► Azeri, Mike Smith up, wins the 2003 Apple Blossom Handicap (Coady Photography)
Azeri was one of the most accomplished Thoroughbreds during the first decade of the 21st century. A Kentucky-bred filly, Azeri won 11 Grade 1 races in her career, was named Horse of the Year in 2002 and Champion Older Female in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
Allen E. Paulson purchased Azeri as a $110,000 buyback at the September 1999 Keeneland yearling sale from the consignment of Jonabell Farm. Paulson was an aerospace magnate, and he named his future champion after an aviation checkpoint in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
Paulson, however, died in July of 2000 never knowing the greatness Azeri would achieve. Paulson's son, J. Michael Paulson, managed his father's trust and sent Azeri to the races for the first time on Nov. 1, 2001.
A daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Jade Hunter out of the Ahonoora mare Zodiac Miss, Azeri won her debut at Santa Anita and her only other start that year as a 3-year-old.
As a 4-year-old in 2002, Azeri won eight of her nine starts, including Grade 1 victories in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap, Apple Blossom Handicap, Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap, and Vanity Handicap.
At age 5 in 2003, Azeri extended her win streak to 11. She won three Grade 1 races that year, including repeats in the Apple Blossom, Milady, and Vanity. She was transferred from trainer Laura de Seroux to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas following her 2003 campaign.
At age 6, Azeri won the Apple Blossom for the third consecutive year and added Grade 1 victories in the Go for Wand Handicap and Spinster Stakes. She was retired with a record of 17-4-0 from 24 starts and earnings of $4,079,820, the all-time record for earnings among females (since broken by Zenyatta).
Azeri was inducted in the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame in 2010.