Updated on 09/15/2011 1:20PM

In a rare appearance, Val Royal makes good


ELMONT, N.Y. - Val Royal, who missed all of last year with a tendon injury and most of this year with a foot problem, rallied from the back of the field to win Saturday's $1 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park.

The victory gave jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. his first win in a Breeders' Cup race and gave owner David Milch and trainer Julio Canani their second victories in the series. Milch won the 1992 Juvenile with Gilded Time, while Canani saddled Silic when he won the 1999 Mile.

Val Royal ($12.20), who prepped with a victory in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 7, finished a mile on turf in 1:32.05, setting a stakes record for the Mile.

Valdivia crossed the line wearing an ear-to-ear grin. "I don't think it's sunk in," he said a few minutes after the race. "I felt really good about my chances all week."

Valdivia gave Val Royal a patient ride. After a clean start, Val Royal was 11th on the backstretch, well off the pace of 22.79 and 45.49 seconds set by City Zip and Balto Star. Valdivia kept Val Royal off the rail on the backstretch and they moved to the outside midway on the turn, racing five wide at one point.

Forbidden Apple, who was fourth along the rail on the backstretch, challenged City Zip turning for home and took the lead in midstretch. Forbidden Apple led by 1 1/2 lengths past the eighth pole, but Val Royal, still wide, closed quickly.

"I didn't want to weave through traffic," Valdivia said. "When I turned for home, I had all the confidence in the world. When he switched leads, he gave me such a kick."

Val Royal took the lead in the final sixteenth and won comfortably by 1 3/4 lengths.

Forbidden Apple, who won the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 6, held second, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Bach, a European invader who was in mid-pack early.

Irish Prize finished fourth, followed by Navesink, Brahms, Noverre, Sarafan, City Zip, Express Tour, Affirmed Success, and Balto Star.

Noverre was a lukewarm favorite at 4-1. A Group 1-winning European import, Noverre was never a serious factor, racing in seventh or eighth throughout and finishing 4 1/2 lengths behind Val Royal.

"When I asked him, there was just nothing there, and that's not him," said Frankie Dettori, who rode Noverre.

Val Royal was bred in France, where he won three stakes. Purchased privately by Milch in the summer of 1999, Val Royal won the Del Mar Derby in his United States debut, but was sidelined a month later when a lesion was detected in a tendon.

This year at 5, he returned and finished second in the Grade 2 Kilroe Mile in March at Santa Anita, but emerged from the race with a quarter crack.

"I ran the horse after seven months with six workouts," Canani said, referring to his preparation for the Oak Tree Mile. "He does amazing things in the morning. He has so much talent it's scary."

for the Breeders' Cup Mile chart.*

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