10/23/2001 11:00PM

Mile: Inside may be a bad place

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The top contenders for Saturday's $1.14 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park have the competition surrounded.

Forbidden Apple and Noverre, major stakes winners in New York and Europe, respectively, drew posts 1 and 3, while California's two leading chances, Val Royal and Irish Prize, drew the outside two posts in the 13-horse field.

Horses drawn inside may have a more difficult time than horses drawn wide.

A one-mile turf race at Belmont Park starts from a chute at the end of the first turn. For horses drawn inside, a clean break is essential. Sarafan, who drew post 9 for the Mile, is a recent example. He drew the rail in the Kelso Handicap on Oct. 6, but was slow away from the gate and last early. He rallied from last to finish second, a half-length behind Forbidden Apple.

A wide draw is not a setback for Val Royal and Irish Prize. Neither run from the front and can settle behind the early pacesetters.

The Mile is expected to have a lively pace because of City Zip, who nearly ran in the Sprint, as well as Affirmed Success, Balto Star, and Express Tour.

They will be closely followed by Numerous Times, who is unbeaten in six starts, including a win in the Grade 1 Atto Mile at Woodbine on Sept. 9, as well as Noverre, Irish Prize, and Val Royal.

City Zip was entered for the Mile after trainer Linda Rice conferred with owner Carl Bowman on Wednesday morning.

"It was a difficult decision to make," Rice said. "He's a terrific sprinter, but we allowed the deep field in the Sprint and the light field in the Mile to sway our decision. It was a difficult decision because his best distance is six furlongs. My concern is we might outthink ourselves."

Expected to be 20-1 or higher, City Zip drew post 6.

"I think being in the middle is an advantage," Rice said.

Noverre, the winner of Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, England, in August, is the likely favorite. He will attempt to give Godolphin Racing its first winner in the Mile.

On Wednesday, Noverre breezed five furlongs on turf and was officially clocked in 1:01.65 under Frankie Dettori.

"He felt very good," said Dettori. "He's a horse that likes to bounce off his feet and have a turn of foot."

Despite a threat of rain on Thursday, the course is expected to be firm on Saturday. Dettori would prefer a course that was not as firm.

"We need a bit of rain," Dettori said.

Three other Mile entrants worked Wednesday. Irish Prize breezed a half-mile in 49.28 seconds under jockey Gary Stevens, while Express Tour worked five furlongs in 1:04.90 under jockey John Velazquez.

At Colts Neck Training Center in New Jersey, Navesink worked a half-mile in 47 seconds. A 3-year-old, he won the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap over 1 1/8 miles at Belmont Park on Sept. 23. A stalker, Navesink drew post 2, which will require a clean start for him to have any chance.