08/22/2001 11:00PM

Barnett makes local debut with Inkatha in Play the King 'Cap

Email

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Bobby Barnett has never been to Woodbine, but he's hoping to make his first trip a memorable one as he'll be on hand Saturday to saddle Inkatha, the 7-year-old gelding whom he trains for owner Gene Smith, in Saturday's Play the King Handicap.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said Barnett, who currently is based at Churchill Downs but racing at Ellis Park. "I've heard about it for years, but this will be the first horse we've run there."

Inkatha, who began his career in France, the country of his birth, came to the United States and to trainer Niall O'Callaghan in the summer of 1997. He won the Pete Axthelm Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs of turf at Calder that fall before going to the sidelines the following February.

When Inkatha resurfaced over a year later he was with trainer Bill Mott, for whom he promptly won his first two starts, including Monmouth's Red Bank over a mile on grass.

But he was on the move again less than a year later, joining Barnett's string at the Fair Grounds.

"I got him a year ago in February," said Barnett. "The races at Gulfstream weren't going for him. The first race we ran him in was the Mardi Gras Handicap."

Inkatha finished third in the Mardi Gras, a 7 1/2-furlong turf race. And while has won just one of 20 starts for Barnett, he has run well on numerous occasions, including a third in the 2000 edition of Keeneland's Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile and a second in this year's Mardi Gras.

"You can sit there and make excuses all day for him," said Barnett, noting that Inkatha had troubled trips when seventh this year in both the Maker's Mark and Red Bank, beaten a combined total of 5 1/4 lengths.

"But Gene and I looked at this seven-eighths race up there, and thought it should be a good spot for him."

Inkatha could earn himself a few more weeks in the friendly north, as he also is nominated to the $1 million Atto Mile here Sept. 9.

"Hopefully we'll run well," said Barnett, "and get to stay over."

TRN Canada coming to cable

While details are still being finalized, TRN Canada could be available on cable television as soon as Sept. 7.

TRN Canada, which is owned by Woodbine Entertainment Group and based here at Woodbine, currently is available only as a pay-per-view product on the Bell ExpressVu satellite system.

"We have expectations that we will be part of the ExPressVu and Rogers digital launches," said Andrew MacDonald, director of horseplayer service development for the Woodbine Entertainment Group.

TRN Canada consists of four channels. One is the multi-track channel, which includes live racing from all tracks being simulcast. There also is an odds channel and two simulcast channels, one of which focuses solely on the live Ontario product and the other on a featured U.S. product, such as Saratoga.

MacDonald says the multi-track and odds channel will no longer be a pay-per-view service.

"They form our category II digital service," he explained. "What that means is instead of being pay-per-view, we can now get those distributed through digital cable and ExpressVu as part of their regular programming packages.

"So, it's our expectations that we'll be included in various packages, particularly sports packages, and what that also does is it brings the price point down.

"The other two channels will remain a pay-per-view service, so you can still get those via ExpressVu by paying x-many dollars a month. But because we're splitting up the two services, the cost to get all the services will be no greater than the current cost is."

MacDonald said the two simulcast channels may in the future be available on cable.

The ExpressVu service requires the purchase and installation of a satellite dish and receiver, while a digital cable service would require installation and rental of a digital terminal.

* It's last call for the Woodbine Handicapping Challenge, which will take place here Saturday and Sunday. The entry fee for the contest is $250 and players must make a total of 10 $100 win wagers each day on races from Woodbine, Fort Erie or Saratoga.

* Tie Domi, of the Toronto Maple Leafs, will be the honorary drawmaster for this year's $1 million Atto Mile, which will be run Sunday, Sept. 9. The ceremonial post position draw for the Atto Mile, a Grade 1 turf race for 3-year-olds and upward, will be held in the Post Parade Dining Room here at 12 p.m. on Sept. 6.