitated creatures, prone to fits of
temper and unpredictable behavior. Azeri, on the other hand,
is so docile that her handlers call her "Honeybear."
But more than that, Azeri is acknowledged as the best racehorse
in North America. That was the verdict of the thoroughbred racing
industry on Jan. 27, 2003, when Azeri was crowned "Horse
of the Year" before a glitzy crowd at the Regent Beverly
Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. It was Miss America and the
Oscars all rolled into one, as Azeri became the third female
horse ever to receive such an honor in the 32-year history of
Azeri was named by her original owner Allen Paulson, the aerospace
magnate whose many global investments included racehorses, casinos
and oil exploration. As a breeder and owner of hundreds of racehorses,
Paulson cast a wide net in search of colorful and interesting
names. It was oil that took Paulson to Baku in the mid-1990s
and hence the name - Azeri.
Paulson passed away in the summer of 2000, before Azeri had even
begun her career as a racehorse. Paulson's son, Michael, carried
on for his father, and Azeri has proven to be a gem of great
value. During 2002, her first full year of competition, she appeared
in nine races and won eight of them, climaxed by her impressive
victory last October in one of the events at the Breeders' Cup
World Championships, which took place at a racetrack near Chicago.
Azeri's total prize money for year 2002 came to more than $2.1
When not racing, Azeri can be found at the San Luis Rey Downs
Training Center near the Southern California town of Bonsall,
located about 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles. There, Azeri
spends her mornings in a regimen of strict fitness conditioning
under the supervision of her trainer, 50-year-old Laura de Seroux.
In the afternoon, when her work is done, Azeri enjoys a long
nap lying in the warm sand of her roomy, sun-drenched enclosure.
Azeri returned to competition on April 5, at a racetrack in Hot
Springs, Arkansas, and picked up right where she left off at
the end of 2002 with yet another victory. Her ultimate goal for
2003 is once again the Breeders' Cup World Championship, which
will be held in late October at Santa Anita Park racetrack in
Arcadia, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.
Jay Hovdey is executive columnist for Daily Racing Form, the
leading journal of the Thoroughbred world. The exploits of Azeri
can be followed on <www.drf.com>.
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