10/07/2001 11:00PM

Can Val Royal run on short rest?


ARCADIA, Calif. - Since winning the Del Mar Derby in 1999, Val Royal has made two starts, those coming after layoffs of 18 months, and then seven months. Now, trainer Julio Canani will try to bring Val Royal back in just 20 days, for the Breeders' Cup Mile on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

Val Royal proved he belonged in that race with his dazzling two-length victory in Sunday's Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile. Canani on Monday said Val Royal came out of the race "super," and since owner David Milch is game to supplement Val Royal to the Breeders' Cup, he will be pointed for that race.

"His legs are ice cold. His feet, his ankles. This is a very, very good horse," Canani said.

"I'm glad I took so much time," Canani said, before adding, jokingly, "I took so much time his foals will be running soon."

If Val Royal goes to the Mile, he will be attempting to become the third straight horse to complete the Oak Tree-Breeders' Cup double, joining Silic (1999) and War Chant (2000). Canani also trained Silic.

Close call for Espinoza

Jockey Victor Espinoza's trip on Officer in Saturday's Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park was much easier than his trip to New York Friday night.

Espinoza, scheduled on a red-eye flight, said his flight's takeoff was aborted near the end of the runway.

"I've been on flights that shook, but I've never been scared like that," Espinoza said. Espinoza and other passengers were taken by bus back to the terminal, and did not get into the air until four hours later, at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

"I tried to sleep, but I couldn't, and every time I opened my eyes, everyone else was awake. No one could sleep," Espinoza said.

Dr. Park had alibi for bad race

The Del Mar Derby was a nightmare for trainer John Sadler. He started Dr. Park, who had been pointed for the race since winning a division of the Oceanside Stakes on July 18, but the colt never got a chance to prove himself. Shortly after the start, Dr. Park saddled slipped, forcing jockey Tyler Baze to stop riding and do his best to safely stop the colt. Officially, Dr. Park finished last of 10, 21 lengths behind Romanceishope.

"The saddle slipped on him and all he could do was ease him," Sadler said. "It was so odd. He was trying to run on the backstretch. It wasn't like he didn't run."

Six weeks later, Dr. Park returns in Saturday's $150,000 Oak Tree Derby, a race that serves as a prep to the $500,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25.

Sadler had to adjust Dr. Park's training schedule in recent weeks to make up for the Del Mar Derby fiasco. On Sunday, under Baze, Dr. Park worked seven furlongs on the main track in 1:25.40.

"I want him to be fit," Sadler said. "That's why I've trained him on dirt."

Dr. Park was 5-1 in the Del Mar Derby, but will be a higher price among a strong field in the Oak Tree Derby. The likely favorite is Startac, the winner of the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 18.

Other probables include Hadrian's Wall, Momentum, No Slip, Romanceishope, Sigfreto, and Sligo Bay.

Italian star filly runs in Ramser

Sunday's $100,000 Harold C. Ramser, Sr. Handicap for 3-year-old fillies on turf marks the U.S. debut of Love Roi, an Italian-bred filly who was a stakes winner in that country earlier this year.

Now trained by Wally Dollase, Love Roi will face Alinga, Cindy's Hero, Desiraes My Candy, Gabriellina Giof, and Surya. Despite being only a maiden winner, Surya will be well-backed. She won a maiden race by 12 lengths in her U.S. debut on Aug. 29 for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Headley remains optimistic

Bruce Headley said that only his ego was bruised on Saturday when Kona Gold, the 2000 champion sprinter, was upset in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap.

He said the 7-year-old Kona Gold emerged from the race in good shape and remains on schedule for the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park on Oct. 27, a race he won last year at Churchill Downs.

In the Grade 1 Ancient Title, Kona Gold finished 2 1/2 lengths behind Swept Overboard, who carried 116 pounds, 11 fewer than Kona Gold.

"Getting beat is one thing, but the main thing is he came back good," Headley said. "You feel kind of sorry you couldn't keep the streak going but it's hard. There are a lot of good speed horses in California."

Headley took comfort that the Breeders' Cup Sprint is a weight-for-age, meaning all older horses will carry 126 pounds.

"It will be different in the Breeders' Cup," he said. "There is a weight switch."

Starlet next for Tali'sluckybusride

Owners Ron and Susie Anson are having no second thoughts about not supplementing Tali'sluckybusride to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

The upset winner of the Oak Leaf Stakes on Sept. 30, Tali'sluckybusride will be pointed for the Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 16. Ron Anson and trainer Alfredo Marquez had considered starting Tali'sluckybusride in the Miesque Stakes on turf at Hollywood Park next month, but Anson said she will stay on dirt "until she stops winning Grade 1's on dirt."

Sign of Fire, who is owned by the Ansons, is bound for a $731,000 stakes in Japan on Oct. 27, a prep to the Japan Cup Dirt in late November. A winner of 2 of 17 starts, Sign of Fire was stakes-placed twice last year, and is winless in two starts this year.

Anson said a top-three finish in the Musashino Stakes on Oct. 27 will earn Sign of Fire a fees-paid trip to the Japan Cup Dirt.

La Canada in Mon Ange's future

Only a troublesome ankle has slowed Mon Ange in her brief career. On Sunday, the 3-year-old Mon Ange remained unbeaten in two starts with a half-length win in an allowance race over 6 1/2 furlongs.

Making her first start since January, Mon Ange was timed in a quick 1:15.68, finishing a half-length in front of Nicky's Intuition. The layoff was caused by a bone chip in an ankle.

Her long-term goal for owner Merv Griffin and trainer Richard Matlow is the three-race La Canada series here during the winter meeting. An imposing filly, Matlow estimates that Mon Ange stands over 17 hands tall.

"I'd like to rate her," Matlow said. "What amazes me is her agility. She's a big horse, but not clumsy. She does it easy."

Paperwork glitch idles Lazy Lode

Lazy Lode was scratched from Sunday's Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile after his registration papers could not be located, trainer Richard Mandella said.

Lazy Lode's papers were taken to Singapore when he started there last May. According to Mandella, they were not transferred back to the Santa Anita racing office where they needed to be on file for him to start on Sunday.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen