10/18/2001 11:00PM

BC Mile: Express Tour, Noverre share little beyond ownership


ELMONT, N.Y. - As stablemates, Express Tour and Noverre bring remarkably different credentials to the $1 million Breeders' Cup races at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

Noverre has been a star in Europe this year, winning the French 2000 Guineas (he was later disqualified because of a positive drug test) and the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. On Sept. 29, he finished second in the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

Express Tour has earned more money this year - $1,290,000 to Noverre's $489,566 - but has never run on turf. The bulk of his earnings came from a win in the $2 million UAE Derby last March, which was followed by an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

Both colts are owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Saeed bin Suroor. For the Breeders' Cup Mile, though, there will be no connection.

The absence of coupled entries in the Breeders' Cup races means Express Tour and Noverre will run as separate betting interests. For backers of Express Tour, odds of 30-1 or higher are likely. If the two were coupled, the price would have been a single digit, since Noverre may go favored.

"Noverre has proven himself," said Tom Albertrani, Suroor's assistant trainer. "He's the best miler in Europe."

Express Tour has worked once on the Belmont turf course - on Oct. 11. By Tour d'Or, Express Tour was scheduled to do the same on Friday until a light frost developed, forcing the work to the main track. Express Tour worked in 1:01.40 under jockey John Velazquez, who has the mount in the Mile.

That time was slightly faster than Noverre's clocking of 1:01.80 in a separate workout on Friday. Top European jockey Frankie Dettori will ride Noverre.

In the early stages of the Mile, the two are expected to be far apart. Express Tour will be near the lead, while Noverre is a closer. Those tactics cost Noverre in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes when stablemate Summoner, at 33-1, set an easy pace and was never caught.

Albertrani says Express Tour does not need the lead, but is capable of inheriting that role.

"Express Tour has the pace," he said. "The only question is if he can handle the turf. He's got a big, size-seven foot. He should handle it."

At the least, Express Tour is good form. He won the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap by 5 1/2 lengths on Sept. 22, his first start since finishing sixth in the Riva Ridge Stakes on June 9. Albertrani said the summertime break has revived Express Tour.

"I think if he runs back to his last race, he should be right there," he said.

Nakatani back on Forbidden Apple

Jockey assignments have been firmed for two leading contenders - Forbidden Apple and Val Royal.

Forbidden Apple, who won the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 6, will be ridden by Corey Nakatani, trainer Christophe Clement said. Nakatani was booked to ride Forbidden Apple in the Kelso, but was unable to make an airplane connection and was replaced by Jose Santos. Nakatani was aboard Forbidden Apple in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap last June.

Val Royal, who won the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 7, will be ridden by Jose Valdivia, trainer Julio Canani said.

Canani downplayed an incident on Thursday when Val Royal was briefly loose in the Santa Anita barn area after unseating an exercise rider at the end of a gallop. "He's fine," Canani said. "He's doing super."

Canani said Val Royal galloped on Friday at Santa Anita without incident.

o At Santa Anita, I Love Silver, who has never started on turf, breezed five furlongs on 1:01.40 on the grass. He has yet to win a stakes in 12 starts and loks a longshot.