WASHINGTON, PA, July 25, 2013 — In his first 25 years or so in the Standardbred business, Fran Azur figures he owned 285 horses — not one of them a yearling. That changed in 2011 when he bought a son of The Panderosa-Ladyking at auction.
On Saturday, that yearling, now a top 3-year-old named Lonewolf Currier, is poised to win the $450,000 final of the Delvin Miller Adios at The Meadows and give Azur the blanket of orchids in his first try. The Adios Day card begins at 12:20, with a projected 4:05 post time for the Adios final, which goes as Race 12. Lonewolf Currier, with John Campbell, is the 7-2 second pick in the morning line.
Azur, a veteran entrepreneur who lives in Beaver County not far from The Meadows, has campaigned such elite performers as Hypnotic Blue Chip, who earned more than $1.53 million. But Azur was committed to older stock long before the success of Hypnotic Blue Chip.
“I enjoyed the racing part of it rather than seeing how yearlings might develop,” Azur says. “I never wanted yearlings. I never liked them.”
That changed when Hanover Shoe Farms’ Murray Brown persuaded him to inspect Lonewolf Currier, probably because he’s a full brother to Lookout Hanover, a horse Azur campaigned before selling to Argentine interests. Azur and trainer Kevin McDermott liked what they saw and gave $110,000 for the youngster.
He won three of four starts at 2 but was turned out early with a leg injury. This year, he’s come back swift and resolute, qualities he showed in his 1:48.4 Adios elimination victory. If this were a fairy book story, Lonewolf Currier would be a sweetheart as well. Alas, he is not.
“Having him in the Adios is the nicest thing ever,” Azur says. “I’ve been watching the Adios forever, and I’m happy as hell just to be in it. But he has a very bad attitude. He’s nasty. He tries to go over stalls to get at other horses. Kevin tries to keep him happy by varying his routine. Sometimes he’ll swim, sometimes he’s out in the pasture. Kevin knows how to take care of him.
Azur also knows something about caring. He received the sport’s 2010 Unsung Hero Award for his community support and outreach, which extends all the way to Uganda. There, he and his wife Melanie purchased and donated 30,000 mosquito nets for residents of Hoima and financed development of a bee factory. All their Uganda efforts coalesced in the construction of Azur Christian Health Centre in Hoima.
Closer to home, Azur donates 2 percent of each of his horse’s earnings to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, a revenue stream that would be hard to replace.
Lonewolf Currier likely won’t be Azur’s last yearling. He’s bringing many of his retired mares to his farm, where he once raised Pasa Finos and Icelandic horses. There will be babies in Azur’s future, and each success will mean better lives for Standarbreds in need of new homes and careers.
“You can’t help with everything,” Azur says, “so what you want to help with is a personal decision. Horses are great animals, so we want to take care of them to the extent we can.”
The Meadows, in cooperation with the United States Trotting Association Strategic Wagering Initiative, is offering three special Adios Day wagers: a $7,500-guaranteed Pick 4 (Races 4-7); a $15,000-guaranteed Late Pick 4 (Races 9-12), and a $25,000-guaranteed Superfecta on Race 12, the Adios final.
In addition, The Meadows and HorseTourneys.com are offering a “Pick & Pray” handicapping contest on Adios Day, with the winner earning a free berth in the 2014 World Harness Handicapping Contest. Free past performances will be available at Track Master. To register and for a complete list of contest rules, please visit www.horsetourneys.com/rules