Azan's Franfield can surprise again
Over the past 20 years, Richard Azan has dominated the Superstakes, winning the rich and prestigious 2000-metre race a record nine times.
And today his streak could well be extended with last year's winner FRANFIELD, one of the fancied horses in the 38th running of the Burger King-sponsored event, which offers a total purse of $4.5 million.
FRANFIELD scored an upset win under leading all-time jockey Winston Griffiths a year ago, but subsequently proved that the win was no fluke by coming back to beat reigning 'Horse of the Year' SEEKING MY DREAM in the Chairman's Trophy over 1500 metres on March 12.
FRANFIELD also beat the 2015 champion stayer PERFECT NEIGHBOUR in the Governor General's Stakes over the Superstakes distance on October 1 to position himself for a possible repeat.
That would be a momentous occasion for Azan, who has shown a capacity for scoring repeat wins in the Superstakes.
The legendary MENUDO won the race four consecutive years in the familiar blue and white silks of owner/trainer Azan between 1999 and 2002, an unprecedented feat by any horse in the long and colourful history of the race.
MENUDO won it for the first time as a three-year-old with Panamanian jockey Roger Moore aboard, then for good measure reeled out three more wins in a row with Andrew Ramgeet aboard.
MENUDO, the 2000 and 20001 'Horse of the Year', failed in his bid to win the race on his fifth attempt in 2003, having broken down during the race.
Another repeat winner for Azan was two-time 'Horse of the Year' MARK MY WORD, who won the race for three consecutive years from 2010 to 2012. The trainer recalls:
"He seemed on course to win the race for a fourth straight year, but suffered a colic infection which claimed his life, a sad loss, coming at the time it did."
Prior to MENUDO'S streak, Azan, doubling as owner/trainer, won the race for the first time in 1995 with derby winner DORVAL, ridden by the legendary George HoSang.
Now seeking win number 10, Azan explains his fantastic run of success in this particular race:
"First of all, you have to be lucky enough to have a good, promising three-year-old and build on what you have as the season progresses. The horse has to show a liking for a distance of ground and you have to ensure he remains sound. Programming is a critical factor in his development ,meaning he cannot run too often.
"FRANFIELD is a case in point, and given his programming and conditioning leading up to the race, is ready to give it his best shot.
"He won convincingly last year, is a better horse this year, having beaten SEEKING MY DREAM in the Chairman's Trophy in March and PERFECT NEIGHBOUR in the Governor General's Stakes over the Superstakes distance some weeks ago.
"I have every confidence that FRANFIELD will receive a good ride from the much-improved apprentice Bebeto Harvey, who knows him well, and we'll see what happens in what promises to be a highly competitive race,' said the 64-year-old trainer.
A big-race trainer in his own right, Azan obtained his licence in 1994 following a lengthy stint in Panama as an owner. He was assistant trainer to Fitz Crawford in the late '80s, at which time he owned a good horse, PRINCE MIKE, who was beaten by THE VICEROY as the favourite in the 1989 Guineas.
In later years, Azan won the derby on two occasions with DORVAL (1995) and MARK MY WORD (2010), not to mention successes in the 2000 Guineas, Caribbean Sprint and Governor's Cup.