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Monday, October 11, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Horse Racing
Stars head to Breeders' Cup

By The Associated Press

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NEW YORK — Smarty Jones is on the farm, and Sightseek is retiring.

Two of the sport's marquee names won't be around for the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas. But the Breeders' Cup races are expected to attract the best North American horses in training, including Birdstone, this year's Triple Crown spoiler; Funny Cide, last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner; and Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year.

Divisional championships are up for grabs in most of the eight Breeders' Cup races, which will be worth a total of about $14 million.

There is also the matter of Horse of the Year. Has 3-year-old Smarty Jones, the retired Derby and Preakness winner, wrapped up the award? Or can a win in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic by Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, defending Classic champion Pleasantly Perfect or Roses in May (5 for 5 this year) change the outcome of the end-of-the-year balloting?

After a final weekend of major prep races, the fields for the Breeders' Cup races began to take shape.

The BC Distaff could undergo changes as the race gets closer, but Azeri appears to be the favorite now that Sightseek closed out her sensational career with a win in the Beldame at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Azeri ($2.80 to win) dominated the Grade I Overbrook Spinster Stakes yesterday at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. The 6-year-old mare, who ran 1-1/8 miles in 1 minute, 49-3/5 seconds, won the $500,000 race by 3 lengths over Tamweel.

D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Azeri, and owner Michael Paulson are contemplating passing on the $2 million Distaff in favor of facing males in the Classic. Lukas said Paulson will make the decision.

"Either way, she'll be good for Lone Star and good for the Breeders' Cup," Lukas said of Azeri.

Other Distaff prospects — all Grade I winners — include Society Selection and Storm Flag Flying, the second- and third-place finishers in the Beldame; Ashado, a four-time winner this year; and Stellar Jayne, the Mother Goose and Gazelle winner.
 
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Funny Cide will have a tough job in the Classic, as he challenges runners such as Bago, impressive winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on turf in Paris; Birdstone; Ghostzapper; Pleasantly Perfect; and Roses in May.

The 2-year-old division looks wide open after Proud Accolade defeated previously unbeaten Afleet Alex in the Champagne at Belmont and Consolidator beat Patriot Act in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, with favored Bellamy Road seventh.

All appear headed to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where Bob Baffert-trained Roman Ruler is likely to get plenty of support at the betting windows.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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