11/26/2001 1:00AM

Softened turf suits Good Journey nicely

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - An afternoon of rain that softened the Hollywood turf course kept Val Royal out of Saturday's $500,000 Citation Handicap, but Good Journey relished the course and won the Grade 2 race by a half-length.

Good Journey closed from fifth to outfinish Decarchy over a course rated good. The victory was Good Journey's first stakes win.

A 5-year-old trained by Wally Dollase, Good Journey ($5.40) was part of a favored three-horse entry with El Cielo and I've Decided. There were 13 entries to the Citation, but only eight starters. The rain led to the scratches of Val Royal (the winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile last month), Lord Jim, Purely Cozzene, Fighting Falcon, and Takarian.

David Milch, who owns Val Royal, said he wanted to run in hopes a victory would impress Eclipse Award voters, but changed his mind after talking with Val Royal's jockey, Jose Valdivia Jr., following the Generous Stakes earlier in the day.

"I wanted to run him but I can't risk the horse," Milch said. "Jose said chunks of turf were coming up. It was gracious of Jose to give a straight call, because he gave up a mount."

Good Journey, ridden by Chris McCarron, ran in fifth on the backstretch, stalking I've Decided, who had a length lead for the first half of the 1 1/16-mile race.

Rallying three wide, Good Journey engaged I've Decided and Decarchy on the final turn, when I've Decided dropped back. Good Journey and Decarchy raced together through the lane, trading the lead before Good Journey pulled clear in the final sixteenth. Irish Prize finished third.

Good Journey was timed in 1:44.30.

The victory was a relief to Dollase, who bought Good Journey as a maiden two years ago and gave the horse eight months off earlier this year.

"I thought it would come down to whoever liked the ground," Dollase said. "He appreciated the soft going. He had foot problems.

"He runs like a European horse. He rates early and then kicks like a horse on fire. Someone else taught him that, but I'm glad he does it."

Generous: Mountain Rage scores on turf

Mountain Rage is determined to be a turf star for trainer Bob Baffert.

Best known for his success with dirt horses, Baffert has a turf horse to follow in Mountain Rage, who won his first stakes in the $200,000 Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Owned by George Jacobs and Jill Moss, Mountain Rage ($12.80) finished a mile on turf in 1:40.31. He was supplemented to the Generous for $10,000 after finishing second in the Pinjara Stakes at Santa Anita last month.

"We were hoping he'd be a dirt Derby horse," said Baffert, "but I think he's a good turf horse."

Ridden by David Flores, Mountain Rage was third on the backstretch, stalking pacesetters Kith and Paxtecum. Even though Mountain Rage was passed by Miesque's Approval on the final turn, he remained in contention.

In early stretch, Miesque's Approval took over from Paxtecum, but Mountain Rage rallied on the inside to win by a head.

Miesque's Approval, the winner of the Pilgrim Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 6, finished 4 1/2 lengths in front of National Park, who closed from seventh.

Paxtecum was fourth, followed by Hot Trotter, Kith, Red Briar, and Ecstatic, who was eased. Stage Call, a stakes winner at Keeneland last month, was scratched after being reported as sick.

* In the $74,980 Safely Kept Handicap, European imports trained by Bobby Frankel comprised the exacta. Rolly Polly rallied three-wide on the turn of the 5 1/2-furlong turf race to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Twin Set. Salty Helen finished third. Rolly Polly ($6.40) was ridden by Kent Desormeaux and timed in 1:05.06.