11/08/2001 1:00AM

Val Royal in late Eclipse drive


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - In what may be the final chance to impress Eclipse Award voters, Val Royal, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park last month, may start in the $500,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24.

On Thursday at Santa Anita, Val Royal worked three furlongs in 36 seconds to the delight of trainer Julio Canani.

"He worked super," Canani said. "He did it great." Recent history in the Eclipse Award balloting is against Val Royal. The five of the last six winners of the Breeders' Cup Turf have been named outstanding male turf horse, dating back to Northern Spur in 1995. Singspiel, the 1996 champion, finished second in that year's Turf. Consequently, Fantastic Light, an impressive winner of the Turf at Belmont Park, is the favorite for the Eclipse Award.

Canani is hoping that Val Royal's fall campaign, which includes a win in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita 20 days before the Breeders' Cup, will impress voters.

The last winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile to earn the Eclipse Award was Steinlen in 1989, although Itsallgreektome, the runner-up in the 1990 Mile, earned the same award after later winning the Hollywood Derby and Hollywood Turf Cup. In 1991, Tight Spot was ninth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, but earned the Eclipse Award off his previous form, which included a win in the Arlington Million.

The Citation is not the only race Canani is considering. The Hong Kong Mile on Dec. 16 is also a possibility. How Val Royal trains in the next few weeks, and the opinion of owner David Milch, will be deciding factors, Canani said.

"We'll see what develops in the next week," Canani said. "I want to breeze him one more time in six days. Then, we'll know where we are.

"He dropped a little weight after the race, but he really picked it up right away. He looks much better now."

Mizzen Mast wins, may go to Hollywood Derby

Mizzen Mast may reappear in the $500,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25 following a victory in the Bien Bien Stakes at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, the opening day of the autumn meeting.

Trained by Bobby Frankel, Mizzen Mast ($7.40) ran a mile on turf in 1:34.15, finishing 3 1/2 lengths in front of 3-2 favorite Momentum, a recent European import. Lookn East finished third.

A stakes winner in France earlier this year, Mizzen Mast was unplaced in his first two starts in this country, finishing 10th in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park and ninth in the Del Mar Derby. Frankel took over training Mizzen Mast before the Del Mar Derby.

"I didn't know him when I ran him at Del Mar," Frankel said. "He wasn't as healthy as he is now. We had time to learn about this horse when we trained him." Frankel said Mizzen Mast could be challenged by two other members of his stable in the Hollywood Derby. The candidates include Aldebaran, Blue Steller, Denon, and No Slip. Frankel may start as many as three and is particularly excited about Denon, who has not started in the United States. Denon won a Group 3 in France last April and was third in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat.

"He may be the best of them all," Frankel said.

Gourmet Girl to return next year

Gourmet Girl, the winner of the Apple Blossom and Vanity handicaps earlier this year, will remain in training as a 7-year-old next year, trainer Pico Perdomo said.

Gourmet Girl is currently sidelined after having a shin pinfired, Perdomo said. She was scheduled to be sold at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, but owner Gary Tanaka opted to keep her in training, Perdomo said.

"We've decided to race her another year," Perdomo said. A winner of nine of 33 starts and $1,255,373, Gourmet Girl has not started since she finished second in the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar in early August. Perdomo said she will resume training at the beginning of the year.

Double DQ angers trainer

A double disqualification in Wednesday's fifth race left trainer Kory Owens furious that his starter Tavasco was demoted from first to fourth.

Tavasco finished first in the turf sprint over 5 1/2 furlongs, but was ruled to have drifted into the path of third-place finisher Martel in the final furlong. In addition, Martel was ruled to have fouled original fourth-place finisher Dream Counter in early stretch.

As a result, Forest Camp, who finished second, was promoted to first, while Dream Counter was promoted from fourth to second, in front of Martel and Tavasco.

"The theory is you have to be placed behind the horse you bother," steward Tom Ward said.

California Horse Racing Board rules state that no appeals can be made on disqualifications.

"We still won by two lengths, drawing off, and I thought it was an unfair call," Owens said. "I should have gone down to second - maybe."