Of course Lee Vance has heard of Arazi. Lee Vance is an air-traffic controller at Yuma International Airport, from which 250,000 airplanes land and take off every year. He helps make sure they don't crash while they're doing it.

It's an `initial approach fix,'" he says of Arazi.
No, Lee. Think Kentucky Derby. Horses. Animals with tails. Some of whom don't run fast enough.

Arazi is the horse that stunned the racing world when he won the Breeder's Cup Juvenile last November, and had railbirds comparing him with everyone from Secretariat to God. Arazi is the horse that flew over from France only to lose last Saturday's Kentucky Derby and break a million hearts. And not a few pocketbooks.

Arazi is the horse that generated unprecedented numbers of news stories, hyping what looked to be, but wasn't, the biggest cakewalk in a Kentucky Derby in years. In the avalanche of publicity that attended Arazi's arrival here was one fact of interest to us: Arazi, they say, was named after an aircraft checkpoint in the Arizona desert.

Allen E. Paulson, who bought and named Arazi and is chairman and CEO of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, flies his own airplanes and hence is as familiar with initial approach fixes as he is with times for the mile and a quarter.

The search for Arazi, the checkpoint, is a circuitous one. It begins with a pleasant but noncommittal fellow named George at the Federal Aviation Administration office in Phoenix, who has heard of the horse but not the checkpoint. It then leads to an expansive man named Hank Verbais at the FAA office in Los Angeles, who has never heard of the horse but who can tell us:

Arazi is an airway intersection. It's an initial approach fix for the RNAV approach to runway 21R at the Yuma airport."

Translation: If your airplane is hooked up with an RNAV navigational system, and you are planning on landing it upon runway 21R at Yuma, you fly through an imaginary spot in the air called Arazi." If you don't, you're off course. Sorry.

It's a point, like an intersection on the ground," says Hank, like the Hohokam Freeway and University." Hank went to the UofA; his wife's folks are out in Mesa. Hank got the information on Arazi from a book called U.S. Terminal Procedures, Southwest. Through diagrams indecipherable to people outside aviation, the book tells you how to land at airports in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Nevada. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with death, although Arazi's performance Saturday might suggest otherwise.

There's probably not a darn thing there," Hank says, looking on a map. He suggests we go to Cutter Aviation and look at the same map.

We call the Yuma airport, where we talk to David Gaines, who tells us what a nice place Yuma is to live. He's never heard of either the horse or the checkpoint, but says that Yuma is the best town in America and advises a Mexican restaurant called Gutierrez's. It's near the library.

Gaines leads us to Lee Vance, the air-traffic controller in whose household the intersection called Arazi is a familiar word. He tells us he plays the horses only when he's in England, where he favors the offtrack betting parlors. His attitude is, more or less, what can you say about an airway intersection? Or a horse that didn't win?

Finally we go down to Cutter Aviation to look at the map Hank Verbais has given us the tip on. Brian Ready, a pilot, has found Arazi by going out to one of the Beechcraft Bonanzas his company sells and punching Arazi" into the computer. He and the guys sitting around the office with him had figured Arazi was an aviation intersection because it has five letters, which all aviation intersections do. Ready shows us the intersection on the map. Although the actual Arazi intersection is some distance up in the air, where pilots like Ready prefer to keep their airplanes, directly beneath it on the ground is what qualifies as the middle of nowhere.

Arazi is a spot about six miles northwest of Yuma, north of Interstate 8, north of some railroad tracks, just next to what looks like an irrigation canal. Ready has also photocopied for us the page from U.S. Terminal Procedures, Southwest that shows pilots how to land at the Yuma airport using RNAV navigational systems. After they pass through the Arazi intersection, they proceed to ones called Copaw and Mugin, much less romantic as names for horses.

The map also shows something else. Arazi, the intersection, is actually north of the Colorado River, and hence in California. No wonder he lost.