10/24/2001 11:00PM

Mile: Almost no one can be eliminated


ELMONT, N.Y. - There are few throwouts in Saturday's $1.14 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park.

From a field of 13, the race features the top turf milers from the United States - Affirmed Success, Forbidden Apple, Val Royal, and Irish Prize; Numerous Times, the unbeaten star of Canada, and a two-horse invading party of Bach and Noverre from Europe.

Even the supporting players pose a threat. Navesink, City Zip, and Sarafan have won or placed on the Belmont Park turf course. Brahms is seeking to rebound in a disappointing year preceded by an unbeaten campaign in four starts last year.

Noverre is a deserving favorite, but must prove he can win away from Europe.

Last year, Noverre was 11th at 35-1 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but has bloomed at 3 in a six-race campaign highlighted by a win in the Grade 1 Sussex Stakes.

Saturday's Mile will be his first start on firm ground, which does not bother trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

"I think good ground will suit him," Suroor said. "He likes to be close to the front. He's very tough and very brave."

Affirmed Success, Balto Star, City Zip, and the longshot Express Tour will contribute to the pace and be closely tracked by top contenders such as Forbidden Apple, Irish Prize, Noverre, and Val Royal.

The Mile is Balto Star's first appearance in a turf stakes.

"He'll be forwardly placed but he doesn't have to be on the lead to be effective," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I think it's a wide-open race. I don't think you can rule out a case for several horses."

Affirmed Success is making his fourth consecutive start on Breeders' Cup Day. Unplaced in the 1998 and 1999 Sprint, he was fourth in the 2000 Mile and has had an outstanding year in the current term, winning the Jaipur and Poker handicaps at Belmont Park and finishing second by a nose to Numerous Times in the Atto Mile at Woodbine.

Navesink is another Belmont veteran, having won the 2 of 3 starts over the course. Most recently, he scored in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap against 3-year-old on Sept. 23.

"He impressed me when he won over a mile in June," jockey Edgar Prado said. "He has tactical speed and will be behind the front group. I think the mile suits him perfect."

The California team is strong. California-based horses have won the last two Miles and their trainers are represented this year. Julio Canani, who scored in 1999 at Gulfstream Park with Silic, starts Val Royal, a stakes winner at Santa Anita earlier this month. Trainer Neil Drysdale, who won last year with War Chant at Churchill Downs, starts Irish Prize and the longshot Sarafan.

Canani was not concerned that Val Royal drew post 12 since Silic won from that draw.

"Twelve is my lucky number," Canani said. "I'm not worried about it. He couldn't be any better."

The Breeders' Cup Mile will be the first meeting between Val Royal and Irish Prize. Irish Prize had a three-race winning streak stopped with a fourth-place finish in the Atto Mile. Earlier this year, he was a convincing winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park.

The loss in the Atto Mile, by a length to Numerous Times, did not concern jockey Gary Stevens.

"He's happy on this turf course," Stevens said. "He's got the ideal style for the Mile. He's got a great turn of foot."

Irish Prize drew the outside post of 13, but is not expected to be an early factor, allowing Stevens to save ground early.

A trouble-free race will be pivotal for him and Brahms, who has placed in four turf stakes this year.

"A big field remains a concern," said Elliott Walden, who trains Brahms. "It doesn't mean we won't get a good trip. There will be horses that get stopped That's the way the Mile is."