Memories of Azeri as Arienza Starts on Sunday

March 6, 2011

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I think it's fairly clear that the name Arienza doesn't strike fear in the heart of any horseman when she makes her first career start on Sunday in Oaklawn's 10th race.  Not yet, anyhow.

Arienza is located in Spain,which is all the more intriguing, since the dam of Arienza is champion Azeri, who was trained in the latter stages of her career by D. Wayne Lukas, who also trained a champion named Spain.

But I digress.  The beauty of Arienza is her affilitiation with the great Azeri and that she lands in the barn of a talented young Arkansas trainer, Dan Peitz.  For Dan's sake, I'll be rooting for the filly by Giant's Causeway on Sunday, not because of any investment, but because I think it's wonderful that a capable guy like Dan gets a chance with such a great pedigreed individual.

Of course there's two sides to this story.  If this filly had attracted the big spenders at sale, she wouldn't be with a Dan Peitz.  But she is today and I'm praying for Dan in this one.

Azeri provided Oaklawn fans with one of the track's greatest moments when she won a last-gasp dual with Take Charge Lady in the 2003 Apple Blossom Handicap, her second of three consecutive wins in the premier event of the Spring for older fillies and mares in this country. The official margin was listed as a "head", but that was the littlest head of all times.  The beautiful chestnut daughter of Jade Hunter had been teamed with Mike Smith, a fact lost in all the hoopla connecting Mike with Zenyatta.  Azeri was the greatest filly or mare to run at Oaklawn prior to Zenyatta and was just as thrilling to Oaklawn fans during the early part of this decade.

Azeri was with a little-known trainer, Laura de Seroux, when she first arrived at Oaklawn, but she made immediate impact not just at Oaklawn, but aroud the country in that championship season.  Her comeback win in 2003 was breath-taking and should never be forgotten.

Likewise, when Lukas, who is often maligned in California, but loved at Oaklawn, took over her training for the 2004 season, there were few who thought he could have her ready for such a demanding task as the Apple Blossom as her first start of the year.  Furthermore, no mare had ever managed to win that prestigious race on three consecutive occasions since it was first run exclusively for fillies and mares since Levee Night scored the win in the 1973 edition.

But ready she was and brilliant champion started the 2004 Racing Festival of the South by even upstaging the likes of Smarty Jones in scoring a length-and-a-half win.  She was a great champion and on Sunday I'll be celebrating the arrival of her first daughter to race, Arienza.  Arriba, Arriba, Arienza and thanks to Azeri.  She's one of many who have made my many years of association with Oaklawn Park so special. 

Oh, and Dan, Arriba, Arriba to you, too.


FOOTNOTE:  Arienza lived up to expectations on Sunday, winning by two-and-a-half lengths and getting six furlongs in 1:10.2 on the fast track.  Can't wait to see her again.      

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